Posted: 02/07/2002


LaCinemaFe Diary II: The Awards

by Parama Chaudhury

LaCinemaFe, the first annual Latin America Cinema Festival of New York, got underway on January 28, 2002, after being postponed due to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Organized by Armando Guareno, the purpose of this festival is to showcase Spanish and Portuguese language films in this city where so much of the culture is bound up in these two traditions. The primary location for the screening is the Anthology Film Archives on the lower east side of Manhattan, and some screenings are also taking place at the Natives Theater in Queens.

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And then there was closing night. After a week of rushing to and fro, trying to see as many movies as possible, it was time to see whether my faves had won, and to say good-bye to the nice people who brought us LaCinemaFe. Closing night was a big improvement on opening night, chaos-wise. There was separate seating for the press and for the potential awardees, and a bag of goodies that included the colorful and innovatively designed festival poster. The volunteers milled around, escorting everyone to their designated seats, for the most part being as cheerful as they had been on the first night. If they can get volunteers like this every year, LaCinemaFe can look forward to a brilliant future!

The Manzana de Oro (Golden Apple) Award for best first film went to Salvador Aguirre?s De ida y vuelta, a Mexican film chronicling the travails of a man who returns home after working in the United States for three years. My personal favorite, the Venezuelan noir directed by Fernando Venturini, Tres noches, got a first film Honorable Mention, but more importantly, got the Audience Award for best film. The Manzana de Plata for the best first-time director went to Gabriela David for Taxi un encuentro, a narrative which follows a thief driving a stolen taxi. The best actor and actress awards in a filmmaker?s first feature went to Eusebio Ponsela from Cabecita rubia, a delightful film about a magician traveling through the desert with an assortment of companions, and Nuria Prims from Tomándote, respectively. In the official competition, the best film award went to Viaje por el cuerpo, the story of a small-town photographer who experiments with nude models, made by veteran Argentinian director Jorge Polaco. Finally, Entre la tarde y la noche, Peruvian director Oscar Blancarte?s film about a middle-aged novelist with writer?s block, received an Honorable Mention.

A new film festival seems to crop up in New York every day. The great thing about LaCinemaFe was the feeling that everyone was there because they truly wanted to see a good film. There was very little wheeling and dealing, and the directors and stars mingled freely with the crowd, making for a collegial atmosphere. One of the high points for me was the sight of Isabel Gardela, a first-time director, hanging out in the back of the theater with another newbie, Salvador Aguirre, before the screening of her film Tomandote. Not prepping for an interview or having an intellectual discussion, probably just taming the butterflies in her stomach with a good laugh with her friends and a look around the theater to see what kind of people had turned out to see her creation. For young filmmakers, new actors and the public alike, this informality encourages a proactive involvement with and a personal interest in the films they are watching, something that is usually missing from the big name festivals. If LaCinemaFe can keep up this unpretentious attitude — and the laidback air of its venue of choice, the Anthology Film Archives, certainly helps — it may become the next hot launching pad for promising young actors and filmmakers, not to mention a hotspot for film lovers in the city.

Parama Chaudhury is a graduate student, an ex-writing instructor and a budding freelance writer, based in New York City.

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