FICCI – International Film Festival of Cartagena, Colombia

The 62nd edition of the International Film Festival of Cartagena de Indias ran from March 22 to March 28, 2023. This year, 190 titles played in various sections including shorts, documentaries, and features.

The opening night film was the Colombian-German coproduction of Memento Mori directed by Fernando Lòpez Cardona which took place at the Adolfo Mejía Theater. Colombian premieres included El doble secuestro de Sigifredo Lopez, Mananna antes después and The Man from Rome.

Other Colombian films screened were Bridges Over the Sea and Un varón.

FICCI’s Coordinador, Comitè Curador Alessandro Balesi explained in an interview with the HFPA, “Colombia is not an easy place to produce [films], especially fiction. We have a lot to talk about in documentaries, but fiction is a struggle to find. To see so many titles in the fiction section makes me optimistic about the near future.”

FICCI was founded in 1960 and is the longest-running international film festival in Latin America. This year FICCI almost doubled the number of feature films in its feature section. Traditionally, the Colombian Feature Film and Documentary section are very important to FICCI,” said Balesi, adding the significant increase in production is exciting because “we have films that are not coming from the centers of filmmaking such as Bogota but from all over of Colombia. This is a good sign of how the film industry is moving in terms of screenplays.”

From the northern part of Colombia to Isla Tierra Bomba, films about Indigenous communities and LGBTQIA+ themes are represented in the “De Indias” and “Short film” sections.

Another sign of an increase in filmmaking is the expansion of Colombian titles migrating to other sections such as “Omnivorous,” according to Balesi. A perfect example is the film Cavewoman, directed by Spiros Stathoulopoulos, who is Colombian with Greek heritage. The film’s cast includes Greek and Colombian performers. Balesi was excited about the global expansion of the festival with a wide range of films from Africa, France, Spain, Italy and Israel. Israeli actor Shlomi Elkabetz had three films screened, including his 2015 Golden Globe-nominated film Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem.

This year, FICCI paid tribute to the Oscar-winning director Sebastian Lelio. In 2017, the Chilean director won the Oscar for A Fantastic Woman. Lelio’s latest film, The Wonder, screened at FICCI.

Among the list of special guests were American director Tim Miller, Mexican cinematographer Luis Gabriel Beristain, Brazilian visual artist and filmmaker Paula Gaitan, Colombian-Canadian singer Lido Pimiento, Colombian actress Natalia Reyes and the aforementioned Elkabetz.

Movies were screened in theaters and open-air plazas throughout Cartagena. During the pandemic, FICCI festival director Felipe Aljure decided against a virtual film festival and came up with the idea of open-air screenings every full moon. “It was a miracle in disguise as the pandemic forced us to look at new opportunities,” said Balesi, and the festival will continue this new way of screening. “It was a lesson, and we keep these open-air screenings which are perfect for Cartagena because the evenings are lovely and warm around this time, and the historic plazas are a perfect setting for screenings.”

Generally, FICCI is attended by film lovers from all over Latin America, but the open-air and full moon screenings open up an opportunity to tourists who visit Cartagena for its stunning beaches. “While locals are used to culture in the streets because we have literature and music festivals throughout the year, tourists act surprised when they stroll in the streets and stumble upon a huge screen in the middle of a lovely plaza and get swept over with this unexpected unique experience. It is a very gratifying experience to watch a film in this condition.”