When landing in the country of Aruba, you know you have reached the promised land for the virgin beauty of its sand beaches and its warm and welcoming people. Another sign of paradise on Earth is the Aruba International Film Festival. For its third consecutive year, co-founder Jonathan Vieira and his great team of programmers (Margherita Di Paola, Rebecca Roos & Aaron Hosé) headed by maestro Claudio Masenza put together one more time a first-class event which needs to become your number one destination at the beginning of Summer.
One thing to notice this year was the over whelming enthusiasm for movies from the Caribbean with people’s favorites such as “América” (directed by Sonia Fritz) whose portrait of a young protagonist in the shadow of abuse and poverty is sure to touch everyone’s heart. It received a Special Mention from the Festival’s Jury. Another heart breaker but also a very uplifting and inspiring movie was the documentary “Children of the Wind” (directed by Daphne Schmon) following the rise to success of the windsurfing world champion team from Bonaire, an island near to Aruba. “Children Of The Wind” was this year’s recipient of the Audience Award and well deserved. Finally, let’s salute the maverick work of director Rebecca Roos and her touching “By Her Hand” which intertwines the portraits of several visionary women of Aruba. Needless to say this is “The Year Of Women” with these three notable motion pictures; a sure sign that the feminine voice of movie making is more vibrant and rocking than ever.
Other favorites fares from this year’s international programming includes the French “Godfather”-like picture “A Gang Story” (directed by Oliver Marchal) which features a thundering clash between two brilliant actors: Gerard Lanvin and Tcheky Karyo. Finally I have to be biased and salute the producing and directing success of my good friend Ryan Oduber who had two movies this year at the Festival: “Kima Momo 58”, an edgy and experimental short (with the ever sulfurous presence of actress and dancer Alydia Wever!) as well as “Awa Brak” (co-directed with Francisco Pardo) which was the happy winner of the Aruba Short Film Audience Award! Bravo Ryan, and I am humbled to be your friend.
Since this was the third year of the Aruba Film Festival, the organizers had decided to invite some charms to grace the celebration. With a radiant Virginia Madsen presenting the sweet movie “The Magic of Belle Isle” (side to side with the iconic Morgan Freeman) and the ever-charismatic Ray Liotta giving an in-depth conversation about ups and down of film making, we had a mesmerizing and inspiring ride into the magic of Hollywood. It felt as if suddenly Aruba had opened its own studio and was welcoming legions of filmmakers to produce future blockbuster hits. Is it a sign that it might be a good idea to indeed further develop a local industry since Aruba is located in such a key area of the Caribbean but is also just across from Latin America. Maybe it is an avenue worth exploring by the festival organizers and the local government.
Finally an explosive and fantastic innovation this year by the Festival was to put together some sensational musical nights! For our tremendous joy we were lucky to witness concerts by Latin superstars Juanes and Marc Anthony. Both suave men really set the night on fire and possessed our dancing souls. This was a strike of genius to mix music and movies in this way. Next year, let’s recommend the festival also program a movie directly in relation to the musical talent invited (one would have loved to watch again Marc Anthony in the legendary “El Cantante” for example).
After three solid years in a row, the Aruba International Film Festival has confirmed and affirmed a place among the many worldwide film festivals. It has become the number one film festival in the region and a highly recommended destination not only to delight oneself with films and music but also with the offerings of so many high0class hotels, restaurants and bars to sing and rock all night long! And, as it’s never too early to prepare for next year, we encourage you to look into booking your accommodation and trip right now. Also, on a final note, and, if you can’t wait (like myself!) until next Summer 2013, why don’t you join us in Aruba for the upcoming Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival on October 5-6. Come on, put on your bathing suit, your dancing shoes and let’s dance the blues!
By Emmanuel Itier
Special Thanks to the publicity team of Rogers and Cowan (Nikki Parker, Dennis Dembia & Erica Rand) and to the Aruba Film Festival sponsors: Hyatt Resort, BMW and the Aeropuerto International Reina Beatrix.