Latin pride hits the big screen

The seventh annual Latin American Film Festival in Australia is bound to be quirky, unpredictable and full of emotion, says arts editor HELEN MUSA

WE are so proud of being Latin American,” says Chile’s ambassador Pedro Pablo Diaz, just one in a formidable line-up of Latin American envoys who briefed me about the upcoming Latin American Film Festival.
Brazil’s ambassador Rubem Antonio Correa Barbosa agrees: “It is important for Australians to know of our bright future.”
This year the Embassy of Colombia is promoting the event, so will open it on May 16 with “The Invisible Children”, which takes us into a 1950s world of children looking for the magic recipe for invisibility. “It’s not a comfortable film,” says Colombian ambassador Diego Betancur.
Nor is its opening-night companion Federico Veiroj’s “A Useful Life”, from Uruguay, in which real-life film critic Jorge Jellinek faces a crisis when his beloved art house cinema is forced to close down.
Mexican minister/counsellor Gilberto Limón emphasises social history in “Spiral”, a film by Mexico’s Jorge Pérez Solano. Set in rural Oaxaca, it depicts a society bereft of men, who have all gone “north” (to the US) for work.
Chile’s ambassador Pedro Pablo Diaz looks back on a miserable year of natural disasters in his country, saying “we have suffered a lot”. The antidote is a romantic film, “The Gift”. A bereft widower is taken by his friends to a spa where he meets an old love, Carmen, played by Delfina Guzman, the mother of Chile’s Finance Minister.
The arts are shown in exploitative mode with Cuba’s offering, “The Beauty of the Alhambra”, where a young female artist proves hell-bent on becoming a singer at Cuba’s top cabaret joint of the 1920s.
Peru’s ambassador Luis Quesada says he’s adding “a bit of pepper” to the mix with the 1985 classic “The City and the Dogs”. Directed by Francisco J. Lombardi, the film explores the “rigidity of values” within a military academy in Lima.
From Argentina comes “The Die is Cast,” where two loser half-brothers look for a way out of their misery. Soccer offers salvation in “Brother”, from Venezuela, which focuses on two boys, Daniel and Julio, who are spotted by a scout for Caracas Football Club.
Ambassador Barbosa represents the huge Brazilian film industry, loved all over Latin America. His offering, “Noel the Samba King”, pays tribute to the legendary Rio samba composer and satirist of the 1930s, Noel Rosa.
“My Time Will Come”, a prizewinner at Biarrtiz, is directed by noted Ecuadorian documentary-maker Víctor Arregui. It concerns the Quito city morgue’s brooding Dr. Arturo Fernandez, who develops an interest in the personal lives of his cases. “It’s not propaganda,” says Ecuador’s Raul Gangotena, “it’s a work of art.”

The Latin American Film Festival, May 16-20, sessions 6pm and 8pm, at the Visions Theatre, National Museum, admission free. More information at

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