Latin America shines at Cannes

As the Cannes film festival draws to a close, Latin America has cause to celebrate.

    Many consider the Palme d'Or more important than the Oscars

    The region has again proved its film industry is thriving

    despite the constant shadow of economic crisis.

    Brazilian director Walter Salles is among the favourites to

    win the Palme d'Or best film award for "The Motorcyle Diaries",

    a lyrical road movie that takes the viewer from Argentina to

    Venezuela in the footsteps of a young Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

    The film stars Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, who drove

    the crowds into a frenzy with his opening night appearance in

    Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education", leaving no

    doubt his career is about to go stellar.

    Argentine director Lucrecia Martel also made a splash with

    "La Nina Santa", an elliptical tale set in a claustrophobic

    provincial hotel. While some critics hailed her as a major new

    talent, others walked out of the screening in disgust.

    Economic crisis

    Meanwhile, Brazil's culture minister, the world-famous

    musician Gilberto Gil, brought some tropical rhythms to the

    French Riviera resort to promote a festival of Brazilian cinema.

    "This is a good time for us.

    We are showing that

    we can make national films of an international standard based on

    local subject matter"

    Luiz Carlos Barreto,
    Brazilian film producer

    "This is a good time for us," veteran Brazilian film

    producer Luiz Carlos Barreto said on Saturday. "We are showing that

    we can make national films of an international standard based on

    local subject matter."

    Argentina has emerged as a strong voice despite a deep

    economic crisis which has sapped funding for film-makers.

    "This process has been very painful but it has also created

    a great need in all of us to express ourselves," said actor

    Rodrigo de la Serna, who stars in "The Motorcycle Diaries".

    "I think it has helped us say things more clearly and more

    forcefully," he said.

    Hollywood is waking up to the talent on its doorstep and is

    snapping up Latin American talent for English-language films.

    Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron has just completed the

    latest Harry Potter movie, while Brazil's Fernando Meirelles is

    filming "The Constant Gardener" with Ralph Fiennes following his

    critically acclaimed "City of God".

    Anglo-Saxon dominance

    Mexican actor Diego Luna, discovered in the cult hit "Y Tu

    Mama Tambien", will be seen next in director Steven Spielberg's

    "The Terminal" with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

    Rodrigo Santoro has made the jump from Brazilian soaps with

    roles in "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Love Actually".

    Hollywood is pushing local movies
    into the background

    But Latin American films are still seen mainly by national

    audiences with few crossover hits. And t

    he region's output is not

    reflected on local cinema screens, which show almost exclusively

    Anglo-Saxon films.

    "South America is very divided because of the mentality of

    its own people who worship the United States and Europe but

    think very little of their neighbours," said Barreto. "We need

    to become better at selling our own products."

    Salles, who hired a pan-American crew on "The Motorcycle

    Diaries", believes things are changing, albeit slowly.

    "We're much closer than we ever thought we could be, yet

    there's so much road still to be covered," he said.



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