A Window on Latin Cinema

in 29th CinéLatino – 29th Rencontres Cinémas d'Amérique Latine

by Frédérique Morin

It is in Toulouse, the town so brilliantly celebrated by Claude Nougaro and dubbed the “pink city” (for the way the sunset lights up the red brick buildings and becomes a show in its own right), that this festival dedicated to Latin American cinema is based. Nine films, all first or second features having their French premieres, were in competition for the FIPRESCI Prize – works from Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia and, remarkably, four films from Chile.

As a Belgium-based journalist and movie critic, Cinelatino gave me the opportunity to discover a kind of cinema rarely screened in my adoptive country. Thanks to this immersion in Latin American movies, I was able to grasp a number of salient facts about the region. Even though the films came from distinctly different cultures, a number of common points emerged clearly.

One was the strong streak of chauvinism evident in almost all of the films in competition, which emphasized the male perspective and featured power plays ranging from strong to violent. Youth was also a recurring theme: a younger generation which longs for freedom but struggles with economic problems, family deficiencies and the excessive forces of authority, whether institutional or private. Thirdly, homosexuality was a theme treated in several films – generally a subject repressed politically, socially, and even behind closed doors.

I will discuss the winner of the FIPRESCI Prize: Pariente, a Colombian film directed by Yvan Goana. Despite some minor differences of opinion, we three jurors quickly agreed that the award should go to this film. I found the movie genuinely demanding. Despite the towering importance of the subject, the director did not neglect form – he used many obvious references, but gave them his own personal touch, particularly in the remarkable opening scene. The photography was excellent and the direction fluid.

The film takes place in a small Colombian village, marked by longstanding battles between government forces, paramilitary groups and drug traffickers. As this guerrilla way of life draws painstakingly to a close, the focus is on a few members of the small community, whose solid friendships are challenged by the change in everyday reality. Wellington, a composed and responsible man, cannot reconcile himself to seeing his former fiancé, the love of his life, marry his cousin.

The film is well-structured and never loses its way despite the many stakeholders involved. It plays equally on suspense and emotion. We were pleased to hear that the director was not able to attend the awards ceremony because he was already busy shooting his second film!

Edited by Lesley Chow