By Anthony Levin
What constitutes Latino film? Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and even Monaco: these countries were represented last Saturday at the New Latino Cinema mini film festival in the Wang Center Theatre. The festival kicked off with six shorts, all unique in style and temperament. The shorts ranged from experimental hand-held camerawork, as seen in María Alché’s “Noelia” (2012), to highly edited stop-motion cinematography, as seen in Juan Pablo Zaramella’s “Luminaris” (2011).
The short films ranged from comedy, as seen in “As Piadas Infanes Do Anibal” (2013) by Carlos Eduardo de Carvalho Machado to depictions of poverty in rural Colombia, as seen in Mauricio Leiva-Cook’s “Café Con Leche” (2012). Most short films were released in 2012 or 2013, the oldest one being “Luminaris.”
This entertaining display of a wide variety of short films was followed by a lively panel discussion, led by Madeline del Toro Cherney. The panel featured Associate Professor of Hispanic Languages & Literature Adrián Peréz-Melgosa, director of Cinema Tropical Carlos Guiterréz, and film directors David Figueroa and Mauro Muller. Melgosa explained that “Latin American Cinema is going through what we would call a Golden Age.” Films are being produced at a highly prolific rate, especially in Argentina and Mexico.
Countries such as Peru and Chile, who previously been involved, are also beginning to produce films. But why? Guiterréz added that “It is easier to be a filmmaker in Latin America than here in the U.S.” In countries like Argentina and Mexico, governments have taken an active role in creating incentives for film-making. For film-makers in these countries, it is easier to receive money in the form of grants or tax rebates.
But I want to focus on a question that was brought up several times, but never decisively answered: what do we mean by Latino film? How do we define Latinos (or Latinas) anyway? Melgosa pointed out that “Latinos don’t have a common origin.” What is so fascinating about the term “Latino” is that it refers to several groups of people, several cultures even, that are fully recognized and greatly distinct from one another. “Latino” may describe someone from Latin America, which itself is culturally diverse, but this word encompasses even more: New York Latinos, Californian Latinos, or Texan Latinos, for example. Moreover, when it came to identifying conventions of Latino film, there was no clear answer. “La Musique de Boulangerie” (2013), for instance, was filmed in Monaco, so the setting does not even have to be in a Spanish-speaking country. Besides sharing the common language of Spanish – and even then, countries differ in dialect — Latino films ranged widely in style and content.
The panel discussion was followed by a lovely intermission, featuring a variety of foods such as empanadas and quesadillas as well as complimentary wine tasting. Live music was also provided by Eldad Tarmu and Keenan Zach, a duet of xylophone and bass. The program wrapped up with the silent short film set in Monaco, “La Musique de Boulangerie” (2013) by Alex Cherney and Bianca Alarcon and finally the feature film, a satirical depiction of a film-maker’s life, Sebastián del Amo’s “El Mundo Fantastico De Juan Orol” (2012).
The program ended with most people still in their seats until the credits were over. Madeline del Toro Cherney, who explained that it was difficult for her to decide which films to screen because there were so many, felt that her event was successful.