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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
London's feast of Latin film
My Life In Your Hands
My Life In Your Hands: A thriller set in contemporary Rio
By News Online's Alex Webb

This year's surprise foreign-language hit, Mexico's Amores Perros, has reminded British audiences of the wealth of film-making talent in Latin America.

Flying the flag for the continent's film makers in London is Cuban Eva Tarr Kirkhope, who is about to embark on her 12th Latin American Film Festival, which opens in London on Friday.


We never, ever believed we'd get to a 12th festival

Eva Tarr Kirkhope
The event has become an important fixture in the London film world's calendar and something of a cultural lifeline for the many Latin communities in the city.

But the road to recognition has not been easy, Ms Tarr Kirkhope told BBC New Online.

"It's been a bumpy road - it takes a lot of energy.

"The most difficult thing has always been funding - I'm now finishing the arrangements for this festival but the moment the festival is running I start worrying about how I get some money for next year's."

Eva Tarr
Tarr wants more Latin films to get UK distribution
The festival was established in 1989 by Ms Tarr Kirkhope and her British husband Tony.

She has battled to keep the festival going despite Tony Kirkhope's death in 1997 - and a host of practical difficulties involved in the enterprise.

"Just getting the prints is expensive - paying the duties on the films and getting them on the screen on time can be a nightmare."

Distribution

But Ms Tarr Kirkhope is optimistic about the rising profile of Latin American cinema after some lean years.

"I'm trying to push more films towards the mainstream and into UK distribution - and this year we've received requests for half a dozen films from different distribution houses."

South Of A Passion
South Of A Passion has a tango soundtrack
The increasing presence of Latin American communities in other countries, especially in Europe, is having an effect on the continent's film industry.

"There's the 'Europa Latino' part of the festival which shows films which have been co-produced with European countries - like House With A View Of The Sea which is a co-production by three countries including a north American country: Venezuela, Spain and Canada.

Heritage

"This is new - the Latin American community is everywhere now."

Ms Tarr Kirkhope is also mindful of her own heritage - she is still nominally a Cuban Army reservist, though she runs London's Metro cinema.

House With A View Of The Sea
Transatlantic co-production House With A View Of The Sea
She chooses the films at the festival - this year one is Havana Mi Amor, a prize-winning German production which looks at contemporary love and life in the Cuban capital.

Running the festival has been a way of keep in touch with the cultural currents in Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America.

'Glamorous'

"It's a beautiful thing talking to film makers from all these Latin American countries and exchanging views - it's very rewarding.

"People think it's a film festival and it's all glamorous, but these are real people - it's a human relationship in the end.

"But I have to say we never, ever believed we'd get to a 12th festival," muses Ms Tarr Kirkhope.

"I've been thinking what a long journey I've endured to get here - and I still feel so nervous and expectant and excited when it's about to start."

The Latin American Film Festival runs from 7-20 September at London's Metro cinema.

See also:

02 Sep 01 | Film
Montreal honour for Chan
18 May 01 | Reviews
Dogs take lead in Mexican drama
12 Dec 00 | Americas
Tango and screen great Lamarque dies
16 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Born Romantic
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