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Buenos Aires’ Passion for the Bigscreen

Indie fest spotlights local pic preems for cinema lovers

Buenos Aires is a city with a passion for cinema: It has 12,000 film students, for example, and the Buenos Aires Intl. Independent Film Festival — Bafici for short — attracted 350,000 people last year, up 15% on the previous edition.
Artistic director Marcelo Panozzo, who took over the reins last May, points out that while the Internet has increased the awareness of independent cinema among Argentine auds, these films do not, by and large, get distribution in theaters: The fest is the only place where they can be seen on a bigscreen.

The vibe of the fest, which runs April 10-21, can be summed up in one word, says Panozzo: Curiosity. “It’s the word that best defines the excitement that forms around the programming’s announcement,” he says.

But what makes the fest a must-attend? “First and foremost, that the majority of important Argentinean films from the past 15 years originated in Bafici. Second, we screen 450 films, and in that selection there are films for everyone’s taste. It’s a must for those who want to see the premieres and discover the new talents of the region’s cinema. Finally, Buenos Aires is a lovely city in April.”

Including Hawaii from Marco Berger (Plan B, Absent) and the Lucia Puenzo-produced Bomb, the majority of the local films screening are world premieres or have been little seen abroad, such as Leonardo Brzezicki’s Night.

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“The best thing about Bafici is that it allows a snapshot of the current state of Argentine cinema,” Panozzo says.

Among changes this year is a redo for the second international competition, previously called Cinema of the Future, now renamed Avant Garde & Genre, with a character distinct from the main section unlike its predecessor.

“In both experimental and genre film (and hybrids), interesting things are happening, that festivals tend to program at the margins, but we wanted to push those films to center-stage,” he says.
The fest is also being streamlined, eliminating many sub-sections and focuses, Panozzo says.

Aside from the festival itself, Panozzo would also like to see screenings of the films at other times of the year. “It’s necessary that festivals are not a 10-day oasis in the middle of the desert, that they collaborate in the most active ways possible, so that their cities’ screens are as diverse as possible.”

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