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Film Fiesta Starts Today!

Film Fiesta Starts Today!

Created in 1997, the Latin American Film Festival was made to gain knowledge, understanding consciousness and, above all, to break the stereotypes about Latin America. This is a type of Latin American cinema with cultural and artistic pretensions, beyond economic pretensions and recognition. With the support of Latin American embassies, the Latin American community and the general public, such a festival –according to the Canadian Film Institute- has presented 265 Ottawa premieres of Latin American films, welcomed over 20 visiting filmmakers, and attracted close to 60,000 spectators.

With such achievements, the Latin American Film Festival becomes one of the most expected cultural activities year after year during this season. From the most recognized festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, and Chicago, this Latin film festival presents the best of Latin independent and cultural films right here in Ottawa.

This is a good opportunity for those people who have not been in Latin America and ignore the Latin American reality; or better yet, for those people who want to learn more about this region. Not only are there famous series and soap operas from Latin American –which promote some kind stereotypes- but also there are these kinds of independent films that show the roots, the identity, the diversity and the Latin culture from another perspective.

I have had the pleasant surprise to meet people who tell me experiences for them or their relatives in Latin America. Some of them now are living in some a Latin country because “they fell in love with the weather, people, food and its opportunities.” At the same time, I have talked to people who just know some things about the current socio-economic inequality, poverty in certain sectors, porous institutional systems and the corruption without any context.

In fact, within the framework of this festival Tayler Foley and Katalin Koller, Canadian Ph.D. students of Political Science and Geography at Carleton University, shared with me their perceptions about Latin America, and Tayler´s experience when he toured almost all of Latin American, in 2009.

Ottawa Life: What was your motivation to travel to Latin America? Why did you do it?

Tayler Foley: I am from a small town in New Brunswick so I can’t say that I knew much about Latin America before university. Actually, I didn’t even know what guacamole was until I was 18. But during university I learned a lot about Latin American history and politics, it seemed like a place that was going through many different political, economic, and cultural transitions. I guess I thought it would be a place with a lot of energy and optimism.

When I was in university I worked as a tree planter in British Columbia during the summers. I worked with so many people who would work for a few months, save their money, and go travelling. A lot of them had gone backpacking in Latin America and said it was a great and affordable place to visit. I was definitely interested in historical and natural offerings: ancient ruins, jungles, beaches, and wildlife. But I was also excited about the chance to experience different languages and cultures.

What did you think of Latin America before you went? Did you have any predesigned idea? I mean, how did you image it? What was the most surprising thing to you?

My first destination in Latin America was Guatemala City, so I have to say that the thing that surprised me most was the level of poverty. Even though I had read it in books, seen pictures, and talked to people – it was pretty shocking sitting in that first cab ride from the airport and seeing some of these precarious houses, people carrying huge loads on the side of the road, garbage everywhere. Obviously, not everywhere in Latin America looks the same, but it is the reality in a lot of places.

That being said, a major surprise about Latin America is all the diversity. I think in North America we know about the different indigenous peoples, but I had no idea about the Afro- Caribbean communities on the mainland. There is also an incredible amount of biodiversity: deserts, mountains, deltas, jungles, and much more. I also didn’t realize there was so much delicious food in Latin America; papoosas from El Salvador and ceviche come to mind.

What countries did you visit?

In Central America: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama. In South America: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay. In the Caribbean: Cuba.

What did you like the most and, why not, what did you like the least about Latin America?

My favourite thing about Latin America is the outdoor aspect. You don’t have to go far to find beautiful places to hike, surf, scuba dive, or just relax. If I had to pick two of my favourites, I would say Semuc Champey in Guatemala and Ciudad Perdida in Colombia. The first is a kind of natural park with a lazy river of cascading blueish-green pools surrounded by virgin jungle incredible!

The second is an ancient city, also in the jungle, which is a few day hike from the nearest city. We had a guide and got to camp out in the mountains, swim in beautiful waterfalls, and see all sorts of wildlife.

I don’t want to generalize, but the worst thing about travelling in Latin America is insecurity. It isn’t unsafe everywhere, of course, but it is definitely a concern in some places. It is a good idea to know where you are going and exercise the appropriate precautions. Still, this is not something that should prevent someone from going there altogether!

Would you recommend visiting Latin America? Would you go back there?

Yes! It is a shame that most Canadians only experience in Latin America is a resort vacation. There is so much more to offer, even if you don’t speak Spanish. I would recommend that when you go, not to try and do too much. I see a lot of people try to do Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia in two weeks. If you do this you’ll end up spending most of your time in a car, bus, or train watching the country pass you by. I would recommend picking one or two big ticket items and then take lots of time to experience the people, culture, and everyday life.

Why do you want to watch a movie about Latin America?

Katalin Koller: I love watching films from outside the popular domain - directed by non-Western filmmakers, telling the stories of diverse peoples and places, and opening my mind to the abundance of alternative expressions of filmmaking as an artform.  While a rom-com or an American action movie can be fun for a night, the best films I have seen are ones that keep me captivated about things foreign to me, about people, places, and cultures different than mine.  I often learn so much about the world and about myself and the social communities I am a part of, without ever leaving my living room. 

