The Land Left Behind, at AluCine, tracks Colombia’s dispossessed.
ALUCINE TORONTO LATIN FILM & MEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL November 18 to 21 Rating: NNNN
Mention Latin cinema in a crowd and more often than not someone comments on the scruffy elegance of Javier Bardem in Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Eat Pray Love or how weird it is that Gael García Bernal is turning up in movies like Blindness and Letters To Juliet. Or perhaps you hear about a new documentary about the plight of the dispossessed. That's the frame that's been constructed around an entire culture, and it's not really fair.
That's where film festivals like aluCine Toronto come in. The modest four-day celebration of Latin filmmakers and subjects is a chance to discover evolving trends and themes in cinema by Latinos from all around the world, with a particular focus on Latin America.
On its face, the opening-night gala is the kind of documentary people expect to find in a festival like this. Juan Camilo Sarmiento's The Land Left Behind is a bleak look at Colombia's displaced peoples, represented by a few individuals trying to make their way after being thrown off their land or out of their homes in the course of the country's ongoing armed conflict. Some of them are enrolled in a government course to teach them how to start their own businesses, but as we quickly see, they have no prospects; it's just a way to get off the street for a while.
It's beautifully shot and edited, though paced at a crawl - the better to let us steep in the grim world it depicts. Sarmiento makes no attempt to spin his subjects as cheerful or upbeat - they're just stuck in horrible situations, hoping for something to change for the better.
The rest of aluCine is somewhat more marketable.
There's a lot of skin, actually: in a retrospective tonight of confrontational shorts by Chilean-born Vancouver-based filmmaker Claudia Morgado Escanilla; in the casual sexuality of Friday's Huellas Importadas (Imported Footprints), six brief videos produced by queer Latino women living in Toronto; and in Friday night's Poetics And Forms, a program of international shorts that lean toward the impressionistic, including Pau Camarasa's deeply sensual black-and-white summer fantasy Ona.
The festival also offers a number of live performances and workshops. Check the website for details.