Jewel of the caribe

I’m back in Colombia and here in Cartagena just in time for the annual film festival, FESTIVAL INTERNACIONAL DE CINE

Just because it’s not Cannes or Colorado (Sundance) doesn’t mean that the Cartagena Film Festival is anything less than a world-class event..

First, there’s the venue – Cartagena

gate at the entrance to the historic el centro district

sunset in Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena de indias is often referred to as the jewel of the Caribbean, and it deserves the title.  Bolivar’s star city is rich with history and ambiance.  Couples flock to the romantic and colorful streets historic quarter to celebrate their nuptials with family and friends.  Bridal parties are a common site on any given day, especially around the ever popular (and elegant) Sofitel Santa Clara.   The former convent is in high demand year-round for its luxurious accommodations and extensive wine list.

In the midst of this charming setting is the hustle and bustle of a busy, active city with motorcycles, bicycles, taxis and buses circling the streets around the historic quarter.   The city is a crazy mix of nationalities, ethnicities and other groups that all call Cartagena home.  Add an assortment of lively Chivas buses and an array of business visitors, eco-tourists, backpackers, and sun -seeking tourists and readers can begin imagine what a lovely, vibrant, living city Cartagena is.

The people: Costenos

It’s not a Spanish you’ve ever heard before – but then, the coast of Colombia is unlike any other place you’ve ever been.  The impact of the early Spaniards is unmistakable but Cartagena is no “Nueva Espana” (New Spain).

“The New World” as it was described in innumerable American grade school texts is (in this case) a wholly accurate and appropriate description.

This salsa of multiculturalism is the mainstay of Cartagena’s local culture and is reflected in every aspect of its art, music, dance and food.  The Afro- Caribbean influences combine with the traditions of the indigenous peoples and Spanish explorers to make a distinct dialect, fashion, and way of living that is specific to Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta.

The Film Festival

Filmmakers from around the world (especially Latin America) flock to this festival every year to display their talents.

This year, of the 13  featured ‘Gems’, there is a particular film that I am hankering to see, called, “La Jaula de Oro” or The Golden Cage.  This film, which won an award at the Cannes film festival is by Spanish born, Mexican filmmaker named Diego Quemada-Díez.   The film is a detailed portrait of the lives and journeys of some of the people who travel illegally to the United States from Latin America.  In light of all of the negative depictions, stereotypes and anti-latino sentiment in much of the United States, this film is a desperately needed reality check for Americans..

I was fortunate enough to sit next to the young, and eloquent filmmaker on our way to Cartagena.  The soft-spoken, bilingual young man reminded me a bit of one of my favorite Colombian filmmakers, Andre Barrientos but that was probably due to both his humble nature and neatly trimmed beard.  I would have liked to have interviewed him at length but a crowded airplane doesn’t seem like a fair venue.  (Nothing like a captive interviewee at 35,000 feet).

He’s up against some stiff competition but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him.

The first showing isn’t until the weekend but hopefully I’ll have some more pictures soon.  If you are in Cartagena and are interested in attending – don’t worry, friends – all films are subtitled in English.

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