OPEN MIC: An Antidote to Lost Opportunities

Alejandro A. Riera, of the Chicago Latino Film Festival, on giving Latin American cinema the respect it deserves, and working with GFI to bring new Global Lens films to the Windy City

As we celebrate our third year with GFI, Global Lens Series Manager Jeremy Quist asked me to reflect on the state of Latin American film distribution in the United States. And the more I thought about the subject, I found myself asking: When will Latin American cinema get the respect it deserves?

Yes, our cinema has an illustrious history that dates back to the silent era and includes such high points as the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema; the rise of Brazil’s Cinema Novo movement in the 50s and 60s; the emergence of post-Revolutionary Cuban cinema in the 60s and 70s; and, more recently, what some critics describe as the “New Argentinean Cinema.” And yet, even when countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela — not exactly film production powerhouses — are coming out with powerfully moving visual narratives, Latin America cinema keeps getting short shrift by media, critics and film distributors alike in this country, even though the growth of the Latino population outpaced any and all estimates.

Case in point: Miss Bala, Gerardo Naranjo’s extraordinary film about a beauty pageant contestant who unwittingly

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