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Dark Endings & Sultry Beginnings: The 2010 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival – Feature

The inevitable progression of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival proceeds with an inherent focus (at least within the films experienced) of a South American structure. While distinctly different than its European cousins, the subsect of such a tropical climate brings a more visceral interlude at times in regards to its cinema. Ironically enough, the two films journeyed within this short stint were both made in Colombia (which this writer had the chance to witness firsthand in the auspice of a Bogota wedding less than a few months ago). This experience adds to the understanding of the structure but also to the extremes of filmic license which should indicate to viewers that all is not what it seems on these films. Both films describe tendencies of violence in the country which, while prevalent earlier in the decade, are at little less vehement in the current political climate.

The first film, “Retratos En Un Mar De Mentiras” [“Portraits In A Sea Of Lies”] restructures itself in a post-visualistic style using documentary verite structures that brings one back to the dirt road mentality that so imbued a more Hollywood inferred idea such as “Romancing The Stone” (which also took place in Colombia). Here the political heirarchy, family bloodletting and “an eye for an eye” code take on almost literal meaning with the exploits of a barely functioning teenager Marina (played with exceptional steel and tenderness by Paola Baldion). The story involves the returning from Bogota to claim land on the sea left by her grandfather to her and her cousin (played with brevity by Ramses Ramos) within a coastal town. Marina was beset by a traumatic childhood experience which comes to bear later in the film. The specific rememberance scene alone in the middle of the forest is utterly primal despite the fact of its retreat to a silent end. Baldion’s utter surrender to the character in this instance anchors the film giving it a visceral quality that is missing from many other parts of the journey yet makes sense in the inherent moments of still. The idea that the guards stand on the roads is an utter reality bringing to mind the similar way Gareth Edwards shot “Monsters [LAFF 2010] in Guatemala. The ending begets a darker sensibility that balances but does not overtake similar thought patterns in Serbia cinema yet one that remains surrepticious with hope.

The second film, “La Sangre Y La Llluvia” [“Blood & Rain”], also from Colombia, takes on a more stylish progression but again is a revelry because of its shining female star in the form of Gloria Montoya. The narrative of the picture starts off in the ways of a party girl Angela (Montoya) who wanders through the clubs looking for her next hit of blow. Her anguish is basked in an ever shining light by not letting herself be alone or too much in one place at any given moment. The story of a taxi cab driver she runs into trying to survive a gang war he unwittingly has become involved in unfolds over one night. Instead of staying at the club, Angela helps this lost soul on his way down as bad luck befalls every step of his way until she is completely consumed by its evil. However within this shadow, she finds a connection only to have it broken. While many could see the film’s impetus as gratuitous, the reality, despite the style of the picture shot anamorphically, is its basis in real life in terms of how people function. “Blood & Rain” succeeds in its character based angle of showing how the lives of people intertwine even when they push against not wanting such a responsibility. Fate is fickle in an unbecoming way which makes the full circle connotation of the images such as trees bending with the crashing of rain in darkness all the more metaphorical.

Another film, Sequestro, predicated on a more documentary essence involving a film crew enmeshed with a Police Kidnap Force for four years, follows the hard hitting action needed to save victims in the San Paolo region. A reception following at H. Wood in the Hollywood & Highland complex, where the festival was held, discussed the intensity of such a shoot while the reality of bringing it to view at a confab such as this verified its importance overall. With drinks such as the Prohibition Carnival made with H. Wood’s propreitary teas, elderflower liquor and LeBlon Chacaca, the tropical but hard edged fuel mirrored the film’s ideals as a DJ played scintilating rhythms while fused roses and a glass chandelier mirrored the revelry from overhead.

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, though experienced briefly, impressed with its hard hittiing viewpoints of cinema and entertainment, especially from the country of Colombia which, though dark in its viewpoints, showed exceptional acting abilities in the visceral performances of two leading ladies in the form of Paola Bondion & Gloria Montoya.

First Look: BLOOD & RAIN [Colombia] – LA Latino International Film Festival

This visceral ode to the darkness of late night travails is highlighted by the exceptional performance of Gloria Montoya as Angela in a roundabout tale of the Bogota underworld.

Finding The Spot: The 2009 AFCI Locations Trade Show

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The AFCI Locations Trade Show in Santa Monica bridges the gap between tourism and film in a way that is becoming ever more apparent. The inclusion of resorts, food and entertainment within the context of a local economy is becoming ever more intrastructured with filming. With different states and countries vying for the elusive dollar or euro, the allure of uniqueness of visual capture and experience to imbue a production is all important as is the aspect of incentives.

