RIO DE JANEIRO -- The Americas Film Conservancy (AFC), a Los Angeles-based foundation, has teamed with Rio de Janeiro's Latin American Training Center (LATC) to publish "Latin American Cinema Today: The Director's Perspective," a pioneering study of diverse Latin American helmers' takes on the state of their art and, very often, the state of their national business.
The AFC's president Oliver Kwon launched the bilingual English and Spanish edition a month or so back at the 40th Telluride Festival in Colorado. In Rio, Kwon sat down Monday with fellow editor Steve Solot, the LATC founder, to present the Portuguese/English version.
The book mixed established and not-so-well-known director-writers, the latter including Venezuela's Hernan JaNes and Cuba's Juan Carlos Cremata, Solot noted.
Essayists include some of the key names who helped bring down the flag on their modern-day national industries: Uruguay's Pablo Stoll, who co-directed "Whisky"; Chile's Andres Wood, director of the Sundance hit "Violeta Who Went To Heaven;" Mexico's Carlos Carrera, helmer of Gael Garcia Bernal's "The Crime of Padre Amaro," one of the highest-grossing Mexican films ever; Ecuador's Sebastian Cordero , who has just released English-language sci-fi movie "Europa Report," which has caught Hollywood eye; Argentina's human relationship ironist Daniel Burman, whose "Lost Embrace" took two Silver Bears at the Berlin Festival in 2004; and Carlos Moreno, director of another Sundance hit, "Dog Eat Dog," which suddenly gave Colombia cinema a new modern-day international interface.
Other writers who also have good cause to provide a privileged perspective, have worked in North America: Brazil's Bruno Barreto and Peru's Claudia Llosa.
The survey has no single unifying theme, Kwon said.
One question permeates many contributions, however. he added: The chronic 'crisis' of Latin American cinema as it struggles for national autonomy and identit" facing off with Hollywood.
On this central concern, no national cinema, hence director's take, is quite alike. That can be seen in essay titles.
Bruno Barreto writes positively about "Brazilian Film, The Coming of Age," but laments a loss of story-telling skills. He notes Alexander Payne worked with Brazil's Braulio Mantovani on the screenplay of "City of God." That kind of input is a rarity.
Burman is happy to be in the privileged position of making films at all; Stoll, in his "Notes from a Country That Had No Movies," notes that Uruguay most certainly does have movies now.
Cuba's Juan Carlos Cremata ironizes on Cuba's micro-budget line in production in "Rice With Mangos, Cuban Style," which, nevertheless, provides Cuban filmmakers with one way of surviving.
A pioneering work, "Latin American Cinema Today" is an important contribution in itself to a regional cinema whose cross-border knowledge industry is still slim.
That, like so many other trends, is a sign of growth, however halting and shaded that growth may be in general, in Latin America film-making today.