Having reached the impressive six decade milestone in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, edition 61 of the Cartagena International Film Festival (FICCI) is charged with optimism, high-impact visuals, gregarious storytelling and categories to that pay tribute to national and international productions. After last year’s all virtual event and aptly titled FICCI “Interruptus,” FICCI 61 opens March 16 in Cartagena, a city that is as much the star attraction as the festival’s line-up of actors, directors, cinematographers, screen writers and producers.
As one of the most coveted festivals for industry professionals on the Ibero-American film circuit, given FICCI’s curatorial track record and location at the heart of colonial Cartagena, every year, the festival invokes a theme as part of its academic program Puerto FICCI. This year’s theme Erótika (and illustration as the official poster), brings to the screen rare productions, among them the 2021 Taiwanese/Austrian drama Moneyboys by C.B. Yi that depicts homosexuality in China. Israel’s Hadas Ben Aroya delivers All Eyes Off Me, a tender snapshot of erotically-charged relationships through the eyes of narcissistic teenagers in Tel Aviv.
A Venezuelan film by Nico Manzano titled Yo y Las Bestias (Me and the Beasts) is included in Hace Calor, category that encompasses Caribbean/tropical narratives. Other rare films that have been chosen for audiences is Garderie Nocturne by Moumouni Sanou (Burkina Faso); Myanmar Diaries by the Myanmar Film Collective (Netherlands and Burma), and the animated La Traversée by Florence Mihailé (France).
During the presentation launch of FICCI 61 at the Cinemateca de Bogotá, the festival’s creative director Felipe Aljure spoke candidly of the many challenges FICCI faced during two years of the pandemic, and which helped the festival expand its scope on “territories, narratives, ideologies, creeds, and races.”
Included in 17 categories are five world premieres, 15 Latin American premieres and 19 premieres from Colombia. The total scope of the festival encompasses 154 films from 38 countries.
Two international tributes are also on the slate with screenings of Italy’s Pier Paolo Passolini (b.1922), to mark 100 years of his birth, and France’s François Truffaut (b.1932) on his 90-year anniversary. Spanish actress Rossy de Palma, best known for her roles in films by Pedro Almodóvar such as Law of Desire, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Kika is the festival’s guest of honor, and joins a stellar cast of previous invitees, among them Terry Gilliam, Ethan Coen, Tilda Swindon and Owen Wilson.
As part of Aljure’s vision to reach diverse audiences, FICCI 61 will have a new section dedicated to animated works – Animotion – as well as a category for Afro and Indigenous films. Films selected by Medellín’s start-up festival Miradas will also be shown in Cartagena and part of the festival’s commitment to forge long-standing alliances. Miradas de Medellín is an initiative between the city’s Culture Secretariat and award-winning film director Victor Gaviria.
Among many highlights of a film festival that was declared Patrimony of Colombia are the official entries, and that include the Japanese drama Drive my Car by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. Hamaguchi’s haunting road movie reached Cannes in 2021 where it won three awards, including Best Screenplay. The film was also nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Egyptian film Feathers by director Omar El Zohairy is another Cartagena gem, and winner of the Critics’ Award at the 74th Cannes International Film Festival last year. Zohairy’s eloquent depiction of social strife in the Arab world’s most populous country is a masterwork in constructive narrative. From Argentina heralds Siete Perro by Luis Machín, an endearing tale of a man who lives surrounded by dogs and struggles not to get evicted.
The Colombian selection is equally poignant with Carlos Zapata’s Topos, documenting the plight of street living inside the pipes and sewers of Bogotá. La Roya, by Juan Sebastián Mesa, follows a young man who, unlike all his schoolmates, decides to stay in the countryside to become a coffee farmer. Amparo by Simón Mesa Soto, and part of the Miradas de Medellín selection, tells the story of a single mother who struggles to free her teenage son after he is drafted by the army and assigned to a war zone. Amparo premiered at the 2021 Cannes’ Critics’ Week.
Back as an in-person, six-day festival, FICCI covers the world in documentaries, shorts and projects that are still in the works, offering students and cinephiles a unique opportunity to meet with seasoned creatives. The festival will also offer networking sessions for distributors from big studios, independent houses and streaming platforms. Local audiences also get to enjoy free outdoor screenings under the program Cine en los Barrios.
From a socially-inclusive agenda to industry and location showcase, FICCI is as much about presenting the works of established and upcoming talent, as it is a spotlight on Colombia. “We are one country, moved by culture and ready to meet again,” remarked Aljure. “Colombia is a powerhouse of creativity and transformation.”