Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ari's on the Beat

It may have taken 1001 issues, but I've made it into the hallowed inky printed halls of Beat Magazine (no, not this one) as a freelancer. Eager beavers can pick up the free streetpress mag all around town (page 28, up the top), or enjoy its fruits in the comfort of your own seedy internet cafe, right here, right now. Though the finished product was editted a little, here's the original. For what it's worth, the Latin American Film Festival is most definately worth a look if you're in Melbourne this weekend:

Festival: Melbourne Latin American Film Festival 2006
By Ari Sharp

Australians first flocked to see Latin America on film several years ago when the Buena Vista Social Club hit our screens. With a sumptuous mix of cool Cuban beats, lively but ageing rockers and a romanticism of Castro's socialism, the film provided a window on a part of the world that otherwise remained mysterious and distant. Though it was seen through the discerning eye of German director Wim Wenders, the film whetted our appetite for Latin American film making, an appetite which has remained unsatisfied due to the dearth of films from the region which have reached Australian audiences.

There is one event, though, which is doing its bit to change that. In late February, Melbourne plays host to the Latin American Film Festival. In its third year, the festival screens films from central and south America, most of which would not otherwise be screened in Australia. Most of the films reflect the recent history of the region, filled with equal parts chaos and excitement, whilst they confront the reality of poverty which is the inevitable product of rival dictatorships. The festival is the biggest project of Melbourne Filmoteca, a group of local cinephiles with an interest in all things Latino.

One of the highlights of the festival is a series of public appearances by acclaimed Cuban director Juan Carlos Cremata. Cremata has two decades of film making to his name, although tellingly a search of the Internet Movie Database reveals just three listings. Instead, Cremata's output has remained mostly in his home country, where he has directed for TV and short films. In recent times Cremata has directed two feature films, both of which are being screened at the festival.

Both Viva Cuba (2005), which is screening as part of the Opening Night Fiesta, and Cremata's earlier film Nada (2001) focus on the plight of ordinary Cubans, torn between the fading dreams of socialism in their own country and the prosperity possible abroad. In a country where political freedoms are few and loyalty to Castro a necessity, any attempt to confront this question is a brave and worthy endeavour.

Another director of note whose work will appear at the festival is Pablo Trapero. At just 34 years of age Trapero is a veteran of the Argentinian film industry who tells stories with grit and humour. Screening this year is his 2003 drama El Bonaerense, which tells the story of a country locksmith who decides to make something of himself by joining the Buenes Aires police force. A beneficiary of nepotism himself, it is here that he witnesses the bumbling corruption that afflicts the force. Trapero delights in using a handheld camera. At times it works, helping the audience connect intimately with the characters. Sometimes, though, it just leaves the audience nauseous. As with most things in film making, it's a fine line.

Like with so many of the ethnic film festivals which grace our cities and our screens, it can be tough to work out what to see. It’s a smorgasbord (well, tapas, in this case) of new names, new styles and a fresh way of thinking about film. Perhaps it’s best not to think too much about what you’re going to see. Pick a night, grab some friends, and head down to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Excitement awaits.

The Melbourne Latin American Film Festival runs from 23 to 27 February at ACMI. Visit the website at www.melbournefilmoteca.org.

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