On the big screen: Latin America at the Cannes Film Festival

Director Woody Allen poses on the red carpet at the 64th Cannes Film Festival on May 11, 2011.
Credit: Francois Guillot

The Cannes Film Festival opened last week in the French Riviera with a showing of Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris."

Lasting more than a week, the festival is an annual offering of charm, mysteries and tradition

No films from Latin America made it into the Palme d’Or competition, the film-festival world's most prestigious award. But the festival features more than the 20 films competing for the top prize, and Latin American films are represented in other categories.

Those include Out of Competition films (which have a big impact on the cinematic calendar, according to the festival's website), the Cinefondation selection (which showcases new trends in the film industry), and short films (which offer a panorama of short film production worldwide).

Here's a look at the five films from Latin America that are part of the Official Selection at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Dias de Gracia (Days of Grace): A thriller from Mexican director Everardo Gout about corruption and kidnapping. Eva Longoria, from the ABC series "Desperate Housewives," was supposed to play a small part in the film, but her scenes were cut from the final version. The film had a budget of more than $5.5 million and shot on location in Mexico for two years. From the synopsis: "The Soccer World Cup happens every four years and lasts for a month. During those 30 days, everybody follows the games, including cops and criminals. Even in Mexico..."

Salsipuedes: This 44-minute film offers a powerful, gritty take on violence against women in the Argentine province of Cordoba. Its directors ultimately want to turn it into a full-length film. The movie recounts the misadventures of Carmen, who takes a holiday in the hills of Cordoba with her husband, her mother and younger sister. But the underlying violence, which becomes explicit at a few points, reveals the misery of a society based on machismo, fear and complicity.

Soy tan feliz: This 14-minute Argentine film won Best Short Film Award at the 13th Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival. From the synopsis: "Fragments of a Saturday winter day. The Vittenzein brothers are alone at their family house. Mateo stops by to pick up Bruno and Camilo and drive them to the country house where their mother awaits. A sudden break slam brings them into the intimacy of a waste land."

Duelo antes da noite (Duel before nightfall): Brazilian director Alice Furtado says she was trying to create an atmosphere of ambiguity and strangeness in this short film. From the synopsis: "Based on a short story by the Brazilian writer João Gilberto Noll, the film shows the journey of a boy and a girl, with a cloudy past and a strained relationship, who will have to deal with a big change in their young lives."

La fiesta de casamiento (The Wedding Party): The 24-year-old Argentine directors of this short film recently won one of the top prizes at the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival. From the synopsis: "A young couple. A luxurious hotel room. A wedding party."

Here's some background on Argentina's movie industry, which is a haven for independent filmakers:

Argentina's talented directors have the freedom to develop their own style rather than worrying about commercial success. .. Films that would otherwise never get made reach Argentine viewers thanks to state production subsidies and laws mandating that Argentine films run in multiplexes along with standard Hollywood blockbusters. Between 60 and 70 films are produced in Argentina every year, but most aren’t seen outside the circles of ardent cinefiles.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephaniegarlow

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