First Latin Film Festival gets underway

Abe cast.jpg

The cast of Abel, a film by Mexican director Diego Luna

By Carolina Astrain

A new tradition for the Twin Cities film community could take hold Thursday, when the first Latin Film Festival kicks off at the St. Anthony Main Theater.

The 13-day festival begins with a narrative film by Mexican actor-turned-director Diego Luna. His first narrative film, Abel (2010), follows the wild imagination of a young boy grappling with the absence of his father.

Luna has shown the film at several festivals including Sundance and Cannes. Many Latinos, particularly Mexican immigrants, are pleased to see it in the new festival.

“This is a great way for Minnesotans to learn more about Latino culture,” said Abel Ordaz, a Mexican immigrant who lives in Minneapolis and has no connection to the movie that shares his name.

The festival is sponsored by the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The Minnesota Cuba Committee is hosting four films at the festival, including: Habana Eva, La Salsa Cubana, Unfinished Spaces and Battleships.

Following the screening of La Salsa Cubana, local Cuban choreographer Rene Thompson will lead a discussion on the political implications of salsa music on Cuban society.

Carla Riehle, secretary of the Minnesota Cuba Committee, said the film offers an interesting look at the island’s culture.

“They’re immersed in a way of life that’s very foreign to us,” said Riehle, who has been to Cuba. “We’re so used to competing with each other. That is not so in Cuba, it’s a much more cooperative way of life.”

Most of the films in the festival come from Latin American directors, but there a couple of others in the mix. Solar System, directed by German-born filmmaker Thomas Heise, is a silent film chronicling the lives of the Kolla people of Argentina’s Salta Province. Much in the tradition of Werner Herzog, the film uses stunning photography to tell the story.

Closing the festival on Nov. 12 is Elite Squad: The Enemy Within by Brazilian director Jose Padilha. Padilha gained international recognition in 2002 for his documentary Bus 174, which weaves together live news coverage of a man who kept bus passengers hostage for four-hours. Padhila’s latest production features the lives of a crack team from Special Police Operations attempting to clean up Rio de Janeiro’s drug scene.

Whether the Latin Film Festival has a future is uncertain, said Susan Smoluchowski, executive director of the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“These festivals, supported in part by Legacy funding, represent the growing international communities here in Minnesota. We were planning for another in this series of festivals next year focused on films out of Africa,” Smoluchowski said. “However I think we’re getting such a large response from the Latin American community on this one that we may want to do both.”

Editor’s note: MPR’s Carolina Astrain writes occasionally for State of the Arts. Her editor is David Cazares.

Tune in to Morning Edition tomorrow to hear Euan Kerr’s report on both the Latin and Arab film festivals launching this weekend.

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