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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Hannah Raskin at 8:25PM
Carlos Gutierrez

Carlos Gutiérrez met his business partner Monika Wagenberg back in 1997 when they were both students in the Cinema Studies program at NYU. At the time, Latin American cinema was not very prevalent in the United States. Carlos and Monika wanted to find a way to "promote cinema from the region, locally," and thus, Cinema Tropical was born. Now, Cinema Tropical (CT) is the leading presenter of Latin American cinema in the U.S.

I got the chance to talk to Carlos about Cinema Tropical, Latin American cinema and how it all ties in to FLEFF.

Q. How would you say that Cinema Tropical has impacted the distribution and awareness of Latin American films in the US?

A. It’s hard to assess, but I think one of the key aspects of Cinema Tropical has been creating a community of film professionals and an audience. We’ve been here for almost 11 years, really pushing hard. We can now see it’s a very different world from when we first started. There are more films getting released and more attention is paid to Latin American cinema, with many more Latin American films in the film festival circuits. 

 Q. What are some advantages and disadvantages of promoting “Latin American cinema” as a genre, rather than promoting by nation of origin ('Argentinian films' or ‘Mexican films’)?

A. I frankly think, as a more personal opinion, that the national cinema approach is outdated; cinema is such a trans-national endeavor. I think national cinema theory is very limited in understanding what is happening in the world.

Film is going through an amazing time right now. Cinema has enabled a lot of different art forms and social activities, like journalism, to thrive. But film theory is still shortsighted. We’re still discussing film in terms of who made it and where it was made, which is limiting.

Cinema Tropical has a more flexible way to go about it, without just focusing on the distinction between art house and commercial, but showing the potential beyond categorization. We’ve been experimenting a lot to present film in a more general way, for people to enjoy film and get closer to the film offerings from Latin America.

Q. How do you think the mission of FLEFF ties into what Cinema Tropical is trying to do?

A. FLEFF has become such an important platform locally. We are both on the same wavelength of trying to redefine and to understand cinema. The festival has opened up a more scholarly way of looking at cinema. Sometimes, academia is kept separate from practical film, but FLEFF combines the two.

Q. What aspect of FLEFF are you looking most forward to?

A. First of all, I'm thrilled to visit Ithaca, as it'll be my first time there. In regards to the festival, I particularly look forward to seeing some great film programs- it looks like a terrific lineup. I also look forward to meeting some of the special guests in person. 


***Interested in Latin American cinema? Make sure to check out Marimbas from Hell (Las Marimbas del Infierno) at Cinemapolis. It's a "narrative film about marimbas, gangs, heavy metal and rock bands in Guatemala." Here's the trailer too. 

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