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LatinoBuzz: Meet the Diverse Directors Screening Films at Havana Film Festival New York

LatinoBuzz: Meet the Diverse Directors Screening Films at Havana Film Festival New York

The Havana Film Festival in New York, running April 3-11, is celebrating its 15th year with a diverse lineup of documentary and fiction films from several Latin American countries. We take a closer look at the talent behind the camera and profile four filmmakers screening their works at this year’s fest. Read on to hear from Cuban master Gerardo Chijona, camera operator-turned-director Diego Quemada-Diez, multiple award-winner Fernando Coimbra of Brazil, and Spanish documentarian Yolanda Pividal. They share their inspirations, aspirations, and cinematic guilty pleasures.

Gerardo Chijona, Director of Esther en alguna parte

Lino Catala, a serious and traditional man, is approached by Larry Po, an eccentric elder who tells him that his late wife, Maruja, led a double life. From that moment on, the two old men join in an intense search of Maruja’s past while trying to find the whereabouts of Esther, Larry’s great love.


Where are you from? Cuba

What city do you call home? Havana

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

I was a movie fan since I was in high school, but definitely I just knew it the first time I was invited to watch the shooting of a feature.

Did you formally study film?

No, my school was the industry. I worked first as assistant editor and also, during many years, as assistant director in features. Later I directed a lot of documentaries before jumping to fiction.

What’s a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like? Those I envy when I watch them.

If you could make a film with any actor (living or dead) who would it be? What would be the plot?

There are many actors through the history of cinema I would like to have with me in a film set, no matter the genre, either a drama or a comedy.

What was your inspiration for this story?

It was an old dream that I had since Eliseo Alberto Diego, one of my best friends, wrote his novel ESTHER SOMEWHERE in 2005. We fought a lot to make it real. The inspiration was the friendship that joined us for almost forty years until his death.

What was your biggest challenge in making this film?

To work with Reinaldo Miravalles, the best actor in Cuban cinema ever. He left Cuba in 1994 but came back to shoot the movie in Havana. The biggest challenge was to direct him with since he’s 90 years old.

What sort of response has your film will had?

The film had a big response by the Cuban audience when it was shown in the theaters, mainly because of the quality of the cast that we managed to recruit. Outside Cuba, it is just starting to be shown and I am anxious to know the response. It was screened in October at the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival and won the awards for Best film and Best Script.

What is next for you? Any new projects?

I am just starting pre-production of a new movie, a comedy, called THE HUMAN THING.

Diego Quemada-Diez, Director of La Jaula de Oro

Three teenagers from Guatemala’s slums travel to the US in search of a better life. On their journey through Mexico they meet Chauk, an Indian from Chiapas who doesn’t speak Spanish. Traveling together in cargo trains and walking on the railroad tracks, they soon have to face a harsh reality.


Where are you from? Iberian Peninsula

What city do you call home? Mexico City

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

After watching Shane (1953) by George Stevens. I cried lots and thought, “I want to make others feel.”

Did you formally study film?

I worked my way up the ladder in the camera department until I saved enough money to go to the American Film Institute. I worked in over twenty films, my best teacher and master has been Ken Loach. I learned his method while working on Land & Freedom and 2 other of his films. While I was making shorts and researching and writing my first feature, I made a living as camera operator which allowed me collaborate with other directors like Iñarritu, Meirelles, Spike Lee, Toni Scott and others. That allowed me to meditate on how I would do things and find my own method.

What’s a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like? Evil Dead

If you could make a film with any actor (living or dead) who would it be? What would be the plot?

Alec nor Charles Laughton searching for his identity

What was your inspiration for this story?

From testimonies of migrants. They asked me to tell their story. One of them told me: “as human beings, no one in the world is illegal”

What was your biggest challenge in making this film?

To film in less that 7 weeks, including travel days, a road movie, well, a train movie, that travelled 3000 miles over 3 countries, 120 locations, with 2000 extras.

What do you hope to achieve with your film? What sort of response or impact do you think it will have?

My intention is that during the screening the barriers between us (race, languages, nationalities) would dissolve. I want to impact the perception of undocumented migrants by someone in Kansas for example, that he/she would understand why migrants travel, that he/she would do the same thing if they were in a similar situation.

What is next for you? Any new projects?

I am researching and writing a new film. It also takes place in Latin America and is about a contemporary issue.

Fernando Coimbra, Director of O Lobo Atras da Porta

A girl is kidnapped. At the police station, Sylvia and Bernardo, the victim’s parents, and Rosa, the main suspect and Bernardo’s lover, give contradictory evidence. Rosa and Bernardo met on a train in Rio de Janeiro and they became lovers. Obsessed, Rosa and Sylvia develop a secret friendship, without Sylvia knowing of Bernardo’s infidelities.

Where are you from? Brazil

What city do you call home? São Paulo

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

I was 11 year old, my parents bought a videocassette and my grandma bought a VHS camera. I started to see a lot of films and to do some videos.

Did you formally study film?

Yes, at ECA-USP (School of Communication and Arts – Sao Paulo University)

What’s a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like?

I have no shame about the films I like.

If you could make a film with any actor (living or dead) who would it be? What would be the plot?

Marlon Brando, the best actor ever. I don’t know the plot.

How did the idea of this film come to you? What was your inspiration for this story?

It’s inspired on a true story. I read it in an old magazine and got thrilled by the strength of the story and the characters.

What was your biggest challenge in making this film?

The editing. To keep the tension through the whole film. The beginning is so thrilling that was a challenge to keep the tension until the end. But I believe we got it.

What do you hope to achieve with your film?

I want the film to keep on the minds and bodies of the audience and make them think about all these crazy emotions a human being can experiment and live.

What is next for you? Any new projects?

I’m starting to write a new script in Brazil and I’m talking about other projects. Soon I hope I will have great news about these projects!

Yolanda Pividal, Director Of Kites and Borders

In this documentary, Edie is a teen who smuggles immigrants into the United States. Carmela is a nine-year-old who knows more about work in the city’s dumps than fairy tales. Brothers Adrian and Fernando don masks to conceal their young age and perform wrestling matches at busy intersections in order to support their family.

Where are you from? Spain

What city do you call home? New York

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

After college, when struggling to turn my journalistic work into something deeper.

Did you formally study film?

I studied communication in Spain then got my MFA in Documentary film at City College of New York

What’s a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like? Titanic

If you could make a film with any actor (living or dead) who would it be? What would be the story?

I would just make The Night of the Hunter with Robert Mitchun the way it is!

What was your inspiration for this story?

A conversation with a Mexican man who had been deported and had crossed back the Rio Bravo guided by two kids, twice!

What was your biggest challenge in making this film?

Being able to cross our own financial borders. Also, breaking all the borders between us and the characters till we felt we were all on the same side.

What do you hope to achieve with your film?

We hope people rethink the ideas on the border and the people on the other side.

Written by Vanessa Erazo. LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature on SydneysBuzz that highlights Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow @LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook.

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