The 11th Annual Latin American and Spanish Film Festival starts this week


Three films to check out for the beginning of the Film Festival 

screen capture of Aleli
Photo provided of a still from the film Alelí.

This week marks the beginning of the Latin American and Spanish Film week at UVic’s Cinecenta and online. 

If this is your first experience with the film festival, everything you need to know is in the name — each film shows hispanic culture in its own light, bringing diverse and compelling narratives to Cinecenta’s screen. The film festival is organized by the Hispanic Film Society of Victoria, which was established in 2013 in order to promote Latin American and Spanish Cinema in Victoria.

The festival kicks off on Sept. 16. For the first week of the festival, three films are being hosted online: La llorona, Alelí, and Limiar. Film fans will have 24 hours after purchase of tickets to watch them within 48 hours, and the movies will be available for purchase at 7pm on the day of the screening. In-person screenings are set to start at Cinecenta in the following week.

After the festival, another UVic event is promising to further dialogues about hispanic culture. Journeys and Migrations: a Colloquium on Contemporary Hispanic Cinema is on Saturday September 25 from 12:30 – 6:00 pm. It features academic presentations on Hispanic cinema, a documentary screening, two talks, and a student panel. 

In advance of the festival, we’ve reviewed three films that all offer different stories, themes, and visions of Hispanic traditions. 

La llorona: September 16 and 17

La llorona, a horror movie, is definitely one of my favourites in the selection of films so far. The film follows Enrique, a retired general in Guatemala who oversaw the Mayan genocide and is currently on trial for his crimes. He and his family continue to be haunted by his crimes by activists camped outside their house and a wailing spirit lurking in their home.

The horror is at once subtle, matter of fact, and bluntly horrific. Scenes show both the crimes Enrique committed and the family trying to ignore it all and pretend everything is normal — until the ghosts and activists make it impossible. The themes and the supernatural are wound tightly together, in the way that resembles some of the best horror movies. If you’re a horror fan, don’t miss this one!

Alelí: September 18 and 19

After the patriarch of the Mazzotti family dies, the sale of his house is imminent. All the members of the family seem to have reached an agreement, but Ernesto, the elder son, cannot bring himself to go through with it. The family embarks on a weekend of misguided anger, clashing wills, unresolved nostalgia, beach chairs, Bach flower remedies and run-ins with the law. 

The drama that Alelí deals with are both quiet, messy, and loud at parts. Overall, I would describe it as a movie focused around the big and small complicated drama that only a dysfunctional family can be, how death can break and bring a family back together. 

Limiar: September 20 and 21

Threshold is an autobiographical documentary made by a mother who follows the gender transition of her adolescent son. In interviews between 2016 and 2019, he addresses the conflicts, certainties and uncertainties that pervade him in a deep search for his identity. At the same time, the mother also goes through a process of transformation required by the situation that life presents her with by breaking old paradigms, facing fears and dismantling prejudices.

Limiar is a very personal journey of a mother and her son as they both reckon with their identities in very different ways. The documentary feels at once professional and amaetur in it’s production, perhaps due to the hand-held camera, but not in a bad way. It makes the journey of the family so much more personal than if it was professionally done with a full crew. It’s their story, and the film shows their strength the whole way through. 

If any of these movies catch your attention, I highly recommend checking them out.

Tickets are by donation and available at the Hispanic Film Society of Victoria website, where you can also find more information on the three movies that will be available in person on Sept. 22-26.