“Many Latin American films are made with pieces of string”

The Biarritz Latin America Festival is celebrating its thirtieth edition this year. From September 27 to October 3, thirty films are presented in competition, ten additional films on a particular theme – this year, Peru. Multidisciplinary, the festival also offers literary and academic meetings, exhibitions and concerts. Finally, a retrospective is devoted to Chilean documentary filmmaker Ignacio Agüero. The president of the festival, Serge Fohr, explains the specificity of these meetings.

What does Latin American cinema bring?

For a few years now, he has been providing in-vivo testimony to the situation in Latin America: inequalities, violence, corruption, and, at the same time, an incredible humanity, which we have lost a little at home, a very strong solidarity, relationships dense human. Above all, we do not want them to be “cliché” films, aimed at tourism: they are first of all quality films, author and independent cinema. Due to the economic situation of the region, apart from certain countries such as Argentina, Costa Rica or Mexico, where there are structures equivalent to the National Center for Cinema and Animated Image, many films are made with bits of string. We want to promote these films which are sometimes made in an almost artisanal way.

Three years ago we showed a Cuban film about two men in Havana, a gay man terminally ill with AIDS and a friend who is planning his exile in New York after the other dies, Ultimos dias in La Habana [réalisé par Fernando Pérez]. It’s a very hard film, but it shows the reality of Latin America, a continent of contrasts, of shocks, which takes the guts.

What are the themes that come up most often?

Those of immigration and acculturation, these exchanges of ideas between people of different cultures. I am struck by the sociological and linguistic acculturation that Latin Americans impose on themselves to go to the United States, including in the lower strata: coming from El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, they speak “Spanglish” [mélange de « spanish » et d’« english »] when they land at the Mexican border, a place that is again topical with the expulsions of migrants decided by Joe Biden.

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Mexican film El otro Tom, by Laura Santullo and Rodrigo Pla, tells for example the story of a single mother with her autistic son, in a small town on the border on the United States side. She speaks English, then Spanish to her son, she no longer knows if she is Mexican, Latin or American.

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