VLAFF Celebrates 15 Years
by Roberta McDonald – West Coast Editor
(August 24, 2017 – Vancouver, BC) Featuring 69 films from 17 countries, the 2017 Vancouver Latin American Film Festival (VLAFF) promises a wealth of stimulating and emotive experiences from documentary to shorts to features.
For the first time, selected films will reflect gender parity, with an equal number of male and female directors showcased throughout the festival. There are also international collaborations with the Canada Looks South Program. The Strawberry Tree by Simone Rapisarda and Cieba by Noé Rodrígue, both Simon Fraser University (SFU) professors filming in Cuba, which is the guest country for this year’s festival.
“Having Cuba as a guest country this year is very significant, as the country has been in the spotlight and going through a lot of change since Castro’s death,” said Festival Director Christian Sida-Valenzuela. “Cuba is a country that has heavily contributed to Latin American film culture and production, as it has one of the most renowned international film schools in the world, EICTV. It’s an honour to host Cuba this year and focus on the talent from the region.”
Opening night film The Distinguished Citizen (El ciudadano ilustre) won the 2017 Goya Award for Best Iberoamerican Film. Directed by Argentinians Gastón Duprat and Mariono Cohn, it’s a witty exploration of class and success and what happens when a Nobel Laureate returns home to the small town he’s been mining creatively for years.
In addition, the Indigenous Film from BC & Beyond stream will showcase works by Canadian First Nations alongside Indigenous filmmakers from Latin America, including the groundbreaking narrative feature Bad Influence (Mala Junta)that explores life on the fringes of Chilean society helmed by Capuche director Claudia Huaiquimilla.
The luminous Sonia Braga is the protagonist in the Brazilian film Aquarius, directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho; it’s a searing analysis of relentless gentrification and one woman’s determination to remain dignified in the face of graceless pressure from developers.
Women in ¡Activismo! highlights films that are activist in nature, including Eliane Caffé’s Cambridge Squatter, a documentary/fiction hybrid that follows a group of refugees and low income Brazilian workers as they struggle to resist gentrification and find a place to call home; Adriana’s Pact from Chilean director Lissette Orozco casts light on the simmering conflicts left behind by the Pinochet regime; billed as a long overdue tribute to a pioneering woman, Dolores from director Peter Bratt is an evocative documentary that celebrates the contributions of Dolores Huerta, a tireless social justice advocate; Tatiana Huezo’s Tempestdad is a poetic but searing portrayal of what happens when violence rules communities with impunity in parts of Mexico.
The shorts competition has a robust list in completion this year, screening over two days. Including the Diver (El Buzo) by Esteban Arrangoiz, which follows a city sewage worker as he navigates the fetid underground of Mexico City; Centaur, a Greek Creole Western set in the Argentinian Pampas directed by Nicolás Suárez; The Cats (Los Gatos), an animated piece from Alejandro Ríos about an alley cat that befriends a lonely man, and the Brazilian animation Tailor directed by Calí dos Anjos that explores issues of transexuality.
The festival wraps up with the controversial Cuban piece Santa & Andres, a political drama about two outsiders struggling to find freedom under the harsh isolation of the Castro regime.
Rich and eclectic, this year’s VLAFF is sure to stimulate the senses and provoke ongoing dialogue. Screenings take place at the Cinemateque, Vancity Theatres, and SFU Woodward’s from August 24 to September 3. The full line-up is available online.
Based in Vancouver, Roberta McDonald is West Coast Editor for Northernstars.ca. She is a best selling writer, arts journalist and photographer. She has profiled extraordinary filmmakers, including Ang Lee and Sturla Gunnerson. Her short film The Spiral was released in 2014 and she is currently writing her first feature screenplay.