by Michele Zipkin
Whether you’re a cinema dork or just enjoy watching an occasional film, you might know about the screenings at International House Philadelphia on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. If you don’t know about them, now is a good time to learn! They show films from a variety of time periods, an abundance of genres and in many languages. They even have screenings themed by director.
On April 27th, International House will host a one-day Latin-American film festival, including the films Paal (Child), The Unique Ladies, Violeta se fue al los cielos (Violeta Went to Heaven), a short film called Mi Primer Amor (My First Love), and 7 Cajas (7 Boxes). A free reception featuring the music of Magdaliz and her ensemble, Crisol, will take place at 6pm after Mi Primer Amor. The group performs music from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Columbia and Venezuela.
Violeta se fue al los cielos tells the story of Chilean folk singer and cultural icon Violeta Parra, whose music reflects her social and political dedication to her country. Her most recognized song, “Gracias a la Vida”, was spread through Latin America by Argentinian singer Mercedes Sosa and through the US by Joan Baez. This beautiful yet deeply tragic song was written after Parra separated from her partner Gilbert Favre, and not long before she ended her own life. The lyrics are ambiguous in that, on one hand, they suggest a celebration of life, but they also connote a kind of suicide note, as Parra thanks life for what it has given her. It is one of the most covered Latin-American songs in history. Parra’s traditional folk songs set the bar for the “Chilean New Song”, a kind of reinvention of Chilean folk music.
Paal centers on a Mayan child named Memo, whose dream is to tell the stories of his people when he grows up. Through his desire to realize his dream, we get a glimpse of the day to day culture of Memo’s town in Yucatan’s jungle in the South of Mexico.
The Unique Ladies is a short documentary focusing on an all-women car club in Chicano San Diego. The film gives an intimate look at how these female racers challenge gender norms within low-rider culture.
Mi Primer Amor focuses on 10-year old Matthew who is intrigued by his older cousin Camila, who lives in the same house with him. Camila is a 24-year old model who records TV spots and watches over her cousin at the request of her aunt and uncle who are traveling.
In 7 Cajas, 17-year-old Victor is a wheelbarrow boy in Asuncion, Paraguay, who longs to become famous. In his travels to the market place called Mercado 4, he is offered a job to deliver seven boxes, the contents of which are unknown. But there are people in hot pursuit of what’s in each box, and Victor finds himself wrapped up in an illicit and dangerous operation about which he knows nothing.
To see IHP’s calendar of events and to reserve tickets, visit International House online. IHP is located at 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.