Colombia and Cinema: The Bogotá Film Festival

When discussing cinema-friendly cities, Cannes, Venice or Park City might spring to mind. Bogotá is probably not on the radar of many cinephiles, but for at least one week in October, the city aims to change that. The Bogotá Film Festival, now in its 30th year, is the most important annual event for the capital city’s growing film community, bringing in directors, actors and industry representatives from across the country, the continent and the world. With affordable ticket prices and showcases for many up-and-coming Spanish-language directors, it’s one of the season’s cultural highlights in Bogotá and a necessary addition to the to-do list for any film fan.

The Bogota Film Festival is celebrating its 30th year

The Bogota Film Festival is celebrating its 30th year – photo courtesy of Festival de Cine de Bogota

What: The festival is divided into showcase and competition sections, with some films simply taking advantage of the opportunity to increase exposure, while others battle for the top prize in categories including animated feature, children’s film, drama, shorts and environmental documentary, as well as the grand prize of Best Film. Past winners have included “Amores Perros,” by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, and “La ley del deseo” an early film from acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, which received its first film festival prize at the Bogotá event.

The festival traditionally chooses several “guests of honor,” which can be either specific directors and actors or an entire country’s film industry. This year will feature a retrospective of the Venezuelan director Diego Risquez and an homage to the almost 70-year career of Spanish actress Sarita Montiel, who died in April. The 2013 event is especially large, as it marks the celebration of the festival’s 30th anniversary, and many past participants are expected to attend.

Los Colores de la Montana, Colombia's 2011 Oscar entry for best foreign language film

Los Colores de la Montana, Colombia’s 2011 Oscar entry for best foreign language film – photo courtesy of IPES Área Internacional y Aula DDHH

Why: According to its founders, the goals of the festival are to “show the best of global cinematography, encourage Colombian production and serve as a tool to stimulate the industry and a motor to disseminate the culture of cinematography.” With that goal in mind, the festival welcomes diverse entries from countries from Chile to the Philippines, but always maintains a strong focus on Colombian filmmaking. Domestic films have their own categories in the competition, which aims to encourage growth of the Colombian film industry. While some Colombian films do enjoy widespread success, the most popular movies across the country are still Hollywood blockbusters. The festival’s organizers hope to show that there is plenty of homegrown talent here, too.

When: The festival takes place from October 16-24, with the winners announced on the final day.

An independent Bogota theater

An independent Bogota theater – photo courtesy of noalsilencio

Where: Throughout the week, the festival will show films in five theaters in different locations, including the National Museum, downtown and the Zona Rosa. There are also related events at other public sites, such as museums and the Botanic Garden. In order to encourage artistic production, the festival has also opened a studio to be used as a meeting space, photography studio and site for artistic projects aimed at youth.

With daily flights to Bogotá, LAN Airlines and its affiliates make it easy to visit the city and catch a few flicks.

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