Vancouver Latin American Film Festival celebrates Chile

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      Chilean cinema is set to take the spotlight as the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival marks its 12th year.

      As part of an annual focus on a guest country, more than 10 films from Chile will be featured as part of the 11-day festival, which launches on Thursday (August 28). A Chilean gala will take place on September 1, featuring a screening of the film Illiterate, with director Moisés Sepúl­veda in attendance. Other Chilean guests at the festival will include director Cristian Soto, and actress and jury member Manuela Martelli.

      VLAFF executive director Christian Sida-Valenzuela noted that for the first time, the festival will feature work from Spain.

      “With support of the Basque Cultural Institute, we’re showing a series of films from the Basque country,” he said in an interview with the Georgia Straight at VLAFF’s downtown office. “We’re also partnering with the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, and we’re showing a section called Afro-Cuban Cinema…and that is happening because the MOA has an art exhibition on Afro-Cuban art.”

      This year’s opening film will be the Argentine romantic comedy Lion’s Heart. An animated film from Uruguay, AninA, will close the festival on September 7.

      Other major films being featured include Mexican director Marc Silver’s Who Is Dayani Cristal?, which follows actor Gael Garcίa Bernal as he retraces the steps of a dead migrant from Honduras to the Sonoran Desert. A movie that Sida-Valenzuela describes as an important achievement in Bolivian film history, Yvy Maraey: Land Without Evil, will also be screened, with the director, Juan Carlos Valdivia, in attendance.

      “The director who made the film, he’s the Bolivian director,” said Sida-Valenzuela. “He has four feature-length films.”

      The festival will again feature the Al Jazeera Documentary Competition, which this year includes Blanco, a doc about albinism in the Dominican Republic, and Icaros, which looks at the spiritual universe of the Shipibo indigenous people in Peru.

      A film highlighted by Sida-Valenzuela as one of his favourites is the Venezuelan film Bad Hair, which won the top prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain last year. He’s also excited about a 1968 Cuban film called Memories of Underdevelopment.

      “We’re showing that film because we’re celebrating the 55th anniversary of the Cuban Film Institute, so that’s a very important film for Latin American cinema,” he said.

      The festival also includes work from indigenous filmmakers from B.C. and Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as a series of films produced by Canadians in Latin America.

      Last year, about 5,000 people attended the event, and this year Sida-Valenzuela is hoping to draw even larger numbers.

      “I always like to emphasize that the festival is for all the Vancouver community, because still sometimes some people think we’re addressing the Latin-American community, but…we like to have people from [the whole city],” he said.

      The festival runs from August 28 to September 7, with screenings at the Cinematheque, the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts at SFU Woodward’s, the Vancity Theatre, the Museum of Anthropology, and Douglas College. More information is available at