Scene by Scene

Cine Latino Presents Latin Perspectives on Film

Illustrator: Emily Hill

Illustrator: Emily Hill

Perhaps now more than ever, Latinx voices must be recognized by a broader audience, moving beyond a designated niche. This month, The Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul brought 29 original films from 16 Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries (including the U.S.) to the Twin Cities to showcase the vast array of topics, genres, and talents explored in the fourth annual Cine Latino film festival. Speaking to the progressiveness of the festival is the list of the films’ directors, which features ten women and 17 first- and second-timers as well as more seasoned award winners.

Hebe Tabachnik is the artistic director of Cine Latino for the MSP Film Society, and has done programming for nearly 20 years, working with events in LA and Seattle, travelling the festival circuit and sitting on film juries all over Latin America. She informed me that Minneapolis was among the cities with the largest increment of Latino population in the last census, saying, “we’re giving an opportunity to the local Latino community to find stories from their home countries.” Those stories range from environmentally-themed documentaries highlighting tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic (“Death by a Thousand Cuts”) to adaptations of classic literature (“The Bride”) and so much more. “The scope of this year’s festival is not only larger but also probably more diverse,” notes Tabachnik. I chatted further with Hebe to get an inside look at her labor of love.

How would you characterize Latin American cinema compared to that of other regions?

The emotion level of our cinema is one which eventually resonates more with the audiences. This has been my experience throughout all my years of programming. I have a feeling that, for many reasons, we Latinos are more expressive with how we show our emotions, our frustrations and our anger. I think, when that transpires, people appreciate the opportunity to feel those emotions. The level of candidness is something people need to make a connection with the film. The quality, too, has increased exponentially across the board in terms of cinematography and everything.

Aside from the 29 films, are there any other events that comprise the festival?

For the first time, we are showing short films made by student filmmakers from all over the United States. We wanted to give audiences a chance to see the future of cinema in the form of these short, powerful stories that are full of meaning. We’re also showing some of the films from this festival to local high school students; hoping to inspire questions and conversations among young people.

Is there one film in particular that cannot be missed?

We have the great pleasure of having Francisca Manuel; she’s the lead of a film from Portugal called “Where I Grow Old”. I think it would appeal to anybody from age 15 to 50 because it’s a story of not only friendship but those questions of “What are you doing here?” “Who stays?” “Who goes back?” In this era of globalization where everybody’s traveling and moving around, it’s a very beautiful snapshot of what we all feel at some point.

What’s been challenging about this year’s festival?

It’s always a matter of making sure people know about the festival. It can be hard for people to realize what an amazing opportunity they have with all these great films at the tips of their fingers. I just saw the beautiful “sold out” sign for Neruda which is always the dream of any programmer.

Why do you feel that providing an outlet for Latinx film is so important?

Because we need windows in the world; we need bridges. The more you know about other cultures, the more you understand those cultures, but you also understand yourself. Movies are great because, even if the story is happening to other people in a specific country, at some point it touches your life. In particular with Cine Latino, I think it’s a very powerful region; there are a lot of incredible stories waiting to be told.

Opening a window, creating a bridge of dialogue, of understanding, of enjoyment of other cultures- it diminishes fears about the people’s lives. You think about someone from Colombia and you see them living a life very similar to yours with the same drama—their aspirations, their dreams—it helps us all. We need that more and more every day. Cinema is an amazing way of getting to know people and their circumstances and appreciate them. I really believe in the power of these stories.