53rd Cartagena International Film Festival

Colombia, February 21 - February 27 2013

The jury

Klaus Eder (Germany), Lucy Virgen (Mexico), Wesley Morris (US)

Awarded films

FICCI (Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de India) is one of the oldest — if not the oldest — film festivals on the continent: this year it had its 53rd edition. It offers free entry to all screenings — which probably not too many festivals can do. A young local public enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to catch up with recent cinema, particularly but not exclusively from Latin America and from Spain and Portugal.

Festival head Monika Wagenberg managed to base the seven-day event in the city center. It was a pleasure to see film lovers queuing up at nine in the morning in the early Caribbean heat: waiting not for bestsellers and highlights, but for regular Iberoamerican films in competition at the festival’s main venue, the Theater Adolfo Meija in Cartagena’s old city. By the way, the friendliness of the festival team extended to the theater staff, who would try to usher people into sold-out screenings rather than prevent them from entering.

It was a good idea to focus the international competitions (of fiction and of documentary films) on Latin America, adding both Spain and Portugal to an IberoAmerican event. This allowed the programmers (among them Colombian critic Orlando Mora) to include films which had already toured the festival circuit but were still unknown in this part of the world and did not have local distribution — works such as Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves (one of the most awarded Spanish films of the season) and Portuguese Miguel Gomes’ Tabu (a poetical and metaphorical journey into colonial Africa). Outside their countries of origin, Latin American films tend to be rather neglected even in their own region: this is a cinema which needs and deserves such platforms.

Monika Wagenberg was also lucky with the list of attending guests. Harvey Keitel and Julio Medem were both honored with tributes. Paul Schrader and Raoul Peck got retrospectives; both served on festival juries. You could meet them, and all the other filmmakers, in a calm and inspiring atmosphere where reflections on life were more important than talks about business. (Klaus Eder)

Cartagena International Film Festival: www.ficcifestival.com