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Aruba International Film Festival


Aruba International Film Festival Year 5 Kicks Off October 7-11 2015.

The Aruba International Film Festival (AIFF) quickly became the international film community’s “must-attend” summer event after its opening in July 2010. After 4 intensely exciting years, the festival took a break in 2014 for a complete makeover and now is back with full force to celebrate year 5 from October 7th-11th, 2015. 

The festival offers a pleasurable and inviting atmosphere for filmmakers, press and film lovers. It serves to not only develop an understanding and appreciation of the art of cinema and filmmaking, but also to inspire, educate and promote emerging local and regional filmmaking talent. This in turn has helped position Aruba as a center of art, culture and creativity, and as a viable destination for international film and commercial productions.

The AIFF was founded in 2010 by film producers Jonathan Vieira and Giuseppe Cioccarelli, with artistic direction by 30-year industry veteran Claudio Masenza. Previous editions of the festival have showcased a diverse array of critically acclaimed fiction films and documentaries from every corner of the globe, and have attracted such notable industry names as:

Hollywood leading man Richard Gere (Pretty Woman, An Officer and a Gentleman)
Multi Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, The Aviator)
Mexican writer/director Guillermo Arriaga (The Burning Plain, Babel)...




Voices from Mariel


During the 2nd annual Aruba International Film Festival, the film VOICES FROM MARIEL (2011) screened to a tearful audience. The film ran in competition with five other films in the selection of ‘Caribbean Spotlight Series’ and director Jim Carleton received the CSS Special Jury Award for the film.


When the film had finished, festival producer Jonathan Viera went up to speak to the filmmakers, in tears:

JONATHAN: You know, the whole time I was watching the film, I had to check my phone because being producer of the festival is such a hard job. But when I see your film, I am reminded why I am doing this work. You are so full of passion and so inspiring. It’s for people like you that we are doing all this for and this [cried] is a fucking good movie.

JOSE: Every time we show the film, people are moved. We had to do this underground because it’s not legal to film what we filmed. We took a risk. And also I wanted to thank you guys for having us and we are very grateful for being here.

Audience clapped.

JESSE: We wanted to thank the festival for having us. And also thanks to Steven Bauer for all he did.

STEVE: Yes, I’m really happy with how the film turned out.

AUDIENCE: I found your film very moving and the fact that Cuba is still a controlled country. Is it still like that?

JESSE: Yeah, the fact that Cuba is still very controlled we had to be as discreet as possible and act like tourists. We couldn’t show we had cameras so we took very low profile cameras and transferred all our footage to multiple info. Drives to make sure we would have footage in case something happened to the footage.

AUDIENCE: It’s not a question. I’m very emotional because I am from Cuba and I am very touched by your film. Thank you!

JESSE: Thank you. Yes, we found that this story transcends not just the story of Cuba. I mean, there are a lot of places in the world today where these things are taking place and people go through these types of things now. So, it is transcendent.

JOSE: Outside of the political aspect anything that you do related to Cuba always has a political edge to it. But one thing I really wanted to do. The political story outside of Cuba in Florida…I think they did a great job because it was our purpose to really rescue that human story, not only on the side of the people that left but also the people that were there. I wanted to listen to that. I have to say I was really overtaken by the affection and the love and what I felt for my friends and family and the Cuban people. It really hit me hard. The biggest victim of what has happened in Cuba has been the Cuban family and how it has been split. So, people on one side of the ocean don’t know anything. But right now outside and inside of Cuba people are ready to get back together. Keep in mind the people that are there it’s hard for them. Many times we forget that those people are still there. I feel responsible. I need to go back. I want to go back. I don’t want to live there but I need to go back for the people.

AUDIENCE: In the film some Cuban refugees say: ‘American are not like they were told that they would be’. What can you say about that?

JOSE: It is very true. I remember seeing that when I arrived in Key West. I was really tired and there were American soldiers helping us off the boats. And they were kind and helpful and I remember this. When you live in a society that has, I don’t want to get too rhetorical, but what I was told and what I experienced when I got here was different.

JESSE: Thank you all for coming.



Q and A transcribed by Vanessa McMahon

Film summary by director James Carleton:

“On April 1 1980, five individuals seeking political asylum crashed a bus through the gates of the Peruvian embassy in Havana, Cuba. In the following days, 10,000 people stormed that embassy's grounds, signifying wide-spread disdain for Cuba's dictatorship. Fearing that continued civil unrest might cause further violence, Fidel Castro proclaimed that any Cuban wishing to immigrate to the United States could board a boat at the nearby port of Mariel. In what some considered a bold move, Castro forced prisoners and street indigents to board these same boats. While only a small percentage of the 125,000 Mariel refugees were actually criminals, Castro succeeded in tarnishing the image of those fleeing the country. However, for the vast majority of those who left Cuba, this was the beginning of a costly journey to freedom. The exile would begin not only with a parting of personal possessions, but a separation from family that for many would last a lifetime. But for the Marielitos the cost of their mass exodus was outweighed by something previously unimaginable: a chance to pursue their dreams. Dr. Jose Garcia left through Mariel as a 13 year-old boy. His journey takes us through personal accounts of lives affected by the Mariel exodus, of those who departed and also those who stayed behind. Culminating with his long anticipated trip back to his birthplace, we see the emotional reuniting of family and friends as we explore and listen to the unheard 'Voices From Mariel”.


Photos by Vanessa McMahon




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Vieira Jonathan

The official Aruba International Film festival's blog


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