Canadian Film Institute announces Latin American Film Festival lineup

The Canadian Film Institute, in association with the Group of Latin American Ambassadors, announced the official line-up for the 17th annual Latin American Film Festival on March 13.

Executive director of the Canadian Film Institute (CFI) and Carleton film instructor Tom McSorley said he and CFI programmer Jerrett Zaroski scout out films throughout the year at international film festivals.

They look specifically for high quality films that wouldn’t otherwise be distributed to Canadian audiences.

“For us what’s most gratifying is that audiences in Ottawa seem to have found this festival after a few years of being in the bushes a little bit. But now people are really actually into it and it’s gratifying to see because the work is really quite striking,” McSorley said.

According to Zaroski, cultural influences permeate into the film industries of Latin America.  These industries operate separately from Hollywood, which is what makes Latin American cinema so vibrant.

“Unlike Canadian cinema, which tries to centre itself against Hollywood, I think there is no desire to even confront Hollywood in any way in their case,” Zaroski said.

“It has its own particular tone and it’s very deeply ingrained in the various cultures and the various politics and histories that have come out of Latin America. And I think that the filmmakers embrace history and embrace heritage.”

The festival will feature 16 films from 15 countries across Central and South America, all of which will be screened in Spanish with English subtitles.

“The idea of the festival is there is great work going on down there, let’s bring it to Ottawa,” McSorley said.

A major theme in the festival, and other international cinema events put on by the CFI, is the idea of a cultural exchange. CFI worked closely with embassies in Ottawa to promote its Latin American Film Festival, Zaroski said.

“We try to give as much promotion to Mexican culture as possible,” said Raúl Saavedra, press attaché at the Embassy of Mexico, which is represented by the Group of Latin American Ambassadors.

“We’re the 10th largest economy in the world but in terms of culture we’re kind of a superpower. Everyone has an image of Mexico, be it through our Hispanic cultures or through film, or through food, or through painting.”

While the film festival does celebrate Latin American culture, McSorley stressed that the festival is, above all else, about cinema.

“It’s really a festival for film fans. It’s not just a regional thing, it’s cinema,” McSorley said.

“This is a public festival for film lovers and generally speaking it’s been really well received over the years.”

The Latin American Film Festival will open March 21 with O Palhaço (The Clown), a feature-length comedy and Brazil’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards.

The festival runs from March 21 to April 7.