Viva Latin American Cinema! By Wolfgang Martin Hamdorf

in 22th Guadalajara Film Festival

by Wolfgang Hamdorf

The Chilean actress Tamara Acosta, with a strange magical smile, walks across the dusty roads of the Holy Land – old master Miguel Littin has returned in his newest film La Ultima Luna (The Last Moon) to his family roots. Littin, a descendant of Palestinian Christian immigrants in Chile, tells the story of two neighbours, the Jew Jacob and the Christian Palestinian Soliman, reflecting the emergence of the Middle East conflict since the First World War. The dynamic film moves from Palestine to Chile and vice-versa, most of which is seen through the eyes of a committed Palestinian, creating an uneven balance between an interior and an external observation.

La Ultima Luna was presented in Guadalajara as a world premiere. This was because of “the personal solidarity, which I feel towards the celebration of a film festival in Guadalajara”, Littin explained at the beginning of his press conference. After 20 successful years of featuring Mexican films, Guadalajara presented itself for the first time this year – along with the similar Havana and Huelva – as an international festival for the Latin American film industry.

Even if the festival had a world premiere with Miguel Littin’s film, the competition included many prize-winning films like Whisky, El Perro and El Cielito. In addition to these already well-known international films, the competition offered altogether an interesting view of the tendencies and boundaries of current Latin American cinema. For instance, two Spanish films, Crimen Ferpecto by Alex de la Iglesia and Amor Idiota by Ventura Pons, dealing with the fears of the middle class, were completely different from Las Mantenidas Sin Sueños, the directorial debut of the young Argentine actress Vera Fogville. The Argentinean film has a completely different energy: The explicitly amusing, tragic, sarcastic and melancholic story of a nine-year-old girl, her drug-addict mother and her ambitious life-hungry grandmother, is a brilliant microcosm of the decay of Argentinean society.

An excellent example of the strength of young Argentinean cinema Familia Rodante, directed by Pablo Trapero, which tells of the journey of a large family across Argentina. It begins with instantly comical moments, and creates, step by step, an impressive, semi-documentary road movie, reflecting in an unobtrusive way, a picture of the Argentinean society and the fall of the middle class. Also Lucrecia Martel in her film La Niña Santa takes up this basic tendency of social decadence in a completely personal way, while Anari Berneri consolidates it in Un Año Sin Amor, turning the story of a deadly illness into a matter of existence, desire and greed.

The variety of the Latin America film industry ranges from the melodrama Roma, shown in competition, a rather disappointing film by the Argentinean old master Adolfo Aristarain, to the strength of expression by the younger Argentinean film-makers. Cachimba, the new film by the Chilean Silvio Caiozzi, like his masterpiece Coronacion, is adapted from a novel by Donoso. Cachimba is a deep investigation of the world of art and artists and tells of the failure of idealism. The romantic comedy, in which a small bank employee falls in love with a rather intractable woman and encounters, coincidentally, the collection of an unknown Chilean painter, is brilliantly photographed; the strength of the characters is diminished, however, by the rather complacent humor.

Another issue reflected in the variety of Latin American films at the festival is the ability to produce films within a small budget. The young Colombian director Ciro Guerra, for instance, made his debut film, La Sombra Del Caminante (The Wandering Shadow) in black and white with a small mini data processing camera. It tells the weird story of the strange friendship between a one-legged man and a strong loner, who carries him through the city. Something completely different is the atmospheric film by the Ecuadorial director Sebastian Cordero with Crónicas, which tells the classic story of a child murderer, set against the background of the sensationalism, greed and corruption of TV organizations.