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Latin American diversity on show at film festival

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Latin American diversity on show at film festival

Latin American enthusiasts, expats and movie fans are invited on a cinematic journey at Massey University’s Albany campus this month.

Entry is free to ten films in the 12th Latin American Film Festival - currently touring New Zealand - with comedy, romance, family and historic sagas, ‘coming of age’ and road movies from South America, Cuba, Mexico and Spain.

Dr Leonel Alvarado, the head of Massey’s Spanish Language programme, says the movie selection showcases the diversity of cultures, perspectives and forms of Spanish language across Latin America.

The programme - running weekdays from September 16 - is produced by embassies and consulates in New Zealand and Australia. Films this year are from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and Spain. Each movie will be introduced by an academic or cultural specialist from Latin America.

While countries like Spain, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil have well established film industries, Dr Alvarado says others are catching up and producing high-quality cinema, such as the 2012 Chilean drama ‘No’, which was nominated for an Oscar.

This year’s line-up includes Chilean film Mi Mejor Enemigo (My Best Enemy), which was inspired by an actual border skirmish between Chile and Argentina in 1978. In Brazilian road movie Colegas (Buddies), three characters with Down Syndrome embark on a wild adventure from Sao Paulo (Brazil) to Buenos Aires (Argentina) in a stolen VW.

In Pescador (Fisherman), 30-year-old Blanquito lives with his mother in a fishing village on the coast of Ecuador until the day he finds a shipment of cocaine washed up on a beach and seizes the chance to leave and search for his father.

Food, fame and desire are at play in A Mi Me Gusta I(The Way I Like it), from Venezuela, while Martin and Mariana’s romantic paths are bound to cross in Medianera (Sidewalls), a Spanish/Argentinean film.

Cuban ambassador María del Carmen Herrera Caseiro will be guest speaker at an Opening Night reception on September 16, followed by a Cuban film Habana Station, about everyday life in Cuba through the eyes of a young student and son of a well-to-do jazz musician who discovers another side of life when he gets caught up in May Day celebrations.

The festival celebrates the first year of Spanish Language teaching at the Albany campus. Dr Alvarado has been involved in organising student-based and embassy-supported Latin American film festivals for the past 12 years in Palmerston North, where he teaches and writes internationally award-winning poetry.

Albany Spanish Language tutor Dr Carla Grosman-Smith, who has researched Latin American culture and cinema, says there are many benefits and opportunities for students of Spanish language in the 21st century.

"This festival is a great practice for my current students who kindly got involved monitoring the screenings and circulating the event news. It’s also a good opportunity to test the water for those thinking of enrolling in Spanish," she says.

With more trade and business opportunities for New Zealand as thriving Latin American economies are predicted to grow by four per cent or more next year, knowledge of language, culture, lifestyle and customs is vital for successful relationship-building and negotiations, she says.

Dr Alvarado says Spanish language and cultural studies resonate strongly for many New Zealanders - particularly Mäori - in relation to the diverse history of indigenous cultures in Latin America. Pronunciation is also similar, making it a language that fluent Mäori language speakers feel an affinity with.

During the festival, an exhibition of political cartoons by Cuban artist Gerardo Hernandez will be on display at the Albany campus library. The festival will run in Palmerston North in November.

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