Half a million people enjoyed the 32nd edition of the New Latin American Film Festival of Havana which opened the door to a prolonged visual feast. Lasting 10 days, from December 2 to 12, 515 films were shown of which 122 were in competition. The thoughtful and intelligent party, as certified by its president, Alfredo Guevara, was tracked by a crowd of movie addicts, who filled the theatres. Attracted not only by films in competition, spectators also had their pick from the parallel exhibition of movies that included the most recent features from France, Italy, the UK, Germany, Norway, Spain and Denmark, as well as a selection of Oscar-winning movies. There was also a selection of experimental cinema and other genres like fantasy and horror.
Among the latter, the presentations by the Canadian National Film Board excelled with 15 cartoons, six documentaries, 12 experimental works and a tribute to the films of Norman McLaren, presented in the island for the first time and that attracting many spectators.
McLaren is considered one of the luminaries of Canada’s film and animation industry. His tribute included a retrospective of movies made in the 1940s and 1980s, including Neighbours and Narcissus.
As part of the Industry Sector, the seminar, Ibero-American Films Crossing Borders - a door to European Markets, saw prestigious Canadian filmmaker Jan Miller, director of Strategic Partners, offer a conference on pitching and co-productions.
Awards and Guests
Uruguay was the major winner in the competition categories, with First Coral for best film, A Useful Life, by Federico Veiroj, “a moving declaration of love for cinema with originality based on cinematographic resources” stated the jury panel.
Even so, the movie obtaining most awards was Post Mortem by Chilean Pablo Larrain, with five awards, including Second Coral and three others: best male performance, best female performance and best script. Mexico, with a large participation, walked out with five Corals, one of them for the film The Good Herbs by Maria Novaro, centered on the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in an herb biologist and the effect on her daughter.
Cuba shone in 10 departments, among them Best Director for Fernando Pérez for Jose Martí: the Eye of the Canary, an in-depth approach to the adolescence of the Cuban national hero, poet and thinker.
The festival was also attended by a large delegation of producers, distributors, directors and screen writers from the United States, led by Kathryn Bigelow, winner of six 2010 Oscars for The Hurt Locker. “Being here was exciting, pure and vital. It went beyond my expectations” said Bigelow.
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker screen writer, came to Havana with Bigelow, and for more than an hour explained details on how they filmed the movie and how challenging it was to show in their country.
Both of them opened “The Oscar in Havana” section, while another group of their colleagues offered conferences in the Industry Sector, a meeting point for filmmakers to promote regional networking.
Sid Ganis, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences until 2009, outlined marketing and distribution and made it clear that the Mecca of film spends more on advertising campaigns than film budgets.
Producer Michael Haussman, who worked on seven of the most important movies by Milos Forman, together with Ted and Vanessa Hope, David Robert Grubin, Sandford Lieberson and Bill Mechanic also offered a joint conference on the issue. For the second consecutive year, Fox Music, Inc. President Robert Kraft returned to the island to conduct a wokshop for students on the role of music in movies. Actress Julia Stiles also came as just another filmgoer; Stiles is known for her role as Nicky Parsons in The Bourne Supremacy trilogy.
Ellen Carrington also came to the festival from the US with the “From Amarcord to Z” exhibit, celebrating 50 years of poster art for the Academy’s Best Foreign Film awards, sponsored by the Margaret Eric Library of Beverly Hills.
One of the festival’s paramount moments was the presence of Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, who received a special tribute. The author of Burnt By The Sun was awarded an honorary Coral and said he had dreamt of visiting Cuba for years, an island he considers a legend in all senses of the word.