it began in 1993 as a national encounter, then became Cruzando Fronteras/Crossing Borders. This year it's back as AluCine. More than any other of Toronto's dozen film festivals, this Latin American event is a wanderer.Organized by an artists group called Southern Currents, AluCine assembles a spread of dramas, docs and experimental work from Latinos all through the Americas and, in some cases, beyond.
There's an emphasis on shorts, and this year's program even includes brief hits from feature directors like Walter Salles (Central Station). His A Short Message From Brazil (December 14, 7:30 pm), co-directed with Daniela Thomas, flips the North-South monologue, reading Hollywood icons through a Brazilian lens.
Opening night includes O Bloqueio (Saturday, December 7, 7:30 pm), a Brazilian allegory of high-rise alienation that uses a low-tech, Photoshopped look.
Down To The Bones, a Mexican film on the same program, imagines an animated afterlife in which chattering bones syncopate a man's death party.
There's a program of experimental work from Colombia (Sunday, December 8, 5:30 pm), a film about Caribbean drag queens in Toronto (Divas: Love Me Forever, Thursday, December 12, 7 pm) and an encounter between a Latino filmmaker and the Dalai Lama.
Jorge Fajardo's Letter To A Friend (December 14, 5:30 pm) is a personal diary that takes the filmmaker to India.
Another shorts program, designed as a kind of counter-voice to issues raised in the rest of the festival, focuses on the Roma of eastern Europe (Monday, December 9, 7 pm).
AluCine casts a wide enough net that no one theme can sum up all the work here. Some pieces thrash around in the morass of identity, while others feel like fish-in-water stories, fixed firmly in their local contexts.
If there's one film that captures the tug of inside versus out, it's The Bronze Screen: 100 Years Of Latino Image In Hollywood (Saturday, December 7, 9:30 pm). It follows the Latin presence from Dolores del Rio to John Leguizamo. His film, Empire, out this week, is the first release from the first-ever Latino unit set up within a Hollywood studio.
That it's a gangster movie with a getting-over theme only clarifies the need for AluCine.
This festival began as a part of that great surge of local media culture in the late 80s and early 90s. But where festivals like Inside Out swung queer identity toward the mainstream, and the Images festival turned a corner into the art world, AluCine is still finding its feet.
That may be because Latin Americans are thin on the ground in Canada, and Latino culture is only now beginning to penetrate Toronto in the way that Asian, black, queer or aboriginal cultures have.
It may also be because the AluCine vision of Latino identity is ambitious, extending to several languages, ethnicities, nations and sexualities.
This is the fourth festival in nine years. With a mandate this vast, it ought to be the other way around. email@example.com
ALUCINE: THE 4TH TORONTO LATINO FILM FESTIVAL at Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex), from Saturday (December 7) to December 14. $5, fest pass $50. For schedule, see Rep Cinemas, page 104. 416-966-4989. www.alucinefestival.com. Rating: NNNN