Monday, June 24, 2024

European Union Film Festival launches with intensity

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Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer

Humour-laced speeches and the screening of an emotionally charged film marked the return of the European Union (EU) Film Festival last Thursday. The 11th staging of the event was launched at the Sagicor Auditorium and is returning to local soil after a two-year absence.

The festival is coordinated by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain (Spain is currently the stewards of the European Union), with input from other EU member countries.

Jesús Silva, ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain, said the EU members were enthusiastic about the return of this “major cultural affair”.

Olivia Grange, minister of youth, sports and culture, said the return of the film festival was a consolidation of partnership between Jamaica and the EU, and described the festival as a gesture that would allow Jamaicans to enter the world of film beyond Hollywood.

“Film offers possibilities of life’s experience when it is engaged,” said Grange, citing two of Jamaica’s trailblazing films as examples. “The Harder They Come provides us with an insight into the Jamaican people’s way of life and Cool Runnings shows the bold energy of the Jamaican society,” she pointed out.

REAL STORY

The featured film, titled Camino (The Way), was inspired by the real story of Alexia Gonzalez-Barros, who died from cancer at age 14. Written and directed by Javier Fesser, the film, which has won six Goya Awards (Spain’s equivalent to the Oscar), is a heart-rending depiction. Its fast-paced traversing reality and fantasy may not appeal to the average theatregoer, but it is a gold mine for scholars of religion and sociology.

At its literal level, the film is the story of 11-year-old Camino (Nerea Camacho) who becomes stricken with some form of cancer. But her mother, Gloria (Carme Elias), an overtly controlling, devoted and practising Catholic, along with her army of priestly advisers, sees Camino’s suffering as a gift from God and takes some questionable actions in finding medical treatment. But while young Camino goes through her different stages of suffering with a smile, her two desires are to play a part in the school’s play, Cinderella, and to tell Jesus, a cousin of one her friends, that she loves him.

Generally, the acting is superb and young Camacho is deserving of the Goya award for Best New Actress. Mariano Venancio as Jose, Camino’s father, was just as compelling, likewise Manuella Velles as Camino’s sister, Nuria.

When the tape stopped rolling, it was a very silent audience which left the auditorium. Among the guests were former Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall and Lady Hall.

“It was moving, intense, sad, well acted, but almost unreal,” said Lady Hall.

The two-year absence of the film festival was a result of the logistics of organising such an event, according to Evelyn Van Eck of the Embassy of Belgium. The challenges included finding an auditorium, working with a small budget and censorship. The Kingdom of Spain, however, “thought it was necessary to revive the festival as it is an important part of Jamaica’s cultural landscape,” said Suzette Wood, coordinator of the festival.

The festival will span 14 days and showcase 14 films from 11 countries at the Sagicor Auditorium. The films include The Beat My Heart Skipped, Friends Like These and Small Island, a United Kingdom movie centred on two Jamaicans.

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