What: Latin American and Spanish Film Week
Where: Cinecenta, UVic
When: Sept. 19-24, two shows nightly
Tickets, info: hispfilmvic.ca
The films featured at Latin American and Spanish Film Week go beyond entertainment, says Dan Russek, president of the Hispanic Film Society of Victoria, which presents the festival.
“They are windows to the rich cultural scene of those regions,” says Russek, associate professor in the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies at the University of Victoria. The festival will unspool on Tuesday for its eighth year at Cinecenta, the UVic student society’s theatre in the Student Union Building.
The six-day event features films from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru, a roster that Russek says is “a touch less dramatic” than some of last year’s darker offerings.
Tuesday’s opening-night feature, the documentary When Two Worlds Collide, focuses on the clash between indigenous Peruvian minorities and government interests who want to give multinational corporations access to protected tribal lands for mining, drilling and clear-cutting in the Amazon.
Another documentary, Chavela, is a lyrical and provocative portrait of Costa Rican-Mexican singer Chavela Vargas and features interview footage recorded 20 years before her death in 2012.
In his second feature, Neon Bull, Brazilian writer-director Gabriel Mascaro journeys into the world of vaquejada, a traditional exhibition sport featuring cowboys trying to pull bulls to the ground by their tails. It’s explored through the story of Iremar, a handsome, atypical cowboy with “a romantic heart and a penchant for designing outfits for women,” according to press materials.
Rara, a Chilean family drama, is the story of a teenage daughter adjusting to her mother’s lesbian relationship.
“This year, our lineup touches more on family values and social interactions,” Russek says.
Another highlight many viewers might be able to relate to is No Place Like Home (El patio de mi casa), from Mexican director Carlos Hagerman, who will do a Q&A after the 7 p.m. showing on Sept. 22.
No Place Like Home is an affectionate portrait of Hagerman’s parents, who provided educational opportunities in rural Mexico.
“This is a heartfelt documentary that works both as a personal homage and a keen reflection on friendship, parenting and old age,” said Russek.
The film’s director will also deliver a talk in English titled Social Themes in Mexican Documentaries on Sept. 22 from 2:30-3:20 p.m. in Clearihue A206 at UVic. It’s free and open to the public.
The festival’s closing-night entry is The Distinguished Citizen, Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn’s feature film, selected as Argentina’s entry for best foreign-language film at this year’s Oscars.
Argentine actor Oscar Martinez stars in the comedy-drama as a Nobel Prize-winning author who regrets having accepted an invitation to return to the town whose denizens he has creatively exploited.
Russek said he appreciates how the community continues to embrace the festival, which features films from Latin America and Spain that might not otherwise be seen at local cinemas.
“The response has been wonderful,” Russek says. “There is a lot of interest in the community to learn about current events as well as the artistic production coming from Latin America and Spain.”