International Film Festival of Cartagena de Indias (FICCI)

FICCI actually stands for: Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de Indias, or, as we foreigners like to translate—International Film Festival of Cartagena. To be honest, I had heard of the festival last year (2012), but did not think much about it, nor did I know anyone who was going. This year (2013), unintentionally, I was in Cartagena during the week of the 53rd FICCI, and I am so glad I was.

Electronic information boards for the 53rd FICCI outside the Convention Center of Cartagena

Electronic information boards for the 53rd FICCI outside the Convention Center of Cartagena

The FICCI is the oldest and one of the most prestigious film festivals in Latin America and offers an immense plethora of films from a vast variety of genres. So many films are screened that I’ll go ahead and warn you: when you first start glancing at the FICCI program, either online or in hard copy, narrowing down the list of films you want to see seems like a daunting task. Once I saw the program for this year, I was very tempted to extend my weekend stay in Cartagena to see more films (the dates for the 2013 FICCI were February 21-27 this year). If you are a true film enthusiast, you’ll definitely want more than two days to fully enjoy the festival.

Some of the films that really caught my attention were:

Roa: This was the film chosen for the opening ceremony of the FICCI. It is a Colombian film that centers on the life of Juan Roa Sierra (the assumed assassin of the political figure Jorge Eliécer Gaitán) and the events of April 1948, called “el Bogotazo.” I’ve heard nothing but excellent reviews of this film. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see it during the festival, but I’ve heard rumors that it will be in theaters soon (at least here in Colombia).

Gorgona, Stories on the Run: This 100% Colombian documentary focuses on the history of the island of Gorgona on the Pacific Coast of Colombia– an island just recently becoming known for its incredible biodiversity and population of indigenous plants and animals. The documentary creates a double story line by telling the history of the prisoners that use to inhabit the island as well as the story of the flora and fauna that has been left solitary to populate the island since the prison was closed.

No: An Oscar nominee, this Chilean film focuses on the end of Augusto Pinochet‘s military dictatorship. It hones in on the last campaign Pinochet created to try and maintain his power hold on Chile (Yes!) as well as on the campaign of the opposition (No!). If you’re not used to the unique accent of Chilean Spanish, the film can be a bit difficult to understand, but if you’re interested in South American history it’s an excellent film.

The Girl from the South: This was an extremely interesting documentary filmed in Argentina, South Korea, and North Korea that centers on the story of an inspirational and passionate South Korean woman who crosses both the physical and cultural borders dividing North and South Korea in hopes of unifying the divided nation.

Advertisement for the movie ROA outside the Palacio de la Inquisición

Advertisement for the movie ROA outside the Palacio de la Inquisición

Those are just a taste of the enormous variety of films that were screened–there is a film for everyone from kids to history buffs to culture-philes to political scientists and romantics. One neat thing about the festival is that a lot of the screenings take place in amazing historic locations. For instance, the screening of The Girl from the South, took place in part of the colonial Palacio de la Inquisición (Inquisition Palace), and the screening of No took place in the Convention Center of Cartagena–the same place the Organization of American States held their annual meeting last year. Other festival films were screened in charming old theaters and locations in the Bohemian and popular neighborhood of Getsemaní. The fact that the films take place all over the city and in so many unique, antique, and colonial buildings adds just another layer of character to this already incredible and fascinating festival.

Entering the Palacio de la Inquisición

Entering the Palacio de la Inquisición

Although the entrance lines for the more popular and award-nominated films can be long, you would be hard pressed to find a better selection of over 100 films being offered for free in such a charming and welcoming city like Cartagena de Indias.

That being said, I would highly recommend to anyone who is in Colombia when the FICCI takes place to take advantage and go! See as many films as possible and soak up every ounce of film screening goodness you can. I, for one, will be putting all future FICCIs on my calendar.

Screening of 7 Days in Havana at the Convention Center of Cartagena

Screening of 7 Days in Havana at the Convention Center of Cartagena

For more information about the FICCI, check out the official website: http://ficcifestival.com/

Paige M. Poole

“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie.  You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com

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