The Latin American Film Festival is bringing a true feast to town
As I stroll toward Bíó Paradís, where I’m about to meet Hugo Llanes, the project manager for the Latin American Film Festival, a question lingers in my mind: When was the last time I watched a Latin American film? I find myself grappling with clichéd images, trying to escape the grip of stereotypes perpetuated by shows like Narcos. However, the Latin American Film Festival promises to do more than break stereotypes; it’s on a mission to introduce newcomers like me to the rich tapestry of contemporary Latin American cinema and more.
It’s a Tuesday night, but things are busy at the cinema – there are screenings in all rooms, and a sound check is in progress for the concert starting later today. Just a week from now, Bíó Paradís will bring a taste of Latin America to Reykjavík. This is the second year in a row the art house is hosting the Latin American Film Festival in collaboration with the Embassies of Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
“This is a free festival – a cultural and diplomatic event because the embassies are involved,” shares Hugo. “It’s a very interesting platform because not all festivals are offered for free.” Bíó Paradís is co-funding the festival to make screenings available for all communities – the Icelandic community, the immigrant community, but also the Latin American community. “We see this as a way of inviting our communities or those communities that do not have the economic capacity to attend,” says Hugo.
In addition to seven screenings, one for each country, the festival will offer a truly cultural experience – with food and drink tastings, musical performances and even a dance session. Hugo’s role is that of curator, facilitator and seeker of those eager to present after-screening experiences.
One vibrant continent, diverse films
“For us, it’s important to have a wide range of films that could cover family screenings, but also adult screenings, with an age limit of 12 years and older,” says Hugo, stressing that productions coming from Latin America often touch upon politics, conflict, or social issues that might not be suitable for everyone.
“It’s important to create a critical and straightforward point of view of Latin America,” Hugo says. “To me as a Mexican, it is also very important not to exoticise our culture.”
Hugo agrees that the Latin American narrative is pretty famous in Iceland – many Icelanders have travelled to Latin America and enjoy the traditional food, yet misconceptions still exist. “We want to bring a more accurate perspective of what Latin America is without falling into exoticising or folklorism,” emphasises Hugo. “Because we are not exotic; we just live here. Of course, you notice differences between heights, colours, races and everything. That’s the diversity that we have in the world.” The festival is exclusively collaborating with Latin American designers to ensure an accurate portrayal of the cultural narrative.
Another important aspect, according to Hugo, is giving each of the participating countries a chance to showcase their distinct culture. Despite sharing multiple ties – especially following colonisation – each country in Latin America is distinctly different, with its own traditions and cinematic culture. The theme of youth is the common thread that runs through the selected films. Even if the main character is not a child or teenager, “through youth, you can picture or sense what’s happening around the context,” says Hugo.
The movies that will be screened at the festival include The Dicaprio of Corozopando (Venezuela), Bantú Mama (Dominican Republic), My Girlfriend is the Revolution (Mexico), Tiempos Futuros (Peru), The Second Mother (Brazil), Innocence (Cuba) and Machuca (Chile). Hugo highlights the sci-fi movie from Peru and emphasises that the Mexican film hasn’t had many screenings, even in its country of origin. This underscores the unique opportunity for Reykjavík locals to see it.
The Latin American Film Festival doesn’t stop at films – it’s an experience that aims to engage all the senses. “I’m so happy that we have been able to put together a series of events after the screenings that include food, music and dance because, of course, Latin America is about celebration,” says Hugo.
The festival collaborates with local chefs from Cocina Rodriguez and beloved downtown taqueria La Poblana to offer food from Mexico and the Dominican Republic. National beers from the participating countries will be served. Screenings will be accompanied by musical performances by Los Bomboneros, Dimension Afrolatina, Vegan No Rice, and DJ Lamp Vader, with an energetic set that includes Brazilian fusion, cumbia from Colombia, Peruvian rock, and other Latin American styles. To close the festival, Bachata Reykjavík dance studio will turn Bíó Paradís into a bachata dominicana dance floor. This cultural exchange enriches the festival experience and offers attendees a taste of Latin America in the heart of Reykjavík.
Home is where the popcorn is
Comparing Latin American and Nordic cinematic traditions, Hugo says, “Aesthetics could be different, such as the way the camera moves, but they touch upon very similar topics.” According to him, even though Iceland may be far from Latin America, common themes like grief, death, or love can evoke the same emotions in viewers.
Hugo emphasises the importance of cultural representation, saying, “We are seeking representation. Seeing a film from your own country when you are so far away truly matters. It kind of changes something. It makes you feel that connection, but also nostalgia, that feeling of being home.” He adds, “In that sense, Bíó Paradís is the home for many locals. It’s a very local thing to go to Bíó Paradís. We want to provide that homely feeling to everyone who comes, which is we invite everybody to stay after the screenings.”
The Latin American Film Festival will take place at Bíó Paradís from September 14th to 24th, 2023, free of charge.
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