There has been a quiet boom in the Colombian film industry over the last decade. Despite having one of Latin America’s most developed economies, however, Colombia has been unable to place itself on the map for its cinema. So it comes as a natural step to found the inaugural Colombian Film Festival New York, which took place from March 20-24 at the Tribeca Cinemas in New York City.
The event’s programming in its inaugural edition served more as a “Greatest Hits” compilation from the last couple of years. The strategy therefore builds brand awareness for Colombia’s surging film scene and gives films that have already been sold in other countries a chance to get seen in the United States.
“Fewer films are made in Colombia when compared to countries like Brazil, Mexico, Spain, or Argentina,” explains film director Andy Baiz. Baiz’s La Cara Oculta was released in 2011.
“La Cara Oculta has sold to over 25 countries around the world, it was a box office success in Spain and Colombia, and they made a remake in India. It’s important for the film to be present in this festival because it’ll give it more visibility, especially for Colombians living in the U.S. It’s a suspense film so it can easily find a wide audience internationally.”
The festival made a smart decision with taking advantage of New York as a global city with a vibrant film culture. A strong arsenal of corporate sponsors doesn’t hurt either, and the Colombian Film Festival’s banners featured enough corporate logos to suggest staying power and room for growth. The approach, however, was a bit confounding. Despite having a wide array of features, documentaries, and short films –the selection was missing the grassroots and DIY magic that highlights much of New York City’s independent film scene. Red carpets and VIP events might be a better fit for Los Angeles, and they aren’t exactly synonymous with accessibility or building awareness of an up-and-coming film industry.
Carlos Moreno, whose 2011 film Todos Tus Muertos played at the Sundance Film Festival a couple of years ago, agrees with the festival’s mission, “I think it’s important for our cinema to bring this selection together and build a showcase for these films. It is a rare opportunity for a fledgling film industry like ours to build a connection with a larger audience and the foreign press.”
Moreno points out that Colombian cinema is currently at a vital crossroads in its development. The director argues that there is as much work to be done in Colombia as there is abroad. “We’re living in an interesting but delicate time where Colombian cinema could either be an important source for great storytelling around the world or a joke for people in our own country.”