¡Vamos! Spanish Language Film Festival is the first festival of its kind to be held at the University. The festival is showing a series of four different films in hopes of starting a new tradition of Spanish film festivals. Margaret Jamieson, one of the organizers of ¡Vamos!, hopes with the success of this festival, it will be the first of many.
“The University of Kansas has an incredible wealth of language programs, and people that I met early on here at KU really pointed out to me what a unique thing it is in Kansas, or in the Midwest really, that there are so many languages,” Jamieson said.
Jamieson, who moved to Lawrence from the Bay Area a year ago, is a lecturer in film and media studies at the University and a large contributor to the festival, which began Oct. 15 and runs through Nov. 14. The festival celebrates the film cultures of Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil and Spain.
With Jamieson’s Hispanic background, she has always been interested in the Spanish language and culture and how it can be found in all different places.
The festival is halfway through its series of four screenings. The next film, “El regreso,” (“The Return”) will screen Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in room 100 of Oldfather Studios. The final screening, “Xingu,” will be in the auditorium of the Spencer Museum Nov. 5 at 5:30 p.m. All the screenings are open to the public. Jamieson said the last two showings contained a mix of people, from faculty and students to community members.
Jamieson said the films in the festival may never have the chance to be distributed through the United States, so festivals such as ¡Vamos! make it possible to bring these different cultures to the U.S.
“Some of the films are a little bit challenging,” Jamieson said. “Some of these films you have maybe seen at a film festival in New York or in California but some not even that, you have to find really specific film festivals to view these films.”
Jamieson said many departments and organizations were involved in the contributions that have made ¡Vamos! possible. It was also funded in part with a grant from PRAGDA, a New York-based distribution company of Spanish and Latin American films.
Having previously known about PRAGDA, Jamieson and her team decided to apply for the grant. This led to her working with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, as well as a couple people from international programs such as international and interdisciplinary studies at the University.
Jamieson said aside from the help of PRAGDA, EGARC (Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center) was the festival’s largest financial supporter, and it made a commitment to purchase the films and make them available through the University’s library. EGARC is an academic unit within the Humanities division of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
Being fairly new at the University, Jamieson said it was very pleasing to be able to successfully pull this festival off.
“What’s been really exciting to me as a new person here at KU is being able to work with all these different groups: the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, graduate students, EGARC, the anthropology department and global and international studies,” Jamieson said. “It’s just this fantastic group of people, I can’t say enough about how all of these groups helped us.”
Jamieson said graduate students from the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese helped select the film for the final ¡Vamos! screening. Since the business school is having its Brazilian festival the same night, they decided to combine the two events to avoid splitting the audience.
Graduate student of film and media studies, Stephanie Wille from Lawrence, said the festival has been really exciting for her.
“I love seeing culture and film being brought together,” she said. “It really shows how expansive the film industry is becoming.”
Jamieson said the motivation for the festival does not stem from anything specific going on in Latin American cinema currently, but rather comes from issues about nationality and immigration that affect us all, and the directors of these films are working with that.
“They’re making really innovative, expansive work which still expands many of the Hollywood traditions,” Jamieson said.
Although ¡Vamos! hasn’t been a tradition at Kansas, film festivals in general are routinely held by the Center for Global and International Studies.
“It’s just really the multitude of groups and departments of people who want to be able to present these films and discuss them that allowed all of this to come together,” Jamieson said.
“También la lluvia” (“Even the Rain”) was shown on Oct. 15 as the opening film of the festival. Viewers were able to watch this film about exploration in South America while eating homemade tamales cooked by a local Mexican chef.
“La muerte de Pinochet” (“The Death of Pinochet”) explores Chilean history. It was followed by a Q&A with the film’s director, Ivan Osnovikoff. This documentary, screened Oct. 20, is a very challenging film, Jamieson said.
“It’s a really interesting film but it does not hold your hand, if you don’t know Chilean history, you don’t know who Pinochet was, it doesn’t really baby you along,” Jamieson said.
The upcoming third film, “El regreso” (“The Return”), will be shown Wednesday night at 6:30 in room 100 of Oldfather Studios. It tells the story of a New York immigrant’s trip home to Costa Rica.
The final screening, “Xingu,” will take place on Nov. 5 at the Spencer Museum of Art Auditorium. This film is based on a true story about the exploration of Brazil in 1943. A discussion with professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Luciano Tosta, will follow the film.
— Edited by Alex Lamb