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Film fest spotlights Ibero America

The Brown Daily Herald
By Margaret Yi
Friday, September 24, 2010


Elise Merchant / The Herald
Films including “El Ultimo Guion (The Last Script),” “La verguenza (Shame),” “La Paloma (The Dove),” and a series of animated shorts are showing at the Cable Car Cinema from Sept. 18-25 as part of the New England Festival of Ibero American Cinema.

A year-long collaboration between staff and students brings the first edition of the New England Festival of Ibero American Cinema to campus this week. The festival features a variety of films, documentaries and short movies from directors around the world.

The festival is being held at the Avon and Cable Car Cinemas Sept. 18–25. It also offers discussion panels and meet-and-greets with filmmakers, actors and film professors, hosted in the Watson Institute and List Art Center. Yale, Harvard and the College of William and Mary will also screen films from the festival in the upcoming week.

The festival is directed by Jose Torrealba, who is also the outreach coordinator for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Watson. The Departments of Hispanic Studies and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies are sponsors of the event as well.

Ibero America refers to the region encompassing the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Central and South America, as well as Spain and Portugal. By featuring films from these areas, the organizers sought to promote Hispanic culture and foster understanding of Hispanic and Latino countries. This year's film selections, subtitled in English, explore not only well-known social issues in Ibero American countries, but also the daily human situations people in those countries face, Torrealba said.

The lineup features well-known films, such as "Celda 211 (Cell 211)." This film from Spanish director Daniel Monzon has won numerous Goya Awards - a Spanish award comparable to the Oscars - including Best Picture and Best Director. The film details the survival of a guard during a prison riot, a situation that soon leads to political strife and widespread violence in the Basque community.

The festival is also screening "Contracorriente (Undertow)," the debut work of director Javier Fuentes-Leon. The film, which won awards at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, is a fantasy ghost story about Miguel, a married fisherman in Peru who has an affair with another man. When his lover dies in an accident, Miguel is pressured to reveal his sexuality to his religious and conservative village.

Also featured at the festival is "Norteado (Northless)," a film from Mexico and Spain that details the attempts of Andres, a man from Mexico, as he tries to cross the border into the United States. The film is both comedic and serious, as it explores the economic, geographical and cultural disparities between the U.S. and Mexico. Andres is faced with a painful dilemma as he tries to let go of his past and look forward to the future with his wife and children in the United States.

The festival also presents several documentaries, such as "Nombre Secreto: Mariposas (Codename: Butterflies)." The documentary is the first to chronicle the lives of the Mirabal sisters, who were executed for opposing the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina in the Dominican Republic. A panel discussion followed the film's Sunday screening with director Cecilia Domeyko and Dona Dede Mirabal, the sole surviving Mirabal sister.

"It was an incredible experience to actually learn about a country's history from a person who lived through that time," said Alejandro Vertiz '14, a volunteer for the film festival.

The organizers intended the festival to be an enriching educational experience, Torrealba said. "I realized more and more how film is an intrinsic part of the academic world here," he said.

The organizers also hoped to involve the greater Providence community and to foster connections with the foreign filmmakers, he added.

Torrealba said the festival is unique among university film festivals because it awards cash prizes. A jury will determine the first-place winners for "emerging filmaker for a feature film," documentary and short film categories. Torrealba said he hopes that cash prizes will financially endow and encourage directors, especially amateur ones, to continue filmmaking.

Torrealba and his team of Brown staff and graduate and undergraduate students began organizing the event in January of this year. The process involved screening a number of films from Hispanic and Latino countries around the world. A jury of five then narrowed the films down to those now presented at the festival. Torrealba said that while organizing the event was exhausting and overwhelming, he is excited for another festival next year.

"It's a great opportunity to be exposed to what's going on in Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese culture," said Esther Hernandez-Medina GS, who joined the team in July.

The festival has also received very positive feedback from Brown students.

"I really appreciate that we can watch these kinds of movies here," said Giulia Basile '13, who discovered the festival through her Spanish class. "It's a good excuse to watch a movie on a Tuesday night."

"I'm glad they've shown these movies," said her classmate, Brittany Fidalgo '13, adding that the films offered a "different perspective" on life in Spanish-speaking countries.

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