Latin Film Festival celebrates its 10th year

Photo by Tom Warner |  The Art Theater was first opened in late 1913 under the name of “The Park Theater”, by a local business man; B.H. Cooper.

Photo by Tom Warner |
The Art Theater was first opened in late 1913 under the name of “The Park Theater”, by a local business man; B.H. Cooper.

David Saveanu

Staff Writer

The annual Latin Film Festival was held for its tenth year at downtown Champaign’s Art Theater, showcasing different aspects of Latin American and Caribbean culture through films.

The festival started on Sept. 25 and went until Sept. 29, showing different films every night. It was kicked off with a series of short films, within the festival itself, that showed a list of Cuban short films.

“The festival is collaboration between the art theater and the [University of Illinois] Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies,” said Austin McCann, the artistic director of the Art Theater.

McCann said this was “the 10th festival in 11 years. Last year we played two films [and] we took the year off [so] this was the 10th year that there’s a full festival.”

He says the festival has evolved over time since its start in 2006.

“Historically, the Art Theater was rented out by the center,” McCann said. “They would do the programming. The last couple years it changed a little bit. It has become more collaborative.”

McCann now plays a big part in choosing the films, along with Anna Maria Escobar and Kathrine Ann Szremski, who are directors for the Center for Latin American and Caribbean studies.

“I have my own set of criteria, [and] Anna Maria and Kathrine Ann have their own set of criteria,” McCann said. “We were looking at this festival as a broad representation of the experience of the folks in Latin America and new Latin American cinema.”

He says the festival works to avoid any clichés of portraying life in Latin America as simply “suffering.”

“[We] wanted to show that cinema in Latin America is just as broad as it is in the U.S. and it can capsulate comedy, fantasy, politics, satire, whatever it is. We screen a lot of films. We try to find a good balance,” he said. “[We] try to find stuff that was recent, stuff that would move people [and] mean something to them, and that means going through a lot of films.”

In years past, the festival focused on primarily showing new releases. This year, however, they changed it up some.

“This is the first year that we’ve done a repertory screening,” he said. “[In] the past it’s always been new releases…this was our first attempt at an older film. There’s so many undiscovered films in the history of Latin America. People know French and German, and all the obvious stuff; they’re missing out on films from Brazil and Latin America,” said McCann.

The film in question, a cult classic, “Santa Sangre,” is described on the theater website as “a provocative psychedelic journey featuring the director’s signature touches of violence, vulgarity, and an oddly personal moral center.”

The festival also had a showing of “The Book of Life,” a children’s movie displaying Latin American culture. The festival welcomed audiences of all types and ages, which made learning about Latin American culture accessible to anyone willing to go to a screening.

The films shown at the festival were as follows, “Chavela, Club,” “The Clan,” “Second Mother,” “Dolores,” “Rosa Chumbe,” “Santa Sangre,” and “The Book of Life.” Along with these was the Cuban short film festival.

The Art Theater is always showing a multitude of different films and will return with the Latin Film Festival next year. To learn more about the festival or show times at the Art, visit their website at