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Colombian Film Festival Debuts in Tribeca

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The Italian film director and scriptwriter Federico Fellini once said about cinema that "it's not just an art form; it's actually a new form of life with its own rhythms, cadences, perspectives and transparencies." If that's true, then a film festival is a magnificent celebration of life and its endless contours. From March 20 to the 24, Tribeca Cinemas, the house of Robert De Niro, hosts the first Colombian Film Festival in New York City. A dozen films, eight documentaries and plenty of talent will be bringing to life on the big screen some of our stories with grace and honesty while showcasing the promising evolution of Colombian cinema to the world. That is in itself quite an achievement.

"Film directors conceive their productions with one thing in mind: For them to be seen and enjoyed on the big screen. Unfortunately, most of Colombian movies never make it to movie theater," says the festival mastermind and director Juan Carvajal.

"I found amazing that great domestic films in Colombia may run only a couple weeks on theaters, then get bought by distributors overseas and never see the light of a movie projector, maybe ending up on Netflix or on DVD," he adds. The hope is that Colombians themselves, regardless of where they live, discover, enjoy and hopefully support these carefully conceived "forms of life." Furthermore, Colombian directors bet their productions have all the technical and storytelling qualities to delight world audiences.

"Colombia's movie-making output is growing and we are telling more original stories, not all of them as a reflection of our current reality. However, we are still a long way from this being a fully sustainable business," says director Riccardo Gabrielli. His movie, La Lectora, is the tale of a college girl that is randomly kidnapped by a couple of bad guys so she can translate a manuscript that has the location of hidden urban treasure. Furthermore, the film industry in Colombia has grown significantly in the last decade. From the technical standpoint, the quality of the productions have increased and production capacity has shown such progress that some international studios like Fox are now using Colombia as frequent talent pool and location resource.

Recognizing both the need and the opportunity, Carvajal envisioned a festival where Colombian movies will have their fair shot at captivating demanding audiences. Fortunately, he received support from the Colombian government, businesses and nonprofits to make his plan a reality. "It is a matter of pride for us to have a festival of this caliber in the most important city in the world. We want everyone to find out the richness of our film productions," said the Colombian Consul General in New York Elsa Gladys Cifuentes at a public event last week. It is indeed a unique opportunity for the large Colombian diaspora abroad to reconnect with our cultural roots at a visceral level.

Another net gain for the festival is the window for many actors and actresses to soak in the limelight and exhibit their talents. "I have not thought to much about the doors this festival could open for me as an actress. Right now I feel very proud to participate on this venue for our productions in New York," adds actress Karent Hinestroza. She belongs to the cast of Chocó, one of the most anticipated films of the festival. This is a film about a woman from the Colombian Pacific Coast who is subjugated by her husband and the dominant male tradition, spiraling in a life marked by violence and mistreatment.

Let's celebrate life together through the prisms of hope, music and humor. This festival in downtown New York City promises to deliver productions that deserve to be discovered, enjoyed and recommended. It is he natural step forward of a young cinematographic industry growing up.