Latino films open cultural doors globally

Updated: 2014-08-04 06:23

By ZHANG YUCHEN (Latino films)

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Latin American films as a collective cultural phenomenon have emerged to attract Chinese audiences' eyes and hearts through their distinguished and vibrant features, as the connection between the two regions grows stronger.

In recent years, various screening programs have been put on the schedules of major cultural centers in big cities in China.

Throughout the year, Instituto Cervantes de Pekin regularly screens around 10 films in Spanish two nights a week, with some films repeated twice or three times due to audience interest.

Some of those screenings are collaborative programs with embassies in the region, according to Esteban Andueza Ricarte, who is in charge of cultural programs at the institute's main center in Beijing.

Each year, the center invites four or five embassies, such as Mexico, Peru, Chili or Ecuador, to show movies for a month at the center.

"Not all of these South American countries have the facilities to show their films," said Ricarte. "We provide them with our presentation hall and host the screening events to offer audiences free access to these cultures."

On the whole, most Latin American films are the products of Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Cuba.

"Less prosperous or developed countries' film industries might not have the capacity to export to overseas audiences, especially the Chinese audience which is thousands of miles away," said Ricarte.

"But it does not mean the quality of the films is not good," he added.

Even though Ricarte does his best to promote Latino culture — like paying for the copyrights of some Spanish language films and adding subtitles to attract the general public to learning more about the Latin American world, the knowledge of the mass audience is still limited.

The Argentine film El Secreto de Sus Ojos, (The Secret in Their Eyes) won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of 2010 and could be among the most popular Latino films in recent years. However, only Spanish-speakers have heard of it.

"Many of us are still stuck in the era of Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," said Liu Bo, a TV producer and amateur film screening organizer referring to Evita, "but gradually we are getting to know more about the true Latin American world."

At the same time, it is still rare to find any production of this kind at commercial cinemas. There are occasional screenings of Latin American films supported by cultural organization overseas. Ricarte attributes this to the under-developed film industries of those countries.

Zhang Chengmin, a professor with the National Astronomical Observatories who lived and worked in Brazil for several years, said the incomplete course of industrialization in the Latin American countries does not prevent Eastern audiences from understanding and appreciating the merits of their unique cultures.

"Concentrating those characteristics of Spanish and Portuguese elements, Latin American cultures represent and expand their influence through a passionate pursuit of art and a wide range of acceptances," said Zhang.

"We will learn more of the Latino world from a perspective of globalization."