Second Latin Film Festival infuses music in cinema

The Lawrence community is preparing to immerse itself in Latin American and Spanish film for the second time as the second Latin American and Spanish Film Festival opens this Thursday, April 10 at 5:00 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center Cinema.  The festival will run to April 14 and all films will be free and open to the public.

The focus of this year’s film festival is the infusion of music with Latin American and Spanish films. Lawrence’s first Latin American and Spanish Film Festival occurred during the spring term of 2012 and focused on gender and sexuality.

This year, a combination of professors and students organized the festival, along with the help of the Hispanic-interest student organization, VIVA, and the sponsorship of the Spanish department.

Associate Professor of Spanish and Chair of the Spanish Department Rosa Tapia organized the festival along with the help of Instructor of Spanish Cecilia Herrera. Professor Tapia hopes that the connection between the films and music will attract not only students from the Conservatory, but also the Fox Valley community and beyond.

“We know that [the Fox Valley is] a community that already knows us very well for our music events,” said Professor Tapia. “It made a lot of sense for us, once the film festival was established in its second year, to thematically recognize where our values and our core are, which is in the pairing of the college and the Conservatory,” said Tapia.

The film will be opening with the 2012 Spanish film “Blancanieves” (which translates to “Snow White”). “Blancanieves” is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, which is set in 1920s Andalusia, Spain. It also stands out from the other films in the festival because it is silent, and it attempts to convey the emotion of the story through music rather than dialogue.

According to senior Thomas Matusiak, the head student organizer for the film festival, “Blancanieves” is a special film to have at the festival because it has only been in theatres in the United States for a matter of weeks.

“It’s one of the most recent films that we have, and it’s really kind of the biggest movie we have,” noted Matusiak, who added that it won 10 Goya Awards, which are the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards.

But “Blancanieves” is just the beginning of a dynamic four days of films and events. Besides the screenings of nine films, the festival will also include very special visits to Lawrence by two of the directors of the films that are being screened.

Solveig Hoogesteijn, director of the 2006 film “Maroa,” and Raphael Alvarez, one of the two directors of the documentary “Dzi Croquettes,” will be coming to Lawrence from Venezuela and Brazil, respectively, to discuss their films with the Lawrence and Fox Valley communities.

Hoogesteijn, whose film was Venezuela’s Official Selection for the 79th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, will be giving a talk on her film, which follows an eleven-year-old girl as she is sent to a reformatory school and falls passionately in love with the school’s youth orchestra. The talk will be facilitated by Princeton University’s Assistant Professor of Spanish and former Lawrence Fellow of Spanish Javier Guerrero.

Alvarez’s documentary “Dzi Croquettes” takes a different look at music through the combination of dance and sexuality. The film is also unique as the only film on the slate that is from Brazil.

“We thought it would be very important to have a film from Brazil for the slate of Latin American cinema, because Brazil is sometimes left out, though not so much anymore,” said Professor Tapia.

Alvarez’s film revolves around a cross-dressing dance and theatre troupe which came about as a form of rebellion under a repressive dictatorship in Brazil in the 1970s. The film’s relevance to gender studies is also a harkening back to the theme of last year’s film festival, and it will give Lawrence’s LGBT community, as well as any students interested in gender studies, another opportunity to get involved in the festival.

Another unique quality of this year’s festival is its incorporation of live Latin music, which will be played by Conservatory students before each film.

“It’s going to be a musical piece that’s somehow connected to the theme or the instrument or the style of music or the country,” said Tapia.

“It’s an opportunity,” said Tapia, “for the community to come together around some of the issues that represent us […]such as multiculturalism, knowledge of other cultures, in this case Hispanic cultures, and music, and the overlapping of those talented skills as represented by our guests, faculty and students who are involved” said Tapia.