South America made a big perception this year with the aspect of Colombia coming into view. While being only a short jaunt in all regards to Miami, it becomes a good aspect for East Coast productions searching for Old World and jungle settings as well as a balance of contemporary. Known to Americans as a setting for “Romancing The Stone”, the basis in Bogota also is highlighted by an interactive multi-use Americas Media Complex that can be integrated into production. The Bogota International Film Festival is also making itself more known which can act as a starting off point for integration. Film Brazil, based further down in the Continent out of San Paolo, offers a conglomeration of production companies to integrate with the local production teams. Peru on the West Coast also boasts the integrated city center of Lima with access to the Amazon.

Jumping over the Asia, there is a bevy of possibilities especially with alternative tropical and urban settings. The Phillipines seems to lead the charge with a diversity of production value and assistance in Manila which is bouyed by the Phillipines Tourism Board. There is also extensive possibility with Cinemanila and the Asian Film Market that highlights it in Pusan. Further in the Asian territories, Thailand with the richness of Bangkok to the sprawl of Isan to the paradise of Phuket offers an energy supported by the Thailand Film Office. The balance of the film festivals in Bangkok and Phuket as well help this along. With the advent of their very successful horror and sci-fi genre hits, South Korea is also becoming a leader in the world market with many of their locations highlighted and copied in American remakes but with most not comparable to the original vision. The aspect of the possibilities is bridged by the Asian Film Commissions Network and the Pusan Film Festival which is linked to the aforementioned Asisan Film Market.

Europe is made interesting by the extremes of structure of what is possible. Bruges in Belgium came out of nowhere with the surprise international hit “In Bruges” with Colin Farrell which completely highlighted the city. A boat ride through the canals to music featured as an extra on the film’s DVD is a glowing advertisement. Film London highlights the rich possibilities the city has and continues to have. Being the location home to the biggest films ever made, it is tailor made for anything that needs to be done. Film Tourism is also becoming a big aspect of the city since everyone seems to want to know its history which is only buoyed by Film London’s interaction with the London Film Festival.

Elsewhere in Europe heading into the East is the essence of Bavaria and Hungary which have become hotbeds for production in recent years because of their ease and economy of production and materials. Bavaria Film is quite known for their incentives and working with filmmakers while ITD Hungary is comparable in their pursuit of business development opportunities in this vein. They are buoyed by their production arm at Film Team which highlighs a bevy of studio, stage and location possibilities in the country.

Heading back towards North America, the Carribean has been getting its share of highlights. The Bahamas played host in the past year to both “Fool’s Gold” as well as “Quantum Of Solace” and has always been a favorite because of its close proximity to Miami. Their location is also buoyed by the fact of some of its famous residents including Sean Connery who helps heighten its visibility as well as the Bahamas International Film Festival. Elsewhere in the Carribean, the US Virgin Islands also makes extensive use of its tropical location and ease to the mainland.

Meanwhile, back on the mainland, in deference to the domestic film scene, some locations are making their presence know. While both New Mexico and Connecticut have been making their presence known as of late, Alabama is in the midst of passing a film incentive law that should be in effect by late October of this year which will be very helpful to filmmakers as the next big thing. Film Florida has always been a big proponent because of its tropical perceptions within a domestic setting which is now buoyed in Los Angeles by a working film liason located in the city. This in addition to their continued presence at film festivals such as South By Southwest and Cinevegas increasing their proximity to filmmakers. In specific, The Florida Keys & Key West, which have played host to films such as “True Lies” and “License To Kill” continues to be a big draw.

Further back on the East Coast, Kentucky is making their presence known and with an exceptional list of talent and backing, the state looks to be even more possible in what might be possible. Atlantic City, recently becoming even more accessible with train service from New York City, is building up its ranks. With exceptional food, a heightening film style and some great new hotels like The Chelsea and production centers it continues to grow and aspects of its outreach like The Downbeach Film Festival will continue to buoy the city. The last of the domestics which truly has made its presence known is Wisconsin, which was recently base and filming location for Michael Mann’s upcoming “Public Enemies” about John Dillinger starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. It is an untapped area of the country with a definite vibe which was recently highlighted at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison.

The AFCI Locations Trade Show this year showed the increasing diversity of locations available overseas and domestically to the emerging and established filmmaker.

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