Latin film week shows unique perspective

UVic-led event showcases best in Latin American and Spanish cinema

Juan de los muertos (Juan of the Dead) is a Cuban zombie movie with a political twist. The film is being screened at Cinecenta as part of the Third Latin American and Spanish Film Week.

Cinecenta is going south of the border for the Third Latin American and Spanish Film Week, from Sept. 18 to 23.

The event is organized by the department of Hispanic and Italian studies at the University of Victoria and showcases some of the best in Latin American cinema.

“The idea essentially is to showcase different cultures and societies of Latin America and Spain,” UVic professor Dan Russek said. “All these countries have thriving cultures. … So we’re interested in bringing these movies to Victoria that otherwise might not reach the community.”

Every night of the event features a film from a different country.

O Palhaço (The Clown) is a 2011 film from Brazilian director Selton Mello, who also stars in the film. Described as a lighthearted and nostalgic tale, the film follows a father/son travelling clown act. The son, Benjamin, begins to question if he is funny and sets out on a journey of self-discovery.

Gatos viejos (Old Cats) is a 2010 Chilean film by directors Sebastián Silva and Pedro Peirano. The dramatic film explores family relations, the generation gap and misplaced expectations through its story of an aging couple living in simplicity when their daughter and her lesbian lover come to visit with a get-rich scheme.

On the Thursday night is Trisha Ziff’s La Maleta Mexicana (The Mexican Suitcase), a documentary about the recovery in 2007 of 4,500 photograph negatives taken during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

Stephanie Boyd’s Operación Diablo (The Devil Operation) is screening on the Friday night. This documentary focuses on Father Marco Arana, a priest in Peru who spent two decades defending mountain farmers from a U.S.-owned gold mine.

Proceeds from this screening will go to Mosqoy, a Canadian charity, founded by a former UVic student, promoting social justice and cultural rights in the Peruvian Andes.

Cuban film Juan de los Muertos (Juan of the Dead) is director Alejandro Brugués’ comedic, action-packed take on the zombie genre, with a political twist. Citizens are violently attacking one another in Cuba. The government says dissidents paid by the U.S. government are to blame, but Juan, a 40-year-old Havana man, sets out to find the truth.

The week finishes off with the Sunday night screening of Un Cuento Chino (A Chinese Tale) by Argentinian director Sebastián Borensztein. Starring Ricardo Darín (The Secret in Their Eyes), this film centres on a hardware store owner who helps a young man from China search for his uncle.

It can be hard to describe, but Russek said that Latin American movies have a certain flavour to them that distinguishes them from other international cinema.

“Some bittersweetness about life, I would say,” Russek said. “Life can be hard in Latin America. The social problems, the drug trafficking, inequality. … And that … sinks into their work without being didactic or pedagogical.”

Even the comedies typically have something to say about social issues or the Latin American experience, Russek said.

“They’re not shallow comedies. … There’s some bite, some darkness.”

Show times for all films are 7 and 9 p.m. All screenings are at Cinecenta (3800 Finnerty Rd.). All films will be screened with English subtitles.

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