AFI Fest Unveils New Latino Perspectives

The American Film Institute's AFI Fest was first launched in 1971 and since has served Hollywood as the "longest running international film festival...bringing the best in world cinema to the film capital of the world." With Grauman's Chinese Theatre as its main stage, and the Chinese 6 Theatres and the Egyptian Theatre as supporting venues, this year's festival is sponsored by Audi and spotlights 133 films, including 77 features and 56 shorts.

The festival has long been lauded as one of the United States' most prestigious film festivals to launch filmmakers' careers via the short film program. The 2012 edition doesn't fail to impress. Of the 56 short films, nine are Latino films or works by Latino or Spanish directors.

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Voice Over
(Directed by Martin Rosete; produced by Koldo Zuazua)
I-will-not-tell-you-whose voice over leads us through three extremes situations that are actually the same... Will you survive?

Filmmaker Rosete is originally from Madrid, now living in New York. He has many laurels to his name, including Participant of the Berlinale Talent Campus of Berlin International Film Festival. Koldo is a "top young producer" in Spain having won more than 500 awards at festivals worldwide. Their film, Voice Over, runs 9:40 and was shot on the Red One over eight days in Tenerife and Almeria, Spain. Rosete notes he is inspired by del Toro, Almodovar and Iñárritu. Although raised in Spain, Rosete attended the Cuba Film School.

S.J. Main: How would you say this film reflects a Latino perspective?

Rosete: "Voice Over" is a very universal story, not only for Latinos. I always aim to reach as wide an audience as possible. But at the same time, my film is about love, and I feel that is something that connects very well with Latinos.

What's next for you as a director?

I'm co-directing a documentary feature called "Moses," and thanks to "Voice Over," I signed with William Morris Endeavor (WME) and together we are looking for the perfect script for my first narrative feature.

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The Pack/La Manada
(Written, directed, produced and edited by Mario Fernandez Alonso; produced by Ismael Garcia Lopez)
After school, a group of friends hang out in a ditch, testing eachother's boundaries in mean ways.

It is filmmaker Alonso's first time at the AFI Fest. Born in Cartagena, Spain, he now lives in Valencia. His previous short film "Leaving Marcos" is a multi-award winner at festivals including Sao Paolo, Uppsala and Cinema Jove. His work in cinema is inspired by Spanish writers and directors, including Cervantes and Buñuel. The 15-minute film "The Pack (La Manada)" was shot over seven days on the Red One in Albacete, Spain.

S.J. Main: What makes the themes of this film unique?

Mario Fernandez Alonso: The landscape of Spain, its dryness and its solemnity [is a unique portrayal in film,] its sensual sense of emotional void adds a lot to the movie. [Yet,] the situation is quite universal.

What's next for you?

I would like to make a movie about the horror lived in the Spanish Civil War, and also about the greatness of being human, even in this kind of terrifying experience.

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(Written and directed by Ryan Prows; produced by L. Onye Anyanwu)
The drug ballad of a gravely ill border cop's reckless cartel heist, sung by a desperate soul destroyed in her wake.

Recent American Film Institute Conservatory MFA graduates Prows (Writer/Director) and Anyanwu (Producer) bring their thesis film to the AFI Fest. The film is already a multi-fest winner, including receiving the Narrative Silver Medal at the 39th Annual Student Academy Awards. Prows is the recipient of the Franklin J. Schaffner Award. Anyanwu is the first recipient of the Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Award at AFI. Prows and Anyanwu explore the hot-button topic of the border drug war in the short film "Narcocorrido." The film stars Emilio Rivera, Nicki Micheaux, Raúl Castillo and Michael Finn. The 23:10 film was shot on 35mm over six days in Los Angeles.

S.J. Main: What is the film about?