What do you know about Latin America?

In the beginning, a lot of what I knew about Latin America was based upon the travelling stories of my partner Tyler.  We have known each other for twenty years, and before we were a couple, I tracked his travels through his descriptive messages home.  Now, as a critical human geographer, a lot of what I know about Latin America is contextualized by the colonial relation and the region’s location in the global political economy.  The colonization of Latin America was a crucial component in the spread of global capitalism and the construction of race and geo-political inequalities.  Of great interest to my research are the Latin American grassroots social movements that defend land, water, and culture from neoliberal interests that seek to commodify nature-cultures for economic gain and foreign consumption.

Which country would you like to visit?

It would be amazing to visit the Amazon Rainforest region – it hosts so much of Earth’s biodiversity and new beings are discovered everyday (although we are losing a devastating amount of biodiversity due to global over-exploitation of the environment). Easter Island, Chile, is a majestic place that I will likely never have the opportunity to visit because of its remoteness.  For years I have dreamt about visiting and learning from the Zapatista community in Chiapas, Mexico, and the water activists (Water Warriors) in Bolivia. Recently, after reading “I, Rigoberta Menchu”, about the Nobel Peace Price winning Indigenous Guatemalan activist, I would like to visit her people’s country (mountain region) one day.

Do you know many Latin-Americans?

I am very fortunate to have a few good friends with Latin American heritage, including you!

What do you think Latin America offers as compared to Canada?

Compared to Canada, I suppose the region offers a warmer climate all year round!  Also, the opportunity to be immersed in a great variety of cultures, politics, and places…incredible music and dance histories and some of the most beautiful tropical and mountain landscapes in the world.  In the region, you can also visit sites of some of the oldest civilizations in the Western hemisphere – Inca, Aztec, and Mayan! 

What do you think Canada offers as compared to Latin America?

That is a tough question, so I will say only this.  Canada and Latin American countries are linked in more ways than one.  It is not possible to compare them objectively on any criteria (social services, education, economy, healthcare, tourism).  The colonization of Canada and of the Latin American region resulted in the dispossession of many peoples and places and resulted in power struggles over knowledge and identity that extend through space and time, enduring to impact geo-political relations today.  Canada and its place in the global political economy would not exist without the European colonization of the Americas and the creation of racial hierarchies that legitimized the cultural genocide of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Therefore, when we reflect on what Canada has to offer, as a place to live, as a place to visit, we cannot neglect the fact that Canada’s development as a Western nation is part of a shared history with the Latin American region and its people.

What could you see in the 21st Latin American Film Festival?  The Canadian Film Institute has prepared the following schedule for you:

Rara (Weird): Chilean film by Pepa San Martín • 2016 • 88 min • Wednesday, April 26, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

El Cheque (The Check):  Panama film by Arturo Montenegro • 2016 • 90 min • Thursday, April 27, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

La distancia más larga (The Longest Distance): Venezuelan film by Claudia Pinto Emperador • 2013 • 103 min • Friday, April 28, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

El Salvador: Cuatro Puntos Cardinales (Four Cardinal Points): Salvadoran film by Javier Kafie • 2015 • 55 min • Saturday, April 29, 2017, 4:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

A Luneta do Tempo (Time Frame): Brazilian film by Alceu Valença • Brazil • 2014 • 99 min • Saturday, April 29, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

Boquerón: Bolivian film by Tonchy Antezana • 2015 • 90 min • Saturday, April 29, 2017, 9:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

Pariente (Guilty Men): Colombian film by Iván Gaona • 2016 • 115 min • Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

Flor de Azúcar (Sugar Fields): Dominican Republic film by Fernando Baez Mella • 2014 • 110 min • Thursday, May 4, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

El ciudadano ilustre (The Distinguished Citizen): Argentinian film by Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn • 2016 • 118 min • Saturday, May 6, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

La Chiperita: Paraguayan film by Hugo Cataldo • 2015 • 65 min • Saturday, May 6, 2017, 9:15 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

Mono con gallinas (Open Wound): Ecuadorian film by Alfredo León León • 2013 • 85 min • Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

About Us (Entonces Nosotros): Costa Rican film by Hernan Jimenez • 2016 • 87 min • Thursday, May 11, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

El elefante desaparecido (The Vanished Elephant): Peruvian film by Javier Fuentes-León • 2014 • 109 min • Friday, May 12, 2017, 7:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

Zanahoria (Operation Carrot): Uruguayan film by Enrique Buchichio • 2014 • 100 min • Friday, May 12, 2017, 9:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

Ayiti Mon Amour (Haiti, My Love): Haitian film by Guetty Felin • 2016 • 88 min • Saturday, May 13, 2017, 4:00 pm • River Building Theatre, Carleton University

Maquinaria Panamericana (Panamerican Machinery): Mexican film by Joaquin del Paso • 2016 • 90 min • Saturday, May 13, 2017, 7:00 pm •River Building Theatre, Carleton University

All movies are in Spanish –and Portuguese-, with English sub-titles. If you were interested, please visit Canadian Film Institute for watching the trailers, as well as prices, discounts, tickets and passes, and much more.

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