By Juan Calvillo
The “Cine Sin Fronteras” short-film festival at the Vincent Price Art Museum featured experimental filmography and opened dialogue with the local community Saturday. The Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles held the event in hopes of bringing the cinematic arts of Latino-America to a community filled with the very people whose countries the art was created in.
“The museum strives to be a place that presents exciting programming that prompts new dialogues,” said VPAM’s Director Pilar Tompkins Rivas. “Film programming is an area we want to expand at the museum,and collaborations such as this help us realize that goal.”
Saturday’s event began with a live musical performance from a local Latin-American folk group El Rio which was introduced by Marisa Hicks-Alcaraz, the curator and director of programming at LACLA.
Despite the elevated temperatures, El Rio played a set that incorporated not only contemporary musical instruments, but also more traditional Latin-American ones. The mixture of both created a unique sound that was foreign, yet familiar. Most of the works they played had a running theme of both personal ties and a deep veneration for the earth itself.
This was accompanied by a slight breeze and almost pre produced shade from a large tree outside of VPAM. Following the musical set, the three films slated for the festival were shown.
The first of the three films shown was “Relató Familiar.” Sumie Garcia, the film’s director, created a very interesting and resonating film about not only immigration, but also assimilation. The film centers on Yukio Saeki and his travel to live in Mexico City after living through World War II.
Comparing his youth in Japan with the way he lives in Mexico gives the film a sense of change, and shows how immigrating to another place can fulfill a person.
Collectivo Los Ingrávidos directed “Coyolxauhqui,” and used this chance to address the femicide that has occurred in Mexico. The imagery started off simple enough, using the subtle comparison of a Nopal plant to the country of Mexico.
Yet, by the time the film had hit its peak, the images on screen seemed to reach out and grab the audience. They seemed to shake the shoulders of each person in an attempt to wake them from their complacency and bring the focus of the film firmly to the forefront of their minds.
Scenes of torn clothing and lost shoes made their message clear, but some later scenes may have become a bit heavy handed. Despite this, the film’s strength comes from the fearlessness the directors have when showing what truth there is to see.
The final film was “El Sonido Que Vemos: CDMX.” It was directed by the Echo Park Film Center and the Laboratorio Experimental de Cine. The art of experimental filmmaking is seen in full force throughout the movie. Paolo Davanza, one of the members of the Echo Park Film Center, was in attendance to answer questions and speak with the audience after the film.
Davanza spoke at length about the process of making the film and the struggles that came from shooting in Mexico City. Various filmmakers participated in the 24-hour shoot that created “El Sonido Que Vemos,” each putting their fingerprint on the movie.
“There was no budget for this film. The film was donated, about $300 worth of 16mm black and white film, everyone who worked (was a volunteer) and we slept on couches with friends in Mexico City,” said Davanza.
“El Sonido Que Vemos” is a film that was shot in the city-symphony-style that was popular decades ago. Davanza said this technique celebrates the physicality of a city, and by allowing locals to film, gives it a more powerful connection to the people. The footage shot was a mixture of people, places and things that populate Mexico City.
From more personal stories to those that celebrated the city itself, the movie had a sense of urgency and continuous movement. This seems to mirror what it’s like not only visiting this great city, but living there as well.
Bringing experimental films and exposing them to the community in East Los Angeles was one of the goals for “Cine Sin Fronteras.” “(This kind of filmmaking) can be a challenging and sometimes uncomfortable experience as the genre is meant to defy conventional filmmaking practices,” said Hicks-Alcaraz.
The films in the series all challenge the norm of what a latino movie should or could be. One goal of Hicks-Alcaraz and LACLA is to stimulate a dialogue about the artistic merits of Latin American cinema. “Cine Sin Fronteras” accomplished that goal. More information on LACLA can be found at https://www.lacla.org and more on Echo Park Film Center at http://www.echoparkfilmcenter.org.