Ryan Prows: [The movie is] about a traffic stop in Yuma, Arizona that pretty quickly spirals wildly out of control. It was important to us to try and tell both sides of that story and to try to show the situation from two different perspectives of the people tangled in that mess...We are living in trying times. People are desperate on both sides of the border. This music, and art in general, is a great way to draw awareness to the situation, and can open a discussion up. So we wanted to celebrate the culture and introduce it to a new audience, and ultimately get people talking.

What's next for you as a filmmaker?

I recently finished the script for a feature version of "Narcocorrido." I find the world and culture of the narcocorrido so interesting, and the feature delves deeper into the music scene and the border strife going on in the United States. I'm also directing a feature in the beginning of the year with Rough and Tumble Films with the working title "Hand of God." We're working on the script now with that scheduled to get rolling full steam here shortly, so that's really exciting.

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Too Much Water/Demasiada Agua
(Directed, written and produced by Gonzalo Torrens and Nicolás Botana)
A young woman fills her backyard pool every night and finds it empty in the morning. Strange neighbors and even stranger circumstances stir her paranoia.

Uruguayan filmmakers Torrens and Botana are making their first journey to the U.S. to attend the AFI Fest. Torrens has been making films since he was young and received a scholarship to attend the Uruguay Film School. Botana, an award-winning filmmaker, is attending the Uruguay Film School and also works as a professional editor. Their film stars Susana Ilamazales, David Roizner Salanikio and Estela Mieres. The 14-minute film was shot on the Canon 7D over two days in Canelones, Uruguay. The film also features the original music of Hernan Gonzalez.

S.J. Main: How does it feel to be accepted to the AFI Fest?

Gonzalo Torrens: Latin cinema is getting more and more expansive in its own way. I think there are not many frontiers between us right now. It was a good surprise when we saw our acceptance at the festival. It made us think that there is a universal need for stories and how great that communion is. We all need to hear stories and we all get excited with that same love for storytelling and moviemaking. Yes, we feel very happy to be [at the AFI Fest] and somehow it represents that same idea -- that the world needs stories, and that this same feeling is shared for millions coming from any place, even from our little lovely country [of Uruguay.]

How does your film expand the Latino perspective?

"Demasiada Agua" is a fantastical story. Usually Latin American movies are easily associated with social issues, or dramas or everyday life situations. We just wanted to do a mystery movie, with a fantastical tone added to it.

What do you look forward to most at the AFI Fest?

This is our world premiere and we're having it on one of the most amazing movie theatre [screens] on Earth. [B]eing there, showing our movie, and feeling like we are somehow a tiny part of this [glorious place that is Hollywood] is like a dream we certainly can't believe is true.

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Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke
(Directed by Jillian Mayer; written by Lucas Leyva; produced by Mayer and Leyva)

The screening of Mayer and Leyva's Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke is a follow-up to its grand premiere at the Sundance International Film Festival this past winter in Park City. The film stars 2 Live Crew's lead talent, Luther Campbell, and written by rising star Lucas Leyva, born and raised in Miami by Cuban parents.

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Nano Scifi Tales: UFO, Baby, & Clock
(Directed, written and produced by Nacho Vigalondo)

Short, short and short are the trio of films by Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, known for a slew of award-winning films, including the Oscar-nominated 7:35 de la mañana. If you miss the AFI Fest, don't worry. You get to catch these shorties right here:

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Dogs Are Said to See Things/Dizen Que Os Caes Coisas
(Written, directed and produced by Guto Parente)
An omen, a shred of time only. Suddenly the huge-bellied man jumps into the pool holding a glass of whiskey.

Filmmaker Guto Parente is extremely productive and has a number of awards credited to his name, including the APCA Trophy from the Sao Paulo Association of Art Critics for his film Os Monstros and a nomination for Best Film from the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema for the same title. With 10 short films on his resume to date, Parente is a prolific filmmaker. His most recent film Dogs Are Said to See Things (Dizem Que Os Cães Veem Coisas) is based on a short story by Moreira Campos. The film was shot on HD and runs 13 minutes.


The AFI Fest runs November 1-8 in Hollywood, California. Learn more at: AFI FEST 2012.