Wrap-Up of Festivalissimo

After 11 days of fun, film, art, dancing, and music the 10th annual Festivalissimo wrapped up this past Sunday evening. The festival, which spotlights Latino and Iberian culture, ended with a bang as it hosted a closing night of music and dancing on Saturday night. La Noche Loca (or The Crazy Night) took place at Club Soda and the highlight was a performance by American salsa/rumba sensation Luisito Rosario. Rosario was accompanied onstage by 12 supporting musicians and their high-energy music and performance really was appreciated by those in attendance. On the spectacles side of the festival, 'Nuevo Tango' by Argentinean tango troupe Tangokinesis, who performed for 2 nights at Centre Pierre Peladeau, was equally breathtaking. This was their first performance in Montreal and I am sure we all hope it is not their last.

For those of you who appreciate art, Art Feria was the part of the festival that was for you. The 12 participating artist, from countries such as Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru, brought a little sunshine into our grey Montreal winter. Their works were on display in 5 different galleries across the city and gave us some insight into the techniques, colours and subject matters that interest or are used by Latino-Iberian artists.

The largest part of the festival is the film section which was more than ably programmed by Yuri Berger. Berger brought in all types of films (shorts, features, documentaries) from many different countries (Canada, United States, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, etc.). There were over 60 films for us to take in and, if you were like me, I wanted to clone myself so I could see all of them. In the Official Selection (those films in competition portion) there were 17 films vying for the 3 prestigious El Sol Awards and the Public Prize. The high quality of films and performances, I am sure, made it very difficult for the jury (comprised of film critics Luc Chaput and Manon Dumais and director Federico Hidalgo) to choose their winners. The El Sol Award for Best Film went to director Carlos Reygadas (Mexico) for his film 'Batalla en el Cielo' (Battle in Heaven), which was about the ethical choices that sometimes crop up in life. This film was also in the running for the Palme D'Or at Cannes last year. A Special Mention was given to the film 'Los Muertos' by director Lisandro Alonso (Argentina). Actress China Zorilla won the El Sol for Best Actress for her performance in the film 'Elsa y Fred' (Argentina) and Nancho Novo won the El Sol for Best Actor for his performance in the film 'Astronautas' (Spain). The Jacques Cartier Public Prize, which was voted on by festival goers, was awarded to Tristan Bauer (Argentina) for his film 'Illuminados por el Fuego' (Blessed by Fire) with a Special Mention going to 'A Dios Momo' by Leonardo Recagni (Uruguay). The two big winners of the festival, 'Batalla en el Cielo' and 'Illuminados por el Fuego', will benefit from wide releases in Montreal. An added bonus for Montrealers is that director Carlos Reygadas will be on hand at the screenings of his film at Cinema du Parc happening from March 13-16 (www.cinemaduparc.com).

The organizers of the festival (Elisa Pierna, Pierre-Etienne Laporte, Yuri Berger, etc.) should be commended for putting on a festival which really gave us an indication of the variety, colours and passion that makes up Latino-Iberian culture. Cannot wait to see what they attempt in 2007 to try and top what marvels they accomplished this year!

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