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Month-long film festival highlights Spanish, Latinx cultures

“A lot of commercial film is really predictable,” Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish Mónica C. García Blizzard, curator and creator of the Spanish and Latin American Film Festival at Kenyon, said. “This won’t be.”

Since April 5, the modern languages and literatures (MLL) and film departments have been hosting a weekly series of film screenings to complement the Spanish curriculum and bring attention to social issues that García Blizzard considers particularly topical after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

Last night’s film, Who Is Dayani Cristal?, directed by Marc Silver, is a 2013 drama about the human side of the American-Mexican immigration debate. It follows the story of a dead man, Dayani Cristal, and how he came to occupy another body, scorched in the desert borderlands. The two remaining films, Wilaya and Clandestine Childhood — directed by Pedro Pérez Rosado and Benjamin Ávila, respectively — will be screened in the upcoming weeks.

Last Wednesday, April 12, the festival featured Barefoot in the Kitchen (Con La Pata Quebrada), a 2013 documentary directed by Diego Galán that evaluates the treatment of women throughout Spanish film. The documentary used clips from more than 100 Spanish films and TV shows from the past few decades as evidence. “Con la pata quebrada” means, “with a broken leg,” an apt description of the women in Spanish film whom the documentary portrays — they are trapped in an extremely sexist definition of women and their worth to society. Barefoot in the Kitchen contained film excerpts so ridiculously sexist that the audience could not help but laugh at how backward the views towards women were. Several clips featured women overjoyed by an expansive kitchen, and women who exclusively were either housewives, nuns, or prostitutes.

García Blizzard chooses each film to suit particular classes, which attend the designated screening, but hopes anyone who is interested in film or  the Spanish language will cattend the screenings.

“What we call world cinema is for everybody and, unfortunately, it gets relegated to a very intellectual realm,” García Blizzard said. American audiences, she believes, are typically put off by subtitles in movies, and she hopes not only that students will enjoy the festival, but that they will watch more foreign films and realize their value. For her, the ideal person to come to the festival is someone interested in film. García Blizzard also created the festival to provide Hispanic students with the opportunity to watch something they would find culturally relevant to them.

Noelle Jones ’19, a double major in history and MLL, is enrolled in a course entitled “Family and Nation in Modern Spanish Film.” Before seeing Barefoot in the Kitchen, Jones was skeptical that a film composed entirely of montage and narration could be any good. Despite her misgivings, the film proved her wrong. “I don’t know if I disliked anything; I thought it was very well done,” Jones said. “[The director] did a very good job stringing [the excerpts] together and I think that seeing them together was a good effect, one after another, to see that the tropes being used are not specific to one movie. It was a bombardment, but in a good way.”

Social issues like gender, systematic oppression and migration are unifying themes within the featured films. Barefoot in the Kitchen and Ixcanul (Volcano) — screened on April 5 — deal with societal gender norms, while Wilaya, Clandestine Childhood and Who is Dayani Cristal? examine the experience of immigrants. “[The festival is] not just for people who are taking these courses,” García Blizzard said. “It’s for anyone interested in social issues.” She believes that, in the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the films she has chosen are especially relevant. In light of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, disparaging quotes about women, and support for increasing the military budget, films that address gender roles, immigration, and military oppression are particularly relevant to current national discussions.

García Blizzard encourages everyone to attend the rest of the festival, which will run until May 3. “On a college campus, I think events succeed and colleges succeed when we’re able to bring people who have different interests together to talk,” García Blizzard said.

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