Festival opens tonight with Andres Baiz’s ROA; industry initiatives include producers meeting, documentary focus and film festival management sessions.

The 53rd edition of the Cartagena International Film Festival (FICCI) kicks off tonight with the opening screening of Andres Baiz’s ROA, a period film about Juan Roa Sierra, the mysterious man who allegedly murdered Colombian presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan in 1948.

The festival’s other two galas will be for Brazilian documentary Bel Borba Aqui by Burt Sun and Andre Costantini, and Spanish-Argentine production Everybody Has A Plan (Todos Tenemos Un Plan) by Ana Pieterbbarg, starring Viggo Mortensen.

The festival will screen 107 features (up from last year’s 77). This year’s number of screenings increases to 290 (starting at 9am each morning) at cinemas, new digital theatres and outdoor events for five “cinema under the stars” selections.

Audience demand

Monika Wagenberg, the festival director who joined the festival in late 2010, noted that the increased number of screenings and additional venues were in response to audience demand.

The festival made what she calls “definitely the right” decision to make its screenings free in 2012, and will continue free screenings in 2013 with new changes to handle last year’s overflowing crowds.

“These changes have enabled us to offer more films, but we are also fortunate in that we had a large crop of excellent Colombian and international films to choose from, as you can see from our programme, which features original, provocative stories by newcomers and more established directors.”

The Official Dramatic Competition features:

  • El Farro by Luis Fernando ‘Pacho’ Bottia;
  • 7 Cajas by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori;
  • Aqui Y Alla by Antonio Mendez Esparza,
  • Blancanieves by Pablo Berger;
  • Carne de Perro by Fernando Guzzoni,
  • Cielo Oscuro by Joel Calero;
  • Cores by Francisco Garcia;
  • Deshora by Barbara Sarsola-Day;
  • Il Futuro by Alicia Scherson,
  • Infancia Clandestina by Benjamin Avila;
  • Las Lagrimas by Pablo Delgado Sanchez,
  • Senoritas by Lina Rodriguez;
  • Tabu by Miguel Gomes;
  • Tanta Aqua by Ana Guevara and Letitia Jorge;
  • Viola by Matias Pineiro.

Docs and Gems

The Documentary Competition of 12 titles (plus 3 out of competition) opens with Colombian documentary La Eterna Noche De Las Doce Lunas, about rituals for girls entering puberty in the Wayuu community.

The Gems section of global titles includes festival hits such as Beasts of the Southern Wild, No and Rust and Bone.

Emerging talents are supported by the New Creators screenings by university and film school students.

Colombian section

The 100% Colombian section of 14 titles includes nine world premieres.

Wagenberg noted: “Half of the films in this section are documentaries, revealing an increasing trend not just in the quantity, but also in the quality of Colombian documentaries.

“Also, nearly a third of the films in this section are co-productions, which suggests tax stimuli and FDC incentives to attract foreign producers have been paying off.”

Retrospectives are devoted to Paul Schrader, Raoul Peck and Vittorio de Sica.

Industry initiatives

Among the industry initiatives are Cartagena Meetings, which includes the international producers meeting, documentary workshop, Colombian film video library, and film journalism and film reviewing workshop.

The second Film Festival Management Workshop will include tips from international experts on organisation, management and communications at festivals.

Guests of the festival include Peter Webber, serving on the Colombia 100% Jury; Luis Tosar; documentarian Andres Di Tella; footballer/actor Eric Cantona; Julio Medem; Francisco Escobar; and Harvey Keitel.

The festival runs through Feb 27.