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SAN ANTONIO -- In a sense, this year's CineFestival in San Antonio could be seen as something of a primer on contemporary Latin American film. Most of the films in the 28th installment of the Guadalupe Cultural Art Center's Latino film showcase come from Latin America and Spain.
"I think one of the things I like about Latin American films and (Spanish films) is that it feels that because they're not as close to Hollywood, they're not tempted to use a lot of the formulas and clichis that some filmmakers use here," says curator Guillermina Zabala, a filmmaker originally from Argentina.
Under Zabala's direction, CineFestival returns Friday through Nov. 19, after nearly two years away, with an expanded schedule and a lineup of films that show how Latinos live around the globe.
"We felt not just for Latinos, for everyone living here it would be great to bring (films) from Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Cuba so people in the U.S. get to see the social and political atmosphere in other countries," says Zabala, who edited "Kordavision," a documentary about the famed Cuban photographer responsible for the iconic "Guerrillero Heroico" image of Che Guevara. The film will screen during the festival.
"Regardless of the genre -- even if it's documentary, fiction, comedy or whatever -- when you see these films from Latin America, you really see the way they live, the way people feel, culture. We wanted to communicate or bring Latin American culture through films."
Italian director Angelo Rizzo's "El Sonador" ("The Dreamer") offers a glimpse into contemporary Cuba. The feature film screening Saturday tells the story of a boy named Hector who dreams of becoming a baseball great.
Only a bad case of asthma and his concerned parents stand in the way. The adult Hector is played by Mexican actor and ranchera singer Pablo Montero.
"What's great about this film (is) it really shows all the different neighborhoods and places in Cuba, the people and the lifestyle," Zabala says.
"El Sonador" is a nominee for the Premio Mesquite Award for best feature film. This year, winners in the best feature, best short, and best experimental film categories will receive a $1,000 prize instead of a film reel statuette. In addition, a special jury prize will be awarded for best San Antonio film during the closing night presentation.
Also screening is "Sabado: Una pelicula en tiempo real" ("Saturday: A Real Time Movie"), another best feature nominee. In the hour-long movie, a camera follows a young woman on the way to confront her fiancee after she finds out he has been cheating on her. Chilean director Matias Bize shot the film as a nonstop sequence without cuts.
"It's very intense because the acting is really good, and it's all real time so it has the feeling of a documentary," Zabala says.
"El Sonador" and "Sabado" are two examples of the story and character-driven narrative films coming out of Latin America. With relatively inexpensive digital technology "a lot of young filmmakers are able to work with low budgets, and they're still making great, great films because they focus on the story, characters and acting," Zabala says.
c.2005 San Antonio Express-News