Spanish-language films from Latin America featured in Philly festival
This year’s Philadelphia Film Festival — now in its 24th edition — will include more than 130 works from 28 different countries. It will also showcase Spanish-language films.
“Spanish-language cinema is some of the best in the world," said Michael Lerman who, as artistic director of the festival, is responsible for the programming. “We always include some gems from Spain and Latin America."
“Every year provides different genres and styles of filmmaking," he added. "Like all of the other sections, this one continues to develop into something special, which showcases what's current around the world. This year some of the strongest films in the section involve the history and treatment of indigenous people."
Lerman, who speaks some Spanish, nonetheless elaborated on the challenges that come with assessing films that are in a foreign language. “I think this is always a worry when programming for any region, but you have to trust your instincts," he said. "As cheesy as it sounds, there is a hope that the language of cinema is universal and that you can still find the best things. The audiences for our festival are incredibly culturally varied and you want to find the films that play
to all of them.”
“I think the important thing to note is that these films share very little in common except for the language," he added. "Otherwise, they are different in tone, style, story, target demographic, and other elements.”
600 Miles depicts an ambitious Mexican protagonist who is trying to rise in his family’s arms cartel business. When an ATF agent attempts to arrest him, he knocks him out, then takes the lawman captive. Lerman assessed it as having, “a brilliant and unusual structure that you haven't really seen before in a lot of cinema. It tells a unique story that I thought that the audience would enjoy.”
El Cinco focuses on a hot-tempered Argentinean soccer player. “With a great central performance and a lot of heart, this sweet tale is an easy palette cleanser to some of the heavier stuff in the program. I think this film will appeal to most festival-goers," Lerman said.
Embrace of the Serpent takes place in the Amazon Rain Forest. “A beautiful, mysterious, and thought-provoking. This one was an easy pick,” Lerman said.
Ixcanul/Volcano is set in Guatemala and focuses on its indigenous Mayan population. It involves, “a rare glimpse into a culture that we don't see very often and some brilliant filmmaking," Lerman said. "I think this film will appeal to most festival-goers.”
Viajae is a Costa Rican film about a romantically involved couple and, Lerman describes it as, “a sweet story that is unusual, sexy and brings a lot out of a little.”
Maganelles offers a take on the legacy of the Shining Path movement in Peru, and stars Mexican actor Damian Alcazar. Lerman characterized Alcazar's performance as powerful and the film itself as having “an important thing to say about history and some nail-biting sequences. “
“We have a great crop of films," Lerman said. "It's one of our best years.” The Philadelphia Film Festival 24 runs from Thursday, Oct. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 1. For more information on the festival, visit filmadelphia.org/festival.
Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at [email protected].