LAFF Combats Mainstream Film

Twenty-one theaters at the Irvine Spectrum provide an ample selection of the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Red carpets and big-name stars are no match for small, low-budget and independent films, right?
Well, maybe not.
There aren’t too many places in Irvine to watch foreign films, but for the remainder of the month you can enjoy them at the seventh annual Latin-American Film Festival taking place right here on campus.
Besides watching a movie just for the entertainment factor, the film festival provides a way to analyze film for its artistic value.
This year’s festival focuses on Argentina, with a majority of the films from that country.
The LAFF is an outlet for those interested in watching movies that may be a little less glamorous then your average Hollywood movie.
Started in 1999 by Spanish professor Jacobo Sefami, the festival was intended to introduce the campus community to foreign films specifically from Spanish-speaking countries. Some of these films haven’t been shown on the West Coast or in the United States.
The domination of Hollywood films is felt all over the world, even in the film’s native country.
According to Sefami, Mexican filmmakers have to fight to have their films shown in theaters in Mexico because of competition from Hollywood films.
After each film, panels of professors, undergraduate and graduate students discuss elements of the film including aesthetics, themes and characters, which adds an educational element to the viewing.
‘We give [students] the opportunity to talk about their ideas and to be on the same level as professors,’ Sefami said.
Sefami also invites professors from Latin-American and European countries to speak on the panels.
Past panelists have included academics from Chile, Spain and Columbia.
‘We show the film and provide an intellectual context,’ Sefami said. ‘Some of these films show issues relevant to current events.’
According to Professor Gonzalo Navajas, the LAFF committee members are looking to go beyond Hollywood and to analyze the different elements of Latin-American films.
With the debate over immigration having made a significant impact on the way society perceives the Hispanic population, the films shown at the festival may provide additional perspective on the culture and traditions of Hispanic people.
‘People in the United States see Hispanics as workers … mainly immigrants,’ Sefami said. ‘But these films show the other parts of their culture and a non-Latino should be able to see that.’
Some of the themes are mild, but Sefami encourages students to not ‘shy away from rough edges.’
Even though the films may be low-budget, they still aim to provide a good outlet to understanding the complexity of cultures.
‘We don’t watch the film only for entertainment purposes but also as another method of acquiring knowledge,’ Navajas said.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival is ‘Roma,’ an Argentinean film directed by Adolfo Aristarain that presents the intimate relationship of a writer, Joaquin, with his parents, especially his mother, Roma. The memory of his mother resonates throughout his life as he attempts to recuperate all he believes he has lost.
The film is a winner of the Audience Award at the Havana Film Festival and the Argentinean Film Critic’s Association’s Best Director and Best Film Award.
All of the films screened at the festival are in Spanish with English subtitles. The panel discussions are also in English.