The Rapidian

Eighth annual Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival held at Wealthy Theatre

Directors Gustavo Rondon and Catalina Mesa speak on behalf of their films and the festival as a whole, as well as it's crucial importance to the community.

The eighth annual Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival (GRLAFF) kicked off on Friday, April 6 at the Wealthy Theatre in SE Grand Rapids with prominent guests including Gustavo Rondon. Rondon is a screenplay writer and director from Venezuela, whose film La Familia was featured in the festival on Saturday, April 7.

Rondon attended the festival Friday night as a guest and observer of the other films, but spoke on the making of his work and current issues in Venezuela. As a screenplay writer and director for nearly fifteen years, his film La Familia is his first long feature film that delivers a story of families in a blue-collar violent neighborhood.

When asked what the sole purpose behind the making of his film was, Rondon said it was to “explore family relationships and violence in Venezuelan cities.”

"The film shows how this shapes people's reactions and relations, as well as how the violence brings them closer together," he said.

As the script and shooting of the film took a year and a half to finish in Venezuela, Rondon points out that “It is not only about the script, it is about the progress and the people that contributed.”

When touching on the current state of the economy in Venezuela, Rondon mentioned that it is a contemporary time and played a role in the making of his film. He said “The film focuses more on the union of relationships and is an intimate story, but it covers how people react to their surroundings and what is happening currently in Venezuela.”

In discussion on the state of democracy in the Western Hemisphere, Rondon explained it as a “complex theme” and that “humanity is going through a crisis of believing and a crisis of fear...it is a difficult trial yet somehow people are still learning and thinking that there might be possibility for citizens to come together.”

“We as people arenow experts in the idea of consequence," Rondon said when answering if he personally sees any parallels between the leadership in Venezuela and the Trump administration in the United States. He also said “I am not an expert on these concepts, but I do see similarities in their ideas.”

Catalina Mesa, director of Jerico: The Infinite Flight of Days, was the featured director of the night. She socialized and enjoyed the night's events as well as speaking at a Q and A session after the showing of her film.

As Mesa’s first long feature film, its inspiration was from her grand aunt and was the “idea of preserving feminism and the memory of her roots.” said Mesa. She explained that the film shows “the spirit of their time, leaving a memory and a song of love.”

Mesa’s film was recommended to GRLAFF after it was featured in many other festivals, including Columbia College in Chicago. She emphasized her passion for Universities contributing to these events and said “it is very brave and beautiful of them to work and come together.”

The best part about these kinds of festivals is that “it shows a community that is diverse, being a window into Latin productions, and it opens people up to different perspectives," Mesa said.

“The richness in my life is the contact with different cultures," Mesa said.

Allison Monroe, a sophomore Medical Laboratory Science major and Spanish minor at Grand Valley State University, attended the event.

“I really enjoy foreign films and wanted to get outside knowledge for my Spanish course," she said.

When asked what she hoped to gain from this event, she said, “I am really curious about culture and diversity, and I want to connect with other Spanish speaking people.”

She also explained that the GRLAFF is important for students and members of the community to attend because it "expands knowledge about the world around us and is a good way to connect with people from other cultures who have different experiences.”

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