By Mark Morellini
The Sydney Latin American Film Festival returns for its 14th consecutive year in Australia, with a program of 23 feature films and shorts from 11 South American countries including Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela.
Producing films in many of these countries is a difficult task, so it’s quite surprising that 80% of the films in this year’s program are award winners. “Smaller countries like Bolivia and Ecuador make few films and Central America also struggles to produce films notably because there isn’t enough funding, not enough trained people but ultimately it goes back to government support,” explained Gisselle Gallego, the Festival Programmer. “For example, Venezuela was a driving force until recently when things just went not so great. The government has now stopped injecting money into projects, so a lot of filmmakers have left the country and are now based in Mexico.”
With an increase in the quality of films in recent years, there has also been a change in storytelling. “Productions have changed and the stories have evolved into stories which aren’t so local but which tell stories which perhaps connect with other genres such as horror and animation. It’s quite amazing how much animation has picked up in recent years.”
The opening night film The Cotton Wool War is a sweet and very tender coming of age Brazilian film about a 13-year-old girl who relocates from Germany to live with her grandmother in Brazil. “She struggles with bi-culturalism which most of us do when we’re stuck between two cultures. The thing about this film is that it showcases Salvador de Bahia which is a beautiful place for Afro-Latino culture in Brazil, so you get to learn a lot about the culture and what happens there through music, food and everything they do.”
Latin Americans know how to celebrate so a themed party about Brazil and Salvador de Bahia will follow the opening night film. “We’re going to have an after-party at The Argyle. There will be Brazilian food and drinks and it’s going to be fun!” enthused Gallego. There will be live entertainment by ForAll Band and Sydney Choro Club, food and drinks on arrival, dancers, live percussion and Latino sets by DJ Willie Sabor.
Delfin is a cinematic offering from Argentina which promises to be an enjoyable film to close the festival. “Delfin is a cute 11-year-old boy who lives in a small rural deprived town in Argentina with his father and his dream is to be part of an orchestra. It’s a beautiful and tender film which will be preceded by a drink on arrival and a live performance by an up-and-coming Latin band, Canto Libre.
One film which will certainly generate some interest is Being Impossible the story of Ariel, a woman who realised that her life was built on a lie. “Ariel lives in a small rural town in Venezuela, is very religious and starts a relationship. She goes to the doctor and discovers that she is intersex. I think it’s hard as portrayed but highlights the importance of gender identity in a very small conservative town. Even though this is fiction it’s a very powerful story and gives voices to people who would never have a voice in Latin America.”
This film festival also hosts a Latin American short film competition which comprises seven films which had to address climate change or migration. There are shorts from Argentina, Columbia, Mexico, Peru and El Salvador. “What I love about the short film competition is that we’re going to hear different stories as to why people migrate and the challenges they face in migrating. In terms of climate change, we’ll learn the real impact it has had on Latin America which is something you don’t see.”
It’s important to note that the festival has a community support program in place and proceeds from ticket sales will aid the poor communities. “We have two charities this year, an organisation called Comamos Juntos in Nicaragua and the other is Julian Cho Society in Belize. Both of these organisations will benefit from the monies we inject back to them.”
Sep 4–11. Dendy Opera Quays, Shop 9; 2 East Circular Quay. $117-$51. Tickets & Info: www.slaff.org.au
GISSELLE’S HOT PICKS
MANTIS NEST (CUBA): Two men fight for the affection of a woman and through these three characters audiences will learn about the history of Cuba over the past 20 years. Unmissable.
PERRO BOMBA (CHILE): This drama follows the journey of a Haitian migrant to Chile and the racism he faces. An insightful Q&A follows with director Juan Caceres.
GOALKEEPER (BOLIVIA): A very dark but important film about human trafficking from a country which rarely produces films. A number one box office hit in Bolivia.
JOEL (ARGENTINA): A couple wait years to adopt a child. When nine-year-old Joel suddenly arrives, their expectations are shattered.
WANDERING GIRL (COLUMBIA): A road trip film which explores a girl’s journey to adolescence as she travels across Columbia with three older half-sisters who she has just met for the first time.