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Laura Blum


Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for filmfestivals.com. She also publishes on Thalo

 


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Havana Film Festival New York Ready to Rumble

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Jointly presented with Havana, Cuba's International Festival of New
Latin American Cinema
, the Havana Film Festival New York is
close, but no cigar. Subways and skyscrapers just can't match that fallen
Habanero elegance as a habitat for Latino cinema. But if Cuba isn't on your
itinerary and Manhattan is, you could do worse than to savor a
week of Big Apple screenings from and about Latin America and
the Caribbean, and about Latinos in the U.S.

Opening Night will kick off at the Directors Guild Theatre, with the New
York
premiere of Los Dioses Rotos (Broken Gods). The
maiden feature by Cuban director Ernesto Daranas traces a love
triangle within present day Havana's underworld paralleling that of early
20th-century politician and gigolo Alberto Yarini. Actress Silvia
Aguila
will be on hand to discuss the award-winning film.

Earlier on April 16, the New York premiere of Veronica will take
place at the Quad Cinema, HFFNY's main screening venue. The thriller by
Brazilian director Maurício Farias narrates the escape of a
school teacher and her young pupil after the latter's parents are found slain
in the Rio de Janeiro slums.

Closing-night rites begin with a screening of Gigante. Set in Montevideo,
Uruguay, Adrián Biniez's drama plumbs a night-shift security
guard's obsession with a cleaning woman. The Uruguayan-Argentine co-production,
which won the Silver Bear in Berlin, is followed by the U.S.
premiere of Eso que Anda. Ian Padrón's documentary
trails a recent tour by Los Van Van — Cuba's favorite band for
40 years — which attended by more than 1 million people. Padrón will entertain
audience Q&A. Filmgoers should be properly jazzed up to conga at the
closing-night party at LQ.

Abiding Festival tradition, each year a renowned Latino filmmaker is graced
with a tribute. The 2010 honoree is Cuban writer, director, poet, actor and
dramatist Enrique Pineda Barnet. Cosmorama, an early
forerunner of today's video art movement, will be screened together with such
works as La Anunciación, his most recent film about the reunion of
Cuban émigrés to the U.S. and their families back home, and Giselle,
celebrating the 90th birthday of prima ballerina Alicia Alonso.

Other films about performance include The Extraordinary Journey of
Fernando Bujones
, dancer Israel Rodríguez' valentine to
his mentor; Mambo City, Bette Wanderman's portrait of
Puerto Rican singer Awilda Santiago and Salsa/Latin jazz band Grupo
Latin Vibe
; and Mundo Alas, about a group of disabled artists
on tour with "the Argentine Bob Dylan," León
Gieco
. Gieco fans will have the chance to talk with him following the
film, which he co-directed.

To mark its second decade, HFFNY created the Havana Star Prize to salute the
Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. These new Havana Star prizes will
be handed out at the closing-night ceremony at the Directors Guild Theatre.

Among the Festival's most heralded Havana Star contenders is Huacho,
winner of the Grand Coral in Havana. The drama by Alejandro Fernández
Almendras
portrays a family in grappling with poverty in Chile.
Here are some of the other titles competing for Havana Star prizes:

Fans of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s classic Memorias del
Subdesarrollo
(Memories of Underdevelopment) might be curious to
see its sequel. Memories of Overdevelopment, by maverick filmmaker Miguel
Coyula
, presses onward with a Cuban intellectual who emigrates to the
U.S. and becomes disillusioned with the "developed" world. The film
is based on the novel by Edmundo Desnoes.

From veteran Chilean director Miguel Littín comes Dawson
Isla 10
(Dawson Island). It recalls the political imprisonment of
toppled President Allende’s cabinet after the 1973 coup.

One of several competition entries from Argentina is Historias
Extraordinarias
(Extraordinary Stories). Mariano Llinás's
Borgesian triptych of seemingly unrelated narratives has a running time of four
hours. The three stories in Carlos Enderle's Crónicas
Chilangas
(Chilango Chronicles) are not only entangled, they
become more so as the film progresses. This urban comedy set in Mexico
City
tracks the lives of a retired teacher with a quadriplegic
daughter, a young man who fears extraterrestrials and a fleshy woman obsessed
with adult movies.

The national cinemas of Colombia, Guatemala,
Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Peru,
Venezuela and the U.S. are also represented
on the slate.

As in past editions, HFFNY will join forces with The Metropolitan Museum of
Art to present "Latin American Films For Children." Together with the
Queens Museum of Art, it will show Fantasma de Buenos
Aires
, about a 20th-century ghost awakened by mistake in contemporary Buenos
Aires
. Other educational partners include El Museo del Barrio, The
Bronx Museum of the Arts and NYU’s Cantor Center, Tisch School of the Arts and King
Juan Carlos I
of Spain Center — site of a Latino film
industry panel — with the goal of offering free or low-cost screenings, panels,
and programs for all ages.

In a special program marking Mexico’s Bicentennial of
Independence and Centennial of its Revolution, the Festival will showcase 26
minute-and-a-half shorts from five of the top Mexican animation directors.

For Festival founder and executive director Carole Rosenberg
and programming director Diana Vargas, the more than week-long
event offers U.S. audiences a rare, if not singular, opportunity to see new and
old gems from the more than century-old Latino film industry.  

All foreign language films are subtitled in English. Additional details are
available at www.hffny.com.

 

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