The Cannes film festival line-up has a distinctly Latin touch this year, featuring Spanish-language movies and Latin themes. Thursday's addition is Steven Soderbergh's four-hour-plus, two-part epic on Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Cyril Vanier reports.
The 2008 Cannes film festival will go down in film history as the year with the Latin touch as Spanish-language movies, Latin themes and A-list celebs make waves at cinema's largest showcase.
Eagerly-awaited Thursday by the 4,000-odd film critics attending the fest is star director Steven Soderbergh's more than four-hour look at the world's best-loved revolutionary, Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
Filmed in Spanish and starring Benicio Del Toro, the movie being presented in two two-hour parts marks a new departure for the director best known for his blockbuster gangster "Ocean's" movies.
It's one of 22 films nominated for Cannes' top Palme d'Or prize for best movie, a selection in which there are as many Latin American as US movies -- four each -- and more films than traditionally well-represented Asia.
The Cannes penchant for Latino films follows the rising star of Spanish-speaking directors and films such as Oscar-nominated Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" or Alejandro Inarritu's "Babel", and earlier, Pedro Almodovar's Oscar-winning "Talk To Her".
In a bow, Brazil's "City of God" director Fernando Meirelles was offered the top slot at Cannes as opening night movie for his apocalyptic "Blindness" -- a decision that may have hurt the grim film, now running as one of the least-favourite to walk home with the Palme.
On the celebrity front, A-listers Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem starred in Woody Allen's first-ever feature shot in Spain -- "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" -- and soccer icon Diego Maradona, in Cannes for a film on his life, gave movie-buffs repeated performances of how well he still juggles the ball.
Even Hollywood sent its latest 19-years-coming Indiana Jones blockbuster flying into the Amazon for an Aztec/Maya-inspired archeological adventure.
On the business front, Spanish producers are cashing in on the newly-acquired taste for things Latin.
Spanish money funded Soderbergh's "Che", the Woody Allen film, and the documentary on Maradona's rise and fall from heaven to hell and back again.
When world class directors such as Del Toro, Inarritu and Almodovar made waves, "Spanish language was not a stigma any more and suddenly there was an interest in stories from Spain and Latin America," said Juan Gordon of Moreno films, which co-produced "Che".
"Soderbergh is interested in world stories," he said in trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter. "And doesn't shy away from shooting in Spanish, the language the stories happened in."
Added Alvaro Augustin, who heads Telecino Cinema, the other "Che" producer: "For talent to come to us and be able to work with with these directors is an honour."
Also from Latin America competing for the Palme are an Argentinian film highly-rated by the critics, "Lion's Den" by Pablo Trapero set in a women's prison, and one about teenagers growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Sao Paulo, "Linha de Passe" by Walter Salles.
Most-booed movie so far however is a devastatingly slow and confusingly plotless movie from Argentina -- "The Headless Woman" by Lucrecia Martle.
Date created : 2008-05-21