07 June, 2010

In love with European film

A quick update on European film festivals in South America.

It’s nice to observe how initiatives regarding film exchange grow between Europe and countries like Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, which historically are not so close to the Old World in terms of day-to-day culture as Brazil and Argentina, for example.

This way, the cultural bonds get tighter and films travel, getting cinema to perform its best ability: tease people intellectually and emotionally about things going on in the world – the whole wide world.

Jewish Film Festival – Caracas 2010

Even talking about a theme that is not exclusively Europe-related, this festival gathers a lot of European films about the Jewish culture. Goethe Institut in Caracas, by the way, is behind this initiative, which is showing over 15 titles until the 13th of June in the Venezuelan main city. The festival’s first edition happened in 2007 (this is the 3rd) and, as the organization tells, the event has great interest from the public since then. Some parallel talking sessions about the movies, as well as courses, also take place within the festival. “Unter bauern – Retter in der Nacht” (Luidi Boken), from Germany, and “Le chant des Mariées”, from France, are two highlights in the program.

Varilux French Film Festival

It’s happening since the 2nd of June in nine Brazilian cities, starting with Sao Paulo. Since Brazil and France agreed on creating the “Brazilian year in France” (2007) and the “French year in Brazil” (2009), both countries became closer than never. A list of 10 contemporary films, including the champion of the French box offices lately “Oceáns” (Jacques Perrin) and “Un prophète” (Jacques Audiard), which won 9 Cesar awards this year. It’s interesting to remark that French film festivals in Brazil always get great public, and so is doing this one that lasts until the 10th of June. Get the whole program here.

17 May, 2010

Latin American cinema made by European talent

La Yuma, made in Nicaragua.

Forget for an instance all you’ve read about Latin American cinema receiving prizes at important film festivals.

It’s true that films made in Argentina, Mexico or even in Peru are finally catching some people’s eyes (take “The secret in their eyes”, the Argentinean thriller that won this year’s foreign Oscar or “The milk of sorrow”, the Peruvian film that got the Golden Bear last year in Berlin), which is great, but film reality experienced every day in Latin America is actually quite different.

Many countries, specially the small ones, don’t have national cinema laws that would help production to grow yet (forget about such thing as an industry), what ends up in years or decade passing by without a single national title being produced. This happened in Paraguay for the last 30 years (or more), until Paz Encina came along and did her "Paraguayan Hammock", a poetic small film that quietly won awards all over the world, such as the FIPRESCI prize in Cannes in 2006.

Now there is Nicaragua, in Central America, which has just launched its first film in two decades: “La Yuma”. Behind it, is Florence Jaugey, a French actress that went to live there 27 years ago – and never went back to France (well, maybe on vacations). In Nicaragua, se became a producer and director with now over five documentaries on her curriculum.

The fact is: there is European talent helping to construct Latin American cinema today. And this happens mostly out of pure love for a culture – and there’s nothing naïve about that.

According to Florence, who explains she has fallen in love for Nicaragua when she first went to that country to work in a film in 1983, “France has extraordinary films, culture laws and many opportunities, while here you have to do it all; it’s a challenge” (see one of her interviews for a local newspaper here).

“La Yuma”. Wanda Visión, the Spanish distribution company that sold films like the very same “Paraguayan Hammock” and “The milk of sorrow” worldwide is behind this Mexican/Spanish/French/Nicaraguan co-production that has already been commercially launched in Nicaragua. The story in the film, coincidence or not, has to do with self-overcoming.

It turns out it’s not so bad to live in a globalized world ;-)

Watch “La Yuma”’s trailer in You Tube

04 May, 2010

Have a scotch

It’s a fact (or at least I can say that about my home country): going to the movies has become an important (please read “expensive”) thing to do. In Brazil, a movie ticket has the average price of 16 reais, which is equivalent to almost 10 dollars or 7 euros. I believe this is what a billet de cinéma normally costs, for example, in Paris, but… Sorry. A French worker that gets paid by the minimum wage receives almost three times more than a Brazilian worker in the same situation. So, yes, it’s a good amount of money, considering our daily life expenses.

In reality, that’s another story, but a very good one to illustrate the motivation of this post: the importance festivals have gained in comparison to the normal film circuit in big South American cities, like, for instance, Sao Paulo.

It’s in Sao Paulo, a place where European film festivals happen all the time, that the successful Whisky Festival is now taking place, with a 8-films program, as well as concerts and food&drinks tasting – all inspired by Scotland. Beyond the obvious advantages of that, which are the opportunity to experiment a foreign culture and to be offered some variety in the standard film circuit, there's a little something that makes this and other film festivals a great alternative to a normal visit to the movies: the movie ticket’s price.

For only 4 reais (less than 2 dollars), you can watch different titles that are somehow related to Scotland, like “PS: I love you” (Richard LaGravanese), “Death at a funeral” (Frank Oz) or even “Cassandra’s dream” (Woody Allen) – all stories that take place in Scotland – having not Coke and popcorn, but a whisky (included in the price!) and listening to Scottish music before the film starts. Well, the Scottish inspiration didn’t go too far in the film program as it did with the sponsors once no director is actually Scottish, but, well, we can forgive that for now.

The thing is Sao Paulo is actually “luckier” than other small South American cities to have such festivals becoming one’s best option to go to the movies. Who should pay 16 reais to see a film? In times like ours, certainly not someone that can buy a DVD for less to watch at a not so small screen at home – not to mention what internet can do for you.

So, please, let me have my scotch.

Whisky Festival (until the 27th of May):

Back on track

Eye on South America is back on track with weekly news about European cinema in South America.

I'm looking forward for comments and suggestions! So, bring it on ;)

Camila, writing from Brazil (and thinking Latin America)