The pandemic didn’t stop this year’s Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. Announced in mid-March, just before the world went bonkers, it regrouped, re-created itself and reemerged in May as “MSPIFF39 Redefined,” a successful virtual event.
The pandemic won’t stop the 8th Annual Cine Latino Film Festival, which will also be virtual. Scheduled for Oct. 15-22, curated by Hebe Tabachnik, the festival’s artistic director since 2016, the MSP Film Society’s 2020 showing of the best new U.S. Latino, Latin American and Iberian films has been dubbed “Cine Latino En Casa” – at home. Its theme is “Un Pueblo Unito” – a people united.
The festival will include 25 new features and shorts, most regional premieres. It will present the first-ever retrospective of Mexican American filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes. Because guests don’t have to be flown in and put up at hotels, it will feature more directors, writers, producers, filmmakers and actors than ever before.
The festival will also include a selection of video shorts from audience members shown cooking beloved recipes at home. “Cena en Casa” – dinner at home – is meant as a virtual potluck, another way to bring us together since we can’t meet and mingle at the St. Anthony Main Theatre on the Minneapolis riverfront, where Cine Latino usually takes place. Here’s a charming video of Tabachnik making empanadas at her home in Los Angeles. (Her post-video suggestion: Keep the dough in the fridge before filling and folding it.)
When we spoke with Tabachnik Monday by phone, we asked if the pandemic had created any special challenges for this year’s festival. She said the challenge was essentially the same as it always has been: to create an event that will engage and interest people. She prefers to view the current circumstances as an opportunity.
This will be the first time Cine Latino will be available to watch throughout Minnesota. “One of the great advantages we have this year is because everything is going to be virtual, we can reach out to areas in Minnesota we haven’t been able to in years past,” she said. Among the Minnesota cities with the largest Latino populations are Worthington, Willmar and Austin, none within easy driving distance of Minneapolis.
“The reason we are calling this edition Cine Latino En Casa is we are going directly to your door. You just have to open the door,” Tabachnik said.
“We’re going to have more than 10 live Q&As with filmmakers, talent, critics and scholars from all over the United States, Europe and Latin America. In years past, we would bring in a few guests. But this year we will probably have 40 to 50 people over the week.
“The films are only available in Minnesota, but these live [Zoom] conversations will be free and available worldwide. So anyone can join us for a conversation with the director of ‘Free Color,’ a Venezuelan documentary about artist Carlos Guz-Diez. Or ‘Sanctorum’ – we’re having the U.S. premiere of that film. Or Ana Garcia Blaya from Argentina, who is presenting her debut feature ‘The Good Intentions.’
“People can actually interact with them. That’s something we never did before. Someone from a small town somewhere in Minnesota can interact with a filmmaker in Mexico or Spain or Argentina. That gives me a thrill.
“I see this as an amazing opportunity, understanding it is not getting together and sharing the common ritual of that dark room, laughing or crying together in front of a story. That’s not going to happen this year, and it’s a loss we cannot compensate with anything. But we are building different bridges. We are getting together in a different way. It’s a time of adaptation. We have to create new strategies and make the best out of all these challenges.”
Securing the films was not one of the challenges. “Every film we wanted, we were able to present.”
We asked Tabachnik to call out more highlights of the festival.
“Along with ‘Sanctorum,’ which won many awards, we are having the North American premiere of a documentary called ‘The Painting,’ a sort of art thriller that gets into the mystery of Velasquez’s ‘Las Meninas.’ It’s a fantastic, mesmerizing documentary mixed with stop-motion animation.
“We are having a sneak preview of ‘The Recipe for Balance,’ which has just been shown in San Sebastian [Spain]. It’s a documentary about Ricardo Camarena, a chef who reopens his restaurants amid the pandemic.
“I have to highlight our opening night film, ‘Rosa’s Wedding.’ It’s a very well-done Spanish dramedy of a woman who decides to marry herself. You can imagine the consequences of that decision. The first time I saw it, I cried and laughed out loud like I hadn’t for a long time. We decided to open with that film because it was an entertaining, emotionally enriching and inspiring story.
“I’d like to point out a very powerful film from Brazil called ‘Valentina.’ It’s the story of a trans kid who moves to a small, conservative town. The lead actress is trans, and this was her debut on the big screen.” Actress Thiessa Woinbackk is also a YouTube celebrity.
“And we are having this year the first retrospective of the Mexican American director Rodrigo Reyes.”
Five Reyes films will be shown: three features, a short, and a sneak preview of a documentary in development. Which one to choose, if you can’t see them all? Tabachnik said, “Tough one! I would say ‘499’ just because it’s his latest. It also just won Best Cinematography and Best Documentary at Hot Docs [an international documentary competition].”
Then she slipped in a quick final pick: “Ara Malikian, A Life Among Strings,” a portrait of violinist Ara Malikian, director Nata Moreno’s debut and winner of the 2020 Goya Award.
Here’s the complete schedule, including times, trailers and links to tickets. The best way to see Cine Latino is with an all-access pass ($100 with core membership/$60 members). Members save on this and on individual tickets ($10/$5 members; opening night $20/10).
All films are geo-restricted to viewers in Minnesota, but the Q&As/conversations are available worldwide. Register here for those.