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Sydney’s first Latin-American Film Festival


The Shaman’s Apprentice The Shaman’s Apprentice
It’s rare to see anything but an occasional film from Latin America in Australia’s international film festivals. In fact it’s a long time since South America loomed brutally and magically at us from the screen with its new wave of the 70s. So a first ever Latin-American Film Festival looks a very attractive proposition. Features, shorts and documentaries will screen over 2 weekends, opening at the impressive new Campbelltown Arts Centre, February 17-19, and continuing the following weekend, February 24-26, at the Tom Mann Theatre in Surry Hills.

Cuban director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti is represented by 2 films. Viva Cuba , his latest, looks at emigration, a challenging issue for Cubans, from a child’s point of view. Made for both children and adults, Malberti’s Nada + (Nothing More) won the Cannes 2005 Grand Prix Ecrans Juniors award for children’s cinema. For the festival’s organisers, “this film’s message of hope sets the tone of the festival and captures the mood sweeping Latin America at the moment where newly elected democratic governments are promising a better future.” Cremata Malberti will be attending the festival.

Australian activist filmmaker, David Bradbury, travelled to Latin America in the 1980s establishing a long-term relationship with the region and making documentaries covering conflicts in Nicaragua, Cuba, Chile and now Argentina with Raul the Terrible. Over 4 months, Bradbury followed Raul Castells, the “dynamic and often confrontationalist leader of the piqueteros (picketers), a national movement of the poor and unemployed in Argentina”. David Bradbury will be present at the Tom Mann Theatre screening of Raul the Terrible on Saturday 25 February at 6.30pm for a Q&A session.

From the producer of City of God and Central Station, Walter Salles, comes Cidade Baixa (Lower City) “a tale of a woman’s intrusion on the close, almost intimate relationship between 2 men”. The film’s director is Sergio Machado who also made Madame Sata (2002).

Machuca is the first film to be made about Chile’s 1973 coup and was the country’s official entry to the 2004 Academy Awards. Set in Santiago, this coming-of-age story “traces the friendship of 2 boys from opposing ends of the social spectrum and how the events of September 1973 affect their relationship”. Director Andres Wood had another box office hit throughout Latin America in 1997 with his first feature film Football Stories. Machuca is his third feature film, “a testament to that past and a reminder of why it must not happen again.”

The festival will also screen a series of films focussing on the Amazon region. The Shaman’s Apprentice is set amongst the Suriname communities of the Amazon and concerns the ethnobotanist Dr Mark Plotkin’s mission to find a cure for diabetes. In Between Midnight and the Roosters Crow a Canadian oil company commences its operation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. An intriguing part of the festival program comes in the form of 15 minutes of short films made by locals in the Brazilian Amazon basin: the project is titled One Amazonas.

Among the festival’s documentaries, Tina in Mexico recreates the life of photographer and revolutionary, Tina Modotti, who adopted Mexico as her home. Archival footage and images from the photographer’s work convey a sense of life in 1920s Mexico. Argentinian director Sergio Morkin’s Oscar documents the resistance to advertising’s invasion of public space: “By transforming billboards with his own collages and paintings, a Buenos Aires taxi driver takes his revenge.”

This looks like a great little festival, modest in scale but no less impressive in its scope and offering rare insight into a region rarely glimpsed on this side of the world. In all, 14 features and documentaries will be screened plus 4 shorts and some animation. And as you’d expect of a Latin American gig, hospitality will also be generous. At the big launch, the screening of Viva Cuba will be followed by a fiesta of traditional food, salsa dancing and “a good dose of rum.” RT


Sydney Latin-American Film Festival, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Feb 17-19; Tom Mann Theatre, Surry Hills, Feb 24-26. www.sydneylatinofilmfestival.org

RealTime issue #71 Feb-March 2006 pg. 21

© RealTime ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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