Inspiring, thought-provoking, celebratory - Latin American cinema is like no other. The 2017 Sydney Latin American Film Festival returns next Thursday September 7th, with films from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, and more lighting up screens at Dendy Opera Quays. Ahead of the festival's launch with a one-night-only fiesta, we spoke with Festival Director Lidia Luna about what makes Latin American film so special.
How long have you been involved with the Sydney Latin American Film Festival?
I have been involved with SLAFF for 10 years now. I joined as an University student wanting to continue to be engaged with Latin American culture so it seemed like the perfect option. I’m really happy I found SLAFF as it is an organisation that engages with the community at a grass-root level. I’m happy to be part of this group so I haven’t looked back.
This year, 50% of the film lineup is directed by women. Was this a conscious effort, or does it reflect a trend?
When we are programming there are themes and issues that arise organically and that is what happened with 50% female directors this year. The theme of diversity continued to come up in the films we watching so of course this also includes gender diversity. It was refreshing to see a lot more films being directed and produced by women.
What other trends have been noticeable in Latin American cinema?
Some of the trends are that we’re seeing more emerging markets and feature films coming from Central America and the Caribbean. Dominican Republic is a great example; it has flourished under government support and incentives to film funding.
How would you describe the Latin American identity expressed in these films?
There isn’t one Latin American identity and that is exactly what our program wants to highlight this year. We are a bunch of diverse individuals and even within one country we have multiple races, languages and cultures. We are so diverse that even from one country to another, we might not know about an ethnic group of people of another country.
Which Latin American countries have been most represented in film? Which are still under-represented?
Argentina and Mexico are examples of longstanding strong cinema countries. Bolivia, Ecuador and Central American countries are still underrepresented on screens.
If you had to pick a favourite from this year's line-up, which would you pick?
I would pick El Amparo. It is one of those stories that when watching it moves you to your core. You feel vulnerable, uncomfortable and want to jump to the screen and stop the injustices and corruption from our political systems. You also cannot stop watching it because you become the characters, you want to find the truth and defend it. It is also an inspiring film of human resilience we can all identify with.
The 2017 Sydney Latin American Film Festival begins on Thursday September 7th and runs until Monday September 11th. See related events below for screening details.