Latin America in Southern France

in 16th Toulouse Latin American Film Festival

by Bojidar Manov

The 16th Rencontres Cinemas d’Amerique Latine in Toulouse (19-28 March 2004) is a festival arousing interest with its rich programme and because it focuses on the cinema from the region and manages to present not only the new titles, but also many films in various parallel programmes that the audience should not miss. For the first time FIPRESCI established its jury at this festival and this gives us an opportunity to assess the event on the basis of personal observations.

The programme is impressive – approximately 150 films coming from all the countries in the region, with the natural dominance of the large and well-established cinema of Argentina (38 films), Mexico (25 films), Brazil (19 films). And still it was very intriguing to see, among them, films from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay, Venezuela – though just 1-2 titles from each of these countries.

Another merit of this festival is its guests, which give opportunities for direct professional contacts, interesting discussions, and the consideration of future projects. Among the popular names this year were the Chilean director Patricio Guzman (member of the main jury in the competition programme “Coup de coeur”); the talented Uruguayan actor Daniel Hendler, who became extremely popular last year with his participation in Argentine films “El abrazo partido” and “El fondo del mar”; Lurdes Portillo (“Senorita Extraviada”, USA); the Argentine director Leonardo di Cesare (“Buena Vida Delivery”); his colleague from Uruguay Pablo Stoll (“25 Watts”); Marcel Sisniega form Mexico (“Fandango, Arenas Negros”), etc. This kind of communication allows us to take a close look at the processes in contemporary Latin American cinema, to juxtapose it with world cinema development and to sense the pulse of the region.

The festival’s climate was favourable for the most important events – discussions, press conferences and personal contacts. It is worth noting that one of the most successful films in March 2004 – Argentine “Cautiva” (“Captive”) by director Gaston Biraben – was conceived and initiated as a project “en construccion” here, in Toulouse. “Cautiva” earned the FIPRESCI award (cf. the review on this film by the Jury member Lutz Gräfe), as well as the award of the French cinema critics in the “Decouverte” category. It is to be regretted, that 3 of the best films presented in Toulouse (“El fondo del mar”, Argentina; “Dependencia sexual”, Bolivia; “Sabado, una pelicula en tempo real”, Chili) had already been awarded by FIPRESCI in Mar del Plata, Locarno, Mannheim-Heidelberg and therefore could not be awarded a prize again, but this serves only to confirm that our colleagues – members of the juries there – have chosen wisely. However this poses the question of the amount and the selection of the FIPRESCI short list of films. In this case we had the opportunity to discuss only 9 titles – too few for an ambitious festival?!

Behind this generally positive impression of the festival’s programme, Rencontres Cinemas d’Amerique Latin has yet to overcome certain organizational weaknesses. The festival needs a proper press-centre, enabling the journalists to work professionally (equipped with computers and communication devices). There is also a need for more press materials not only in French, but in English as well. Or at least as a minimum – if it is to meet universal professional standards – the catalogue could contain more information (about the films and the directors) and contact addresses for print sources.