Orchidea Festival Ecuador
by Sherif Awad
Latin artists, directors and celebrities walked on the red carpet when the 3rd Annual Festival de Cine La Orquídea 2013 was inaugurated on November 15 in Cuenca, Ecuador. The gala night in the Carlos Cueva Tamariz Theater was highlighted by the premiere of Europe Report, the first English language film directed by Ecuadorian filmmaker Sebastián Cordero. Cuenca is the capital of the Azuay Province. It is located in the highlands of Ecuador at about 2,500 m (8,000 feet) above sea level. The center of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site because of its many historical buildings. The festival concluded on November 22, 2013.
Among the important selections of this film festival, the Singaporean production Ilo Ilo that won the Camera d’Or Award at Cannes 2013. The simple yet captivating story focuses on Mr and Mrs Lim (Singaporean actor Chen Tianwen and Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann) who hire timid Filipino maid Terry (Angeli Bayani) to take care of their son Jiale (Koh Jia Ler).
Terri is purposefully framed at a bookshop, slipping away through the side gate while anxiously awaiting to pick up Jiale after dismissal from school; Jiale makes Terry’s
days and nights extremely difficult, making the viewer wonder why she tolerates being a maid to the family. Then we realize that the maid had left her own son back home with her sister. In time, the maid and the young boy slowly connect in a mother-son like relationship which is the catalyst that exacerbates Mrs Lim’s maternal rage and jealousy. Mrs. Lim is the boy’s real mother. Ilo Il
received best film at the 50th Golden Horse Award, which is the Taiwanese equivalent of the Oscars. Shown at Sundance 2013, I Used to Be Darker is an independent American drama about Taryn, an Irish runaway who seeks refuge with her aunt and uncle in the U.S. only to discover that they are on the verge of divorcing. The film has some very
emotionally charged scenes revealing the complexities and a reality for many modern families. Silent, black and white, expressionist: the Spanish production Blancanieves is a triumph of “real” cinema and invention. It is part folk culture and Iberian poetry, and part post-modern masterpiece in which the aesthetic of silent cinema – with its quotes and its expressive forms, become the dominant power in storytelling. The film is a Gothic version of Snow White where the seven dwarfs are toreros (matadors on foot), and the setting is Seville in the 1920s. When the bullfighting “little people” save the life of a young woman with amnesia, they call her “Blancanieves” after the famed fairy tale. What they are all unaware of is that she is Carmen, the daughter of the once great matador, Antonio Villalta. Mauricio Cadena Grijalva, the
director of programming of La Orquídea Festival in Cuenca, worked for eight years in Edoc, the Quito Documentary Festival, first as an assistant programmer then as a general coordinator. His cinematic career began as production coordinator in Ratas, Ratones, Rateros (1999) and as video assistant in Crónicas (2004), the early two Ecuadorian films by Sebastián Cordero. Cadena also had a chance to work as a second assistant director to Taylor Hackford in Proof of Life (2000), the American thriller that was partially shot in Ecuador with Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. The idea of La Orquídea Festival in Cuenca was conceived by Paúl Carrasco Carpio, the prefect of the Province of Azuay. It was called “La Orquídea” because Azuay is a major exporter of orchids around the world. Orchids also metaphorically reflect diversity and beauty, aspects related to cinema. Both Carpio and Cadena shared the belief that Cuenca was a logically suitable place to start a film festival because of its beautiful scenery and its welcoming people who tend to be interested in the arts and culture. They decided to not charge an entrance fee to the festival in order to make the festival open and more inclusive to the public. “Since the first edition, we dedicated the festival to young cinema, the first and second films by Latin filmmakers”, said Cadena. “The international section contains films by directors who have been at the helm of their fourth or fifth film”. In other words, we promote young filmmakers and also Ecuadorian cinema. We also have a documentary section with focus on performing arts, a retrospective section, and an animation section. We are hoping that these elements will grow in upcoming editions of the festival with films that also resonate with people”. While the festival features colorful selections, Cadena doesn’t want to it to be only an exhibition of films. “We are trying to help rising Ecuadorian filmmakers to improve the quality of their films given the expansion of our national film production”, explained Cadena. “This expansion allowed us to make a panorama of Ecuadorian cinema this year and might also allow us to conduct a national film competition next year. Moreover, in the context of improving the quality of new film, we have a lab of screenplays which is an initiative destined to help Latin filmmakers to polish the early drafts of their scripts. We also help Ecuadorian filmmakers with post-production services. Paul Federbush, the director at Sundance Institute, is visiting our lab this year to evaluate it for future collaboration and support”. Cadena intends to make some of the selections for the festival travelling about the surrounding Cuenca area to reach an even larger audience not able to attend the festival in Cuenc