Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Festival Del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, December 3 to13, 2009

There is more here than meets the eye, mainly because the festival organization is so loose that events are not announced, nor are films announced until the day before they show and nobody goes out of his or her way to be especially helpful. It helps somewhat to speak Spanish, but even the Cubans are at sea when it comes to knowing what is going on.

Winners were announced today. The Coral Award for best picture went to Peru's submission for Best Foreign Language Oscar Nomination, La Teta Asustada aka The Milk of Sorrow which premiered in Berlin, special mention and best of Caribean animation went to stop-motion 20 Anos. Association of Cuban cinematographers' prize went to El Secreto de sus Ojos Argentina's submission to the Academy and a Sony Pictures Classics pickup. The prize for the best of revolutionary culture went to La Perdida a Spanish Argentian documentary which premiered in San Sebastian, and best documentary award went to Brazil's Garapa which premiered in Berlin and went on the Tribeca. Cuban flm El Premio Flaco won critics', cineastes', and educational prizes. It is a seriocomedy about a certain Cuban community's feelings and cruelty to one of its own. Los Angeles's favorite son, Chileano Matias Lira's directorial debut Drama won the $80,000 post-production prize for works in progress from Latin America. Other prizes went to La nana 2 months in theatrical release in US by Elephant Eye grossing $412,689 to date, Cinco Dias Sin Nora, Hijos de Cuba, a prize winning doc about the Havana Boxing Academy, a Cuban boarding school that takes 9-year-old boys, and turns them into the best boxers in the world.

I spoke on an industry panel on niche and digital distribution with Alfredo Calvino of Latinofusion and Maren Kroymann of M-Appeal.

On Saturday and Sunday Ibermedia hosted a program CROSSING BORDERS where marketer John Durie, international seller Thorsten Schumacher and Jan Miller from Atlantic Film Festival presented programs and gave one-on-one consultations on film marketing, sales and pitching. The International Film School hosted networking meeings and I was amazed with some of the projects and the intelligence and training of the students.

Another 2 days were devoted to Latin America and the United States entitled That Which Should Have Been, That Which is Not Able to Be and That Which Should Be. In typical Cuban political fashion it asked the questions, What is the essence of the people?s fight in the US, Europe and Latin America?, What relationship exists among the peoples? fighters in these regions? What is the nature of change currently in Latin America? And How is USA reacting to these changes?

Curtis Hansen is here being honored for LA Confidential as is the music supervisor of Moulin Rouge, Titanic and 40 other films, Robert Kraft who began his talk by alienating his audience talking the need for millions and millions of dollars to make the great movies he does, but later warming them up by describing his inspiration and joy doing his job.

Long time and well known American ex-patriot Estela Bravo who has made 40 documentaries is showing 24 Anecdotes About Fidel Castro, a light look at Castro as related by such celebrities as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alice Walker, Jesse Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Angela Davis, Alicia Alonso and others.

And it is a great time to be in Latin America. Being in Argentina for Ventana Sur opened a window on it but Havana is the starting point. My eyes opened watching Eyes Wide Open, the Uruguayan doc which premiered at IDFA and is an updated continuation of the book Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano which President Chavez gave to President Obama on his visit to Venezuela.

There is an exuberant mood of new government models occurring all over Latin America. Beginning with Cuba and followed -- finally -- with Brazil's election of President Lula, followed by Ortega's election in Nicaragua, then Bolivia's election of Ivo, Ecuador's of Correo, US's election of Obama, and -- while in Argentina -- witnessing the former leader of Tupac Amaru himself being elected President of Uruguay during the 5th year of the socialist party's leadership in that country whose middle class status has soared as a result, seeing Mercasur refuse to recognize the non election in Honduras, speaking late into the nights about politics, I feel special to be here at a time to witness these events unfolding, being discussed, being shown in the films themselves.

Last night was a major event with the special invitational showing of Tristan Bauer's Che: Un Hombre Nuevo, said to be bound for Cannes. A Cuban - Argentinean coproduction using never before seen archives from Bolivia, the film covers everything about Che's activities over his lifetime including home movies when he was a boy, footage in China, Vietnam, Bay of Pigs. It is the most comprehensive historical document of the early struggles of Cuba ever seen and took 4 years to make. The Match Factory is the international sales agent.

There are also showcases of German, French and Polish films along with those from every corner of Latin America.
By and large, except for the films from Cuba, most of the films have been in Berlin, Cannes, Ventana Sur, and other festivals (La nana , Los Viajes del Viento, Zona Sur aka Southern Zone, but the audiences here is the freshest and most enthusiastic I've seen, standing in long lines to get in, laughing at the comedies, talking back to screen, discussing as the film unreels but never disturbing other viewers. Everyone is very interested in seeing what other societies and nations are offering by way of film. The festival is the most important yearly event in Cuba. It's like being in Toronto 20 years ago when audience acclaim called the shots for acquisitions executives.


  1. Wow. Muchas gracias!
    First time I've ever read about festivals from Cuba!
    Did they show any films from Asia at all?


  2. Actually, we commented on the fact that not only was there not a single Asian film, we did not see single Asian at the festival until closing night's Oliver Stone doc South of the Border when the foreign press was filming...we saw a Chinese press person behind a camera.