After decades of cool antagonism, the United States restores full diplomatic relations with Cuba, and a New Yorker returns to the island nation of her birth to look after her ailing father.
Cut to four men playing dominos as they speculate on the political future of Cuba. Or to the story of the first transgender woman to be elected to Venezuela’s National Assembly. Or to the challenges faced by a Haitian woman who has lived in the Dominican Republic for 30 years, but still falls between the cracks as a “non-resident.”
These are just a few of the stories on display this weekend at the Latino and Iberian Film Festival at Yale (LIFFY), an annual celebration of contemporary Spanish and Portuguese-language cinema that takes place in downtown New Haven, at the Whitney Humanities Center at 53 Wall St.
The festival started on Wednesday, Nov. 15 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 19. All of the screenings are free, open to the public, and presented along with English subtitles.
Organized by Margherita Tortora, a senior lecturer in Spanish at Yale, this year’s LIFFY brings to New Haven nearly 60 short and feature-length films that span the transatlantic Latino and Iberian world: short films from Spain, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru; a showcase of Cuban filmmakers; animated shorts from Colombia and Ecuador; documentaries from Honduras and Uruguay; feature films from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. And the list goes on.
As with previous instances of the festival, Tortora has organized for over a dozen Latin American filmmakers to come to New Haven for the weekend to participate in question-and-answer sessions after their movies have been screened.
Earlier this week, the Independent caught up with a handful of filmmakers participating in this year’s LIFFY to talk about the movies that they will be presenting at the festival, and thereby the issues that most fascinate them in contemporary Latin American cinema, culture and politics.
On Thursday night, Cuban filmmaker Carlos Barba Salva premiered his new short film, 25 horas (25 hours). The movie tells the story of an estranged father and daughter who are reunited on Dec. 17, 2014, the very day President Barack Obama announced that the United States would be restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“The short is like a metaphor,” Salva said, “about how two different people from the same country, the father and the daughter, have different experiences on that same day.”
Click on the audio player below to listen to a brief interview with Salva and producer Juan Gomez, who translated Salva’s answers from Spanish into English, about 25 horas.
On Friday afternoon, Dominican/Haitian filmmaker Jean Jean presents his new documentary, Si Bondye vle, Yuli / Si Dios quiere, Yuli (God Willing, Yuli). The movie tells the story of Jean’s mom: a Dominican woman of Haitian descent who has lived in the DR for decades, but, like thousands of her compatriots, has been denied formal citizenship by the Dominican government and must struggle to survive as a “non-resident.”
“We have got to tell our history,” Jean said, “to help the Dominican government to regularize our situation.”
Click on the audio player below to listen to a brief interview with Jean about the movie and about his own background as a Dominican actor of Haitian descent.
On Sunday, Cuban filmmaker Deyma D’Atri will be screening two new films: The De esta historia la mitad (Half of this Story), a fiction film about a romantic relationship that deteriorates with age, and Eyes Half Shut, a documentary about the challenges of finding a job as a cinematographer or cameraperson as a Cuban woman.
“If you’re a woman, it’s hard to become a part of the film industry in Cuba,” D’Atri said. “If you’re in the production part, it’s hard. If you’re an actress, its different. But if you’re behind the camera, it’s hard to get a position like that.”
Click on the audio player below to listen to a brief interview with D’Atri about her two films playing at LIFFY. Juan Gomez again offered translation from Spanish to English.
On Thursday and Saturday, Cuban actor Luis Alberto García will help present two new films in which he stars: Lester Hamlet’s Ya no es antes (Not Like Before) and Eduardo del Llano’s Dominó, one about a couple separated by the Cuban Revolution, another about four men who talk politics over a game of dominoes.
“For me, these people are not traitors,” García said about Cubans who left the country after the revolution. “They’re Cubans, like me.”
Click on the audio player below to listen to a brief interview with García and Margherita Tortora about García’s two new films.
Colombian artist and documentary filmmaker Claudia Fischer is one of this year’s jurors at LIFFY. A filmmaker in her own right, Fischer has made movies about everything from two indigenous Colombian women working towards higher education to a movie about her own family, which has 26 living and practicing artists.
“You have to be tough,” Fischer said about making it as a female filmmaker in Colombia. “You have to pursue your dreams all the time. And that’s it, and you will do it.”
Click on the audio player below to listen to a brief interview with Fischer about her background as a filmmaker and what she will be looking for as a juror at this year’s festival.