Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival: bringing cultures together


Story by Macayla Jones, Reporter
Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the 9th annual GR Latin American Film Festival. I had never gone before. However, I was excited to see what this festival had to offer. I went as a volunteer to help assemble the programs and surveys and collect tickets once guests started to arrive. Once there, I found the environment homey and friendly. It was very cool to see everyone from different backgrounds, including various colleges and communities, come together to support and experience Latin American culture.

There were several movies that played from different Latin American countries, including Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and more. I had the privilege of watching one of the first films, Candelaria, that they played Friday night. The film is beautiful, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. It tells the story of an elderly couple living in Cuba without much money, trying to make the most of what they have and their time together. One day Candelaria, the wife and one of the protagonists of the film, finds a old video camera misplaced by tourists at her job. She sneaks it back to her house, where she and her husband celebrate each other and being alive while making videos for the other to see.

This film was very refreshing, because elderly couples are not seen much in film and television today enjoying life. Usually they stay in the house a lot and are secondary characters to a younger protagonist. However, this film highlighted that age is just a number and that people can still find happiness with their loved one, even without electricity, money, or a steady job. It showed me that life does not stop when you reach a certain age, and neither should we.

Furthermore, I appreciated the fact that I could experience another culture and a way of life different from my own. This film was not pretty; it dealt with poverty, sex and terminal sickness. However, people struggle with these issues everyday. It is real and it is raw. To put it simply, it is life. There was not any sugar coating put on the conditions that a lot of Cubans, including the older couple in the movie, have to go through.. I believe it is important to shed light on these issues so that a broader, foreign audience can be made aware of different backgrounds. I respect the director and writers of Candelaria for all of the unique layers and perspective they brought to the table on this film.

Once the film ended, there were refreshments and tapas (appetizers) served outside from a local vender. The food was authentically delicious, and it was comforting to see people from all walks of life discuss the film, its importance, and its message. I recommend this festival for anyone interested in walking in someone else’s shoes, or just experiencing something different from what you see everyday. I guarantee it will be something you will not forget.

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