Will This (Finally) Be Latin America’s Year at Cannes?

For all of the influence and vitality of Latin American cinema over the past dozen years or so, the Cannes Film Festival has been lukewarm in its acknowledgement. Considered by many the most important showcase for international filmmaking, Cannes began at last to open itself to this region’s cinema in the past few years, and the 65th edition that starts today (and runs through May 27) marks the strongest and most positive representation of Latin American film in recent memory.

This year’s Official Selection includes Post Tenebras Lux, the newest film by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas, as well as On the Road by Brazilian director Walter Salles. Among the 22 productions in competition, Reygadas’s film is one of those with the most expectation and interest. Variety’s Robert Koehler has named it his pick to win the Palm d’Or.

Reygadas and Salles have been regulars in the Official Competition (Reygadas in 2005 with Batalla en el cielo / Battle in Heaven, and in 2007 with Luz silenciosa / Silent Light for which he won the Jury Prize; Salles in 2004 with Motorcycle Diaries and in 2008 with Linha de Passe). Pablo Trapero, Hector Babenco, Lucrecia Martel, Guillermo del Toro, Fernando Meirelles and Alejandro González Iñárritu, have been the other Latin American directors to be included in the main section in the past decade.

It’s worth mentioning that since the inception of the Palm d’Or award in 1955, only two Latin American films have won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival: Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana (Mexico/Spain) in 1961 and Anselmo Duarte’s O pagador de promesas / The Given Word (Brazil) the following year.

Beyond the Official Selection, it’s on the parallel sections where we’re seeing unprecedented representation of Latin American cinema this year. The Directors’ Fortnight, an independent section of the festival, adds to the lineup with a record-breaking number of six Latin American productions.

These include the Uruguayan film 3 by Pablo Stoll; the Mexican-Canadian co-production Fogo by Yulene Olaizola; the Argentine film Infancia clandestina / Clandestine Childhood by Benjamin Ávila; the Chilean-French co-production La noche de enfrente / The Night in Front by the late Raúl Ruiz; the Colombian Film La Sirga by William Vega; and the Chilean film No by Pablo Larraín starring Mexican actor Gael García Bernal.

Additionally, Directors' Fortnight will also feature two Brazilian short films in its official competition: Porcos raivosos / Enraged Pigs by Leonardo Sette et Isabel Penoni, and Os mortos vivos / The Living Dead by Anita Rocha da Silveira.

A Certain Regard section includes the Colombian film La Playa the debut feature film by Juan Andrés Arango, Después de Lucía / After Lucía by Michel Franco, and two productions by Argentine director Pablo Trapero: Elefante blanco / White Elephant and the omnibus film 7 días en La Habana / 7 Days in Habana sharing director credits with Benicio del Toro, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Juan Carlos Tabío, Gaspar Noe, and Laurent Cantent.

The International Critic’s Week will feature the Argentine film Los Salvajes / The Wild Ones by Alejandro Fadel, and the Spanish-American-Mexican co-production Aquí y allá / Here and There by Antonio Méndez Esparza. The selection also include the Argentine short film Yeguas y cotorras / Mares and Parakeets by Natalia Garagiola and the Brazilian short O Duplo / Doppelgänger by Juliana Rojas.

Two other Latin American films will be shown in the festival as special screening: the Brazilian film A musica segundo Tom Jobim / The Music According to Tom Jobim by veteran director Nelson Pereira de Santos, as well as the debut feature film by Argentine director Gonzalo Tobal, Villegas.

The Puerto Rican short Mi santa mirada by Alvaro Aponte-Centero makes the first film from the Caribbean island to be selected for Cannes’ official competition in this category. Additionally, the Festival also announced the lineup for the Cinefondation Selection which includes Los Anfitriones / The Hosts by Miguel Angel Moulet from the Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV de San Antonio de los Baños in Cuba, and Pude ver un Puma / Could See a Puma by Eduardo Williams from the Universidad del Cine in Argentina.

Furthermore, Brazil has been selected as the festival's special guest nation this year, and veteran Brazilian filmmaker Carlos Diegues will head the Camera d'Or Jury, which awards the Best First Film of the festival.

With all of the above representation we can only hope that Latin American cinema will finally get the international attention that’s long over due.


Photos: (from top to bottom) No by Pablo Larraín Chile); Post Tenebras Lux by Carlos Reygadas (Mexico); Elefante blanco by Pablo Trapero (Argentina); Villegas by Gonzalo Tobal (Argentina); and La Sirga (Colombia) by William Vega.