Between limited releases and an Oscar category that nobody pays attention to, Americans don’t give foreign films the credit they deserve. But not the American Film Institute—they’ve been offering D.C. an outlet for foreign films for decades. At the head of their current battle for American appreciation for foreign film is this year’s 21st annual Latin American Film Festival.
The 2010 AFI Latin American Film Festival, which is screening several movies per day from Sept. 21 to Oct. 13, certainly won’t run out of material. This year’s collection showcases 41 films from 19 countries. For the first festival, AFI partnered with the Organization of American States, and although the OAS has abandoned ship, AFI decided to keep the event running. Other changes have included a move from inside the District to the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. The selection is extensive, and neither the 13-year-old fangirl nor the snobbiest film buff will leave dissatisfied—although it does somewhat favor the latter.
Todd Hitchcock, this year’s Head Programmer, hopes to continue the tradition for which the festival was created.
“The festival was created…as a response to thinking that Latin American films were not seen enough in the US as a whole, but it was thought that we could do something about that in D.C.,” Hitchcock said. ”The interesting thing about [the move] from downtown D.C. to the suburban Maryland location is that it started with more of a focus on the embassy community in downtown D.C., but now that we’ve relocated to Montgomery County, there’s a much larger Hispanic American population that is closer to the festival.”
The festival opened with the Mexican film Revolution. This was a deliberate decision. This year marks the 100 anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, and the 200 anniversary of the country’s independence. Revolution is a compilation of short films that focus on the legacy of the Mexican Revolution, and reflect the individual, contemporary sentiment of each filmmaker.
“Revolution is additionally a nice choice in that it is a fun film and it has variety of it,” Hitchcock said. “The fact that it was specifically commissioned to commemorate the centennial of Mexican Independence is also a nice addition.”
The festival’s “Centerpiece Screening,” Linha de Passe, carries viewers into the lives of four half-brothers living in the favelas of São Paulo. Among the members of the dysfunctional family are a pregnant single mother, an aspiring soccer player, a motorbike courier-turned purse thief, an evangelical convert, and a pre-teen who dreams of driving buses. Other highlights include Chilean documentary Nostalgia for the Night, Uruguayan silent film Hiroshima, Peruvian festival closer October, and La Soga, a crime drama from the Dominican Republic.
If the 300-plus attendance at this year’s opening night is any indication, the festival looks forward to continued success.
“I was asking questions to this audience when I was doing the introduction,” Hitchcock said. “Most of the people had been to the festival before. We sold more passes this year than ever before, so there have been a lot of good indicators that we are off to a good start.”.