Blooming Latin American film culture

March 2006 -

"The future of cinema lies in the third world," Hubert Bals predicted. The founder of the International Film Festival of Rotterdam was right. Jewels continue to flow from Latin America in particular. It is not without cause that the Latin American Film Festival is being held in Utrecht from 3 through 10 May.

About five years ago, two college friends from Montevideo, Pablo Stoll and Juan Pablo Rebella, made quite an impression with their portrait of the youth 25 Watts. Their debut, made with virtually no funds, conquered the world after winning a Tiger Award in Rotterdam. With their second production Whisky, Stoll and Rebella wowed and triumphed in Cannes three years later.

Uruguay has virtually no film industry, but two young directors have put it on the film map nevertheless. And their example is being followed: La Perrera directed by Uruguay's Manuel Nieto Zas was a prize winner during the last Film Festival of Rotterdam.

Still Glue

Still from Glue

Argentina also won a Tiger Award this year, for Glue by Alexis Dos Santos. Together with Martel, Trapero and Alonso, Dos Santos is part of Nuevo Cine Argentino, a group that has been awarded numerous prizes at international film festivals in the past ten years.

With the premier of his appealing debut film Japón in 2002, Mexico immediately saw Carols Reygadas as the Mexican Tarkovski. Betalla En El Cielo (2005) is his controversial relentless portrait of Mexico City, full of politics, religion and explicit sex.

The Hubert Bals Fund is highly active in Latin America. Nearly all of the films mentioned here received a small but important contribution from the fund. As Glue-director Alexis Dos Santos explained before the world premier of his film in Rotterdam: "Without the support of the fund, my film would not have been made."

Naturally, there are other developments. It remains to be seen how a country in crisis like Argentina can give birth to a blooming film culture. The answer lies in factors including a good film school and an excellent film festival in Buenos Aires, where independent and talented young directors are given the room for esthetic innovation. Another important factor is the new film legislation effectuated in 1995 that protects the country's own film productions. Not coincidentally, the Nuevo Cine Argentino was established in the same year.