Cine Las Americas Film Festival boosts attendance, awards top films

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American Indian filmmaker Sterlin Harjo presented his latest film "Mekko" at Cine Las Americas.
American Indian filmmaker Sterlin Harjo presented his latest film "Mekko" at Cine Las Americas.

Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo presented his latest film “Mekko” at Cine Las Americas.

The Cine Las Americas International Film Festival wrapped up this weekend after five days and nearly 100 movies, many  which won’t otherwise get screened in Austin. The festival, which celebrated its 19th edition this year, saw a 33 percent boost in attendance, according to festival board director president Hector Silva.

Film themes included everything from the consequences of deportation to the complexities of young love. At its closing ceremony on May 8, the festival announced its jury and audience awards. Some of the top honors from the jury included:

Best Narrative Feature: Rosa Chumbe, Dir. Jonatan Relayze Chiang, Peru

Best Documentary Feature: Juanicas, Dir. Karina García Casanova, Canada/Mexico

Best Narrative Short: Os Meninos do Rio (Children of the River), Dir. Javier Macipe, Portugal/Spain

Best Documentary Short: Libertad, Dir. Brenda Avila-Hanna, USA

Some audience awards at the festival included:

Best Narrative Feature: H.O.M.E., Dir. Daniel Maldonado, USA

Best Documentary Feature: Juanicas, Dir. Karina García Casanova, Canada/Mexico

A complete list of awards will be online at cinelasamericas.org.

In an effort to diversify its offerings this year, festival director Jean Lauer told Austin 360 that the fest will begin incorporating more types of audio visual art including music videos. A selection of cinematic music videos were featured in two popular showcases at the North Door. Local music video directors included AJ Vallejo and Patricia Vonne. Among my favorites included “Cycles of Existential Rhyme,” which was directed by Giovanni Solis and featured a song by the Los Angeles-based outfit Chicano Batman.

The festival continued its powerful selection of indigenous films with its partner the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. A standout film included Sterlin Harjo’s “Mekko,” which beautifully humanized the story of a homeless American Indian man.

Senorita Cinema of Houston presented short films at Cine Las Americas Film Festival 2016.

New to the festival this year was the empowering showcase of short films presented by the Houston-based festival Señorita Cinema, which is the state’s first all-Latina film festival. Notable shorts included “Mis quince,” an autobiographical documentary directed by Brenda Cruz-Wolf. Although, many young girls look forward to their quinceañeras, Cruz-Wolf didn’t and shares a different take into her extravagant celebration.

Closing the film festival this year was Costa Rica’s “Viaje,” a sweet tale of young love reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before series. Its playful nature, memorable dialogue, and undeniable character chemistry set against the backdrop of a gorgeous Costa Rican national park makes it a must-see dramedy.

Next year, Cine Las Americas celebrates 20 years in Austin.

 

 


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