Latin America moves on celluloid

February 8, 2007

Second Sydney Latin America Film Festival

Chauvel Cinema, Paddington

Seymour Centre, Darlington and Club Marconi, Bossley Park

February 22-March 4

From late February, Sydney filmgoers will once again have the chance to view some of the best cinema coming out of Latin America as part of the second Latin American Film Festival. Spanning 11 days and three different venues, the festival will deliver audiences a wide array of documents, films and shorts from the other side of the world.

On February 22 is the world premiere of Condominium, a quirky and satirical film from Peru, which takes us into the highly eccentric lives of the residents of an apartment block. Director Jorge Carmona, one of the international special guests who will introduce a film which brings to life the characters of Clotilde, an elderly woman whose only task in life is taking care of her obese and schizophrenic adult son; ex-prostitute Janet, who is pregnant to a corrupt, religious preacher; and Freddy the hairdresser, whose partner Alvaro is HIV positive.

Screening at the Chauvel Cinema and followed by live music, food and drinks, Condominium touches on a number of taboo themes and is sure to surprise as it climaxes in spectacular fashion.

Another highlight of the festival will be the presence of Hector Cruz Sandoval, whose film Kordavision introduces audiences to a photographer whose work is universally known, but whose name is rarely acknowledged — Alberto Diaz Korda. Korda is most famous for his legendary photo of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, reproduced on books, T-shirts, caps and posters the world over. Through Korda's work the film reveals some of the spirit of Cuba in the '50s and '60s, the early years of the Cuban revolution. Bringing Fidel Castro together with the four giants of classic Cuban photography — Korda, Raul Corrales, Liborio Noval and Roberto Salas — the film discusses the impact of their images on the revolution and the world.

A new addition to the festival this year is the Microcinema, being held at the Seymour Centre on February 27-28. As well as presenting a number of documentaries offering first hand perspectives on indigenous, campesino, environmental and other political movements on the continent, the organisers of the festival hope to use the Microcinema to provide a space for discussion and exploration of the films shown.

Mark Taylor, the coordinator of the Microcinema said: "The idea behind creating a microcinema as part of the Festival was to offer a space to talk about the issues raised in the documentaries. We received over 300 films this year and the ones we present at the Microcinema are all inspiring stories that we feel need to be brought to a wider audience. The setting is intimate and a great space to talk about the films."

The Microcinema will present four sessions each with a different theme — Our Land is Everything, Indigenous Perspectives, Popular Movements and Afro-descendants in Latin America. The two days will take views from the Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico (The Land Belongs to Those Who Work It) to the lives of two homeless people living in the heart of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution (The Old Man and Jesus: Prophets of Rebellion) passing through the coca growing region of the Chapare, Bolivia, in the midst of the 2005 campaign to elect the world's first coca growing president, Evo Morales (Plenty of Evo's: The Coca Growers of Chapare).

The Promised Land covers the struggle of the landless peasants of Brazil while in Andean Films for Andean People, Bolivian filmmaker Jorge Sanjines takes cinema to the indigenous Quechuas of the Andean regions. An open floor discussion will conclude both days and will feature guest speakers including representatives from media and other organisation, as well as independent filmmakers.

One of the films, Our Land, which deals with the struggle of the Guarani indigenous people in northern Argentina displaced and repressed at the hands of the San Martin del Tabacal sugar refinery, was partially sponsored by the first Latin America Film Festival through the festival's Community Sponsorship Program. That's because as well as showcasing some of the best that Latin America has to offer, the festival also aims to support the ongoing work of social justice, environmental conservation and community development organisations in the region. This year's proceedings will be donated to, amongst others, the NSW Spanish-Latin American Association for Social Assistance, Save and Acre land project in Ecuador and Roof For My Country, which provides emergency housing for families in need in Uruguay.

Over at the Chauvel Cinema, the international will meet the local as the spotlight is thrown on local filmmakers who have made films in here or in Latin America. This session will feature most shorts and documentaries ranging from the comedic El Nero's Trip to women's health issues in Project Vila Vila and includes Rene Hernandez's Small Boxes, which has won two best short film awards and has had a total of 20 national and international festival screenings so far.

Taking the Latin America Film Festival closer to the Latino community, films will also be screened at a third venue, Club Marconi in Fairfield.

[Green Left Weekly, an official Friend of the Festival, will be reviewing some of the films over coming issues as well as being present at discussions as part of the Microcinema]

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