Who ever said that size mattered? Well, in some cases it might, but when you’ve got an entire continent’s worth of geographic and ethnic diversity in little more than 100,000 square miles, you’ve still got plenty to brag about. Add cultural figures like Guayasamín and Julio Jaramillo into the mix, and bite-sized Ecuador starts looking more like a global giant. Now, after years on the sidelines of Latin America’s cinematic boom, we can even start talking about Ecuadorian cinema. Or better yet, we can go watch it at Manhattan’s Tribeca Cinemas from June 17-21.
The occasion is a little community showcase turned full blown competitive festival called the Ecuadorian Film Festival in New York (EFFNY), which started out with a few modest screenings at a few small cultural centers back in 2008. But, sure enough, as Ecuadorian film production has begun to boom — thanks in large part to the support of the country’s National Film Institute (CNCine) — the EFFNY has grown along with it, and this year the festival will feature a whopping thirteen features — which doesn’t even include all of the record-breaking sixteen features produced in the Ecuador last year. And don’t think these are just any old films; these are ambitious, cutting edge works that have screened at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals, including the Berlinale and Visions du Réel.
For the first time ever, this year’s festival will feature two Best Film prizes awarded by a jury of world renowned film professionals, in addition to an Audience Award, all of which will bring a new level of prestige to the festival along with new incentives for Ecuadorian filmmakers to keep creating. Hats off to New York-based cultural organization Maravilla, which has done the hard work of organizing the festival and most importantly, securing the sponsorship necessary to make it possible.
We know thirteen films is a lot to get through in five days, but don’t panic: we’ve gone ahead and put together a few Remezcla Top Picks to help guide you through the week. Whether you’re into films about punk rock, black metal, vegetarians, or disaffected millennials, there’s a little something for everyone. Thank us later.
The Ecuadorian Film Festival in New York runs June 17 – 20, 2015. Visit the fest’s website for details.
El Grill de César
This touching personal documentary follows filmmaker Darío Aguirre’s return to his native Ecuador after 10 years living and working in Germany. Years earlier his father César had hoped Darío would one day take over the family restaurant, but now the business is bankrupt and the vegetarian Darío must work hand-in-hand with his meat-loving father to save the family’s grill.
Silencio en la tierra de los sueños
An elderly woman lives alone and in silence after the death of her husband, slipping constantly between real life and the magical world of her dreams. All is changed when a stray dog wanders to her house. Silencio en la tierra de los sueños was Ecuador’s official submission to the Academy Awards in 2014.
A story of self discovery and the thin line between friendship and love, cast against the backdrop of Ecuador’s 1999 banking crisis. Juan Pablo is a timid adolescent from Ecuador’s upper classes who travels to a remote mountain town to spend a holiday with his uncle, an unscrupulous banker caught up in a corruption scandal. While there, he meets a self assured metalhead name Juano with whom he strikes up a friendship that soon crosses over into a timid romance.
Sin otoño, sin primavera
Described as a “punk ballad,” Sin otoño, sin primavera follows a series of non-linear, interconnected stories of middle class youth in the port city of Guayaquil. Confronting difficult themes of love, death, ideology, and addiction, these disparate stories are ultimately connected by deeper themes that unite them.
A estas alturas de la vida
Martín is a go nowhere bureaucrat who fears he will never escape his rote routine; his best friend Daniel is a loser and womanizer who also happens to have an uncommon gift for mathematics. Together they escape the mundanity of their lives by spying on unwitting people with a telescope — a habit which leads them to discover a man lying dead and covered in blood in a nearby apartment, with a table full of money at his side.
An Unknown Country
An Unknown Country is a documentary that tells the story of European Jews who escaped Nazi persecution to find refuge in an unlikely destination: Ecuador, a South American country they barely knew at the time. The film follows the exiles’ perilous escape and difficult adjustment as they remade their lives in what was for them an exotic, unfamiliar land.