Monday, August 29, 2011

Cinematically Inclined: Vancouver Latin American Film Festival 2011

For film buffs in Vancouver, every season has at least one or two major film festivals. In the late summer, bridging the gap between the QueerFilm Fest and the major International Film Festival in late September is underrated but no less intriguing Vancouver Latin American Film Festival (VLAFF).

Originally started in 2003 as a vehicle to promote Latin American films, the festival crested the wave of popular Mexican films that gained a global audience at the turn of the millennium, most notably Y Tu Mama Tambien, El Crimen de Padre Amaro and Amores Perros, each of which earned Academy Awards nominations. With Pan’s Labyrinth becoming a major hit a few years later, the emergence of Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Guillermo del Toro on the global stage, and the surprise Oscar win of Argentina’s El Secreto en sus ojos, Latin American film has become a player in world cinema. VLAFF honours this and brings some of the major films of the era into Vancouver.

VLAFF has grown in awareness and stature each year, and has the support of a number of local and national corporate and government sponsors. This year, the list of presenting sponsors and partners include: the City of Vancouver; the BC Council for the Arts; the Province of BC; Scotiabank; the Hamber Foundation, Simon Fraser University (which is also screening a number of films at their many campuses this year); Corona; Smirnoff; Holiday Inn; and the LGBT publication Xtra. Each of the Consulate Generals of Brazil, El Salvador, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela will also take part, as will the tourist ministry of Mexico. A number of other films festivals will also sponsor the event, including the Queer Film Festival, Doxa Documentary Film Festival, Jewish Film Festival and the Al-Jazeera Documentary Channel. As a number of films may touch on human rights issues, Amnesty International have also been announced as a community partner.

VLAFF 2011 will take place from September 1 to September 11, 2011. Films will be played throughout Metro Vancouver, including the following theaters:
  • Granville 7 Cinemas
  • Pacific Cinematheque
  • Roundhouse Community Centre
  • SFU Harbour Centre (Downtown)
  • SFU Woodward’s / Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
  • SFU Burnaby Campus
  • PS Production Services 
Please check VLAFF’s website to check on locations and show times. Take note that tickets are $10 per film, but gala presentation tickets will cost $15. As films will be shown unrated, in compliance with local and federal laws, you must purchase a one-time $2 membership in order to see the films. Online ticket purchases can be made here

For those wanting an intelligent, exciting alternative to the commercial fare now showing on too many multiplex screens near you, VLAFF is a welcome breath of fresh air. A number of films presented at this year’s festival are summarized after the jump.

El hombre de al lado (The Man Next Door, Argentina)

This year’s opening gala was the sensation of the Mar del Plata, Toulouse, Catalia and Sundance film festivals. An architect and his family live in a stunning, open-facing glass home, but their curious neighbour decides to build a window in his home next door that faces onto the architect’s glass home. Whatever for? The provocative film by the directorial team of Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn seems absurdly comic at first, but things become more peculiar and sinister until violence erupts …

Gatos Viejos (Old Cats, Chile)

A lesbian returns to her aged parents’ home with her female partner in town. When they visit, they notice that all is not well with the mother and her health may not be what it once was. This is the latest film by the directing-writing team of Sebastian Silva and Pedro Peirano, whose 2009 dark comedy The Maid (La Nana) tore through the festival circuit and picked up prizes at Sundance and was recognized at the Golden Globes, NAACP Image Awards and Gotham Awards.

Post Mortem

Post Mortem (Chile / Mexico / Germany)

For many Chileans, the subject of the disappeared still haunts the country, as seen in films such as the Oscar-winning political classic The Official Story. This film follows an office worker whose neighbour goes missing on September 11, 1973. He finds her family’s home was violently searched, and he embarks on a quest to find out what really happened. But what does he find?

Hermano (Venezuela)

In Latin American culture, soccer is central to life. This film follows two brothers who support their family with “dirty” jobs, but their lives may be changed as a talent scout arrives to recruit a new player for the most prestigious football club in the nation. Hermano was the Venezuelan entry for Best Foreign Film at last year’s Academy Awards.

As melhores coisas do mundo (The Best Things in the World, Brazil)

As melhores coisas do mundo
A teenager’s life in Sao Paolo seems to be falling apart. In the most sensitive time of his life, his parents file for divorce after his father comes out of the closet; his brother is rebellious and a never-ending source of grief; and he falls in love himself for the first time. This is presented as the Brazilian Gala Presentation.

Chicogrande (Mexico)

Set in 1916 in the aftermath of Pancho Villa’s failed invasion of Columbus, New Mexico, this period piece documents Villa’s faithful follower Chicogrande’s search for medical help to aid his fallen leader. Chicogrande is directed by veteran Mexican filmmaker Felipe Cazals and is presented as VLAFF’s closing night film.

Abel (Mexico)

In the absence of a man around the house, a nine-year-old boy proclaims himself man of the house. Soon, everyone grows to recognize this as he makes household decisions and runs his family. Then one day, his natural father returns home ... this marks the directorial debut of famed Mexican actor Diego Luna.