Experiences through film: Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival returns

Picture1Story by Valentina Garcia, News Editor
Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival

The Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival is returning for its eighth year. The festival, which lasts a weekend (April 6 through April 8), is a free event open to all. While films and the experiences they provide are central to the weekend, they are not all that will be available for participants.

For the first time, the festival will feature a children’s program on Saturday, April 7 which will include a film and puppet shows. The film, shown at 2:00 p.m., will be “Anina,” an animated film from Uruguay. Before and after its screening, a puppet show (before in Spanish and after in English) will take place.

Other programs scheduled include talks with two film directors and panel discussions. Out of the nine movies shown, three will include panel discussions hosting topic specialists. Furthermore, Colombian and Venezuelan film directors will be able to talk about their careers, the process for creating their films and the backstories of their characters.

Professor Stéphane Bédère, assistant professor of French & Spanish at Aquinas College who is involved with planning for the festival, said, “In general, the public likes that because it allows [them] to go beyond the film.”

The first Q&A with a director will take place on Friday, April 6. Director Catalina Mesa will be speaking about her film “Jericó” after its 8:00 p.m. showing. On Saturday, April 7, Director Gustavo Rondón Córdova will be talking after the 8:00 p.m. showing of his film “The Family.” Córdova is also the film editor for “El Amparo,” which will be showing on the same day at 5:00 p.m. He will be able to share his experience as film editor and director.

Conversation between participants is something festival coordinators are intentional about. One of the ways this is facilitated is by offering food every night before the last film of the day. Bédère said this gathering is an opportunity for “ … people to get together, chat [and] discuss with directors and other spectators.” The food is free and served in the lobby of Wealthy Theater. Mi Casa, a Grand Rapids restaurant serving authentic Dominican food, will be catering.

Films are at the heart of this weekend. They are representative of eight Latin American countries: Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay. None of the films are in English but they are all shown with English subtitles.

The process of selecting what films to show is a long one. “While we were picking films for this festival [we were] already picking films for next year,” Bédère said; he has served on the film selection committee for the past two years. Those on the committee “watch a lot of movies” to suggest titles to the main committee.

The main criteria for selecting movies is whether the members of the committee like the movie or not. “If we don’t like the films, they are not going to be included,” Bédère said.

The goal is to include a variety of voices within the chosen films. “ … Every year we try to have movies from different countries.” Bédère said.

Diversity and variety within the selected films is also seen through the gender of directors and their levels of experience in the industry. “We always want to have at least … one female film director. This year we have like three or four,” Bédère said. In terms of experience, there is always a directorial debut.  

The 2018 Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival is sponsored by: Grand Valley State University, Aquinas College, Calvin College, Cornerstone University, Davenport University, Hope College, Tertulia, the Consulate of Colombia in Chicago, Kendall College of Art and Design, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Pragda Spanish Film Club, and Vias Marketing. The event organizers are volunteers who hold jobs teaching.

A complete schedule can be found at:

About the Writer:

IMG_4545Valentina Garcia is a third-year student who loves sunny days, Jane Austen, and preferred tea to coffee until she started college. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s