Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies hosting film festival

By Stephanie Benhart

Cultural awareness can take many forms, but the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies is hosting a film festival to make it entertaining as well.

The center is showcasing the second annual Latin American Film Festival, which began April 4 and will continue through Thursday at Boardman’s Art Theater in downtown Champaign. The festival features five different films, each highlighting a different country. This year’s film selections are from Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia.

The center’s associate director, Angelina Cotler, coordinated the event planning, although she said the whole center was involved. She said she screened 28 movies before deciding on the final five.

Cotler said it was difficult to choose which countries to feature. She said she tried to select countries different from last year’s selections to cover a larger, more representative Latin American region.

“These films have won a lot of international awards and awards in their (respective) countries,” she said.

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Cotler said the featured films have not been shown to the public or seen in commercial theaters in the United States, but they have been screened in film festivals.

“If I don’t bring (the films) here, they’ll never be shown,” Cotler said.

The featured films include “The Aura,” best film at the 2005 Havana Film Festival; “The Violin,” best film and best cinematography at the 2006 Huelva Latin American Film Festival; “Madeinusa,” best original script at the 2006 Havana Film Festival; “Alice’s House,” best film at the 21st Fribourg International Film Festival; and “Cocalero,” nominated for Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Festival.

Cotler said all films will be shown in their native language – four in Spanish and one in Portuguese – but will include English subtitles.

“The themes are not different (from American movies); things like love, hate, betrayal and thrillers, but from a Latin American perspective,” she said.

The center wanted this to be a community event and decided to hold the festival downtown at Boardman’s Art Theater. Keeping with the community idea, she said people attending the festival can enjoy other aspects of downtown and can go out for a drink or for dinner before or after the films.

“A lot of people are not necessarily affiliated with the University, and we want everyone to feel welcome,” Cotler explained of the location decision.

Boardman’s is one of the few venues in the area where international films can be viewed and is supportive of all things international, she added.

Jonathan Smiley, assistant manager at Boardman’s Art Theater, said the theater has not met any opposition to the festival thus far.

Smiley said he believes Boardman’s is a good host for these type of events because the theater is quaint and known in the community for showing independent films.

“We have the clientele already that would be interested in watching these films,” Smiley said.

An event like this is important to open people up to different viewpoints, art and ethnicities, he added.

“It’s a great opportunity to see things made around the world,” he said.

In addition to the center and Boardman’s, a number of other campus departments pledged their support to the festival, each with its own interest in the event, Cotler said. She added they have also partnered with Parkland College and two local businesses.

After the success of last year’s festival, the center made the decision to host the event again. Cotler said she received comments from participants who thought a film festival like this was needed in the area.

She added that the center hopes this year’s festival will be an even better success than last year’s and will allow them to promote Latin America in the community.

“I hope people go, have fun, enjoy themselves and are exposed to a different type of movie-making,” Cotler said.

Marilyn Rodriguez, sophomore in Education, said film festivals are good ways to promote awareness, for those who are from Latin America and those who are not.

She added film festivals should occur more often because busy schedules and other circumstances may make it difficult to attend.

“For me personally, movies are better than lectures for awareness,” Rodriguez said.