The story of how the annual Colombian Film Festival found its place in New York City can be traced back to a single serendipitous moment when its founder, Juan Carvajal, was leaving a screening of a Colombian film at New York University. “The rooms were full of New Yorker and Colombian moviegoers,” remembers Carvajal, who was impressed by the strong turnout. Whereas audiences in Colombia consumed Hollywood films, Latinos in New York, he noticed, flocked to support Colombian-made film. “That’s when it hit me that there was an invisible and indivisible cord connecting audiences here to their Colombian roots.”
Seizing the opportunity to connect the diaspora with its homeland, Carvajal founded the CFF in 2013. “As immigrants, we are vigilant about what’s happening in our home countries. It’s very exciting to watch a movie and see your land, your customs with your stories.” Now in its seventh year, the festival is gaining cult-like status. There will be 30 films across the categories of fiction, documentaries and short films from which to choose and a retrospective of three works by director Ciro Guerra, including Embrace the Serpent, nominated for an Academy Award for Foreign Language Film in 2016. “At the beginning of the festival, we had movies about drug trafficking and violence, and that has been transforming,” says the Cali-born screenwriter and cinephile. “The community has witnessed the processes of war, the violence that has touched us, but we have also seen how it has mutated and transformed into a peace process. The movies have told that.”
Indeed, the films showing this year have moved beyond the drug cartel sagas worldwide audiences have come to expect of Colombian film. There is Niña errante (Wandering Girl) about young sisters who go on a road trip across Colombia after their father’s death. Another film is El piedra (The Stone) about an aging boxer from Cartagena who is hired to lose fights and whose life is changed when he meets a 12-year-old boy claiming to be his son. There is also Los días de la ballena (Days of the Whale) about a pair of graffiti artists and the dangers they face in Medellin. “There are many beautiful things that are happening and the festival is giving others the opportunity to witness the changes. That is something very special.”
To read more about the selection of films or buy tickets, visit https://colfilmny.com/schedule/
Running through Sunday, March 31st at the Cinépolis Chelsea Theater at 260 West 23rdStreet, New York, NY 10011.