Film festival showcases Latin American culture

GVL/Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff

Teagan Wilkinson

Grand Rapids is showcasing Latin American culture and entertainment for the sixth year in a row at the Latin American Film Festival. Seventeen different films were showcased, along with four chances to talk with award-winning Latin American directors. Open to the public and offering free admission, students, faculty and community members visited the Wealthy Theatre for a weekend of entertainment and education.

Movies were not the only thing showcased at the festival. The films shown were specifically chosen because they served a higher purpose.

“This is the way to make known the cultural diversity of the 20 countries that compose Latin America with their similarities and differences,” said Zulema Moret, professor and coordinator of Latin American studies at Grand Valley State University and founder of the Latin American Film Festival.

Many of the films shown focused on a variety of contemporary issues, including homophobia, social revolution and illegal immigration. While many of the films were works of fiction, there were two documentaries that were based in the U.S.

“For me, the documentaries we included were especially important as a way of raising awareness regarding the extreme difficulties faced by many refugees and undocumented workers,” said Sarah Matthews, professor and committee member for the festival.

Plans are already being made to ensure that the seventh annual Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival is as successful as the first six. There will be some changes in the festival in upcoming years.

“(A) different time of the year, probably two weekends instead of many films per day, more publicity (and) probably short workshops taught by the filmmakers,” Moret said.

Though many of the movies showcased at the festival were in Spanish, many of the films had English subtitles.

In total, the films represent 10 different geographical regions—half of the countries that make up Latin America. In the future, the organizers of the festival hope to showcase more of Latin America.

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