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Icaro International Film Festival: Central American Filmmakers meet in Guatemala City to Celebrate Film

Icarus, the mythic Greek character whose wings of wax melted when he flew closer to the sun than his father Deadalus had advised, is the emblematic figure that gives name to Central America’s most important film festival. Founded in 1998, after the signing of the peace treaties in Guatemala, the Icaro International Film Festival strives to promote a culture of peace, diversity and multiculturalism through the art of film. This explains why important government and foreign agencies such as FAO, the European Union, the Norwegian Agency for Development, the Norwegian Peace Corps, and the Dutch agency HIVOS have assured their support to the festival over the years.

The Central American Film Festival takes over Guatemala City

From early November 2009, posters announcing the festival bring color to advertising panels throughout the city. The festival’s main venues, the Centro Cultural Miguel Ángel Asturias and the Cine Pradera prepare to receive an audience of art-house film lovers, and the local pubs and restaurants from the capital’s upscale Zone 1 plan their special events for the visiting filmmakers during festival nights. Not far away, the Aurora International Airport swings its gates open to the directors, actors, producers, special guests and jury members that begin to arrive from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Europe and South America.

The festival’s XII edition – which ran from November 19th through 26th, 2009 – opened with the premiere of the Cuban feature film “El Premio Flaco”, by director Juan Carlos Cremata. For seven days, the festival screened a total of 93 Central American films and 49 foreign films. The documentary and fiction films, video clips, animations, educational documentaries, and experimental films from Central America were selected by special committees in each of the represented countries, while the foreign films were selected by a specially designated jury in Guatemala. By having a category for foreign films, the Icaro Film festival ensures that it does not only promote regional production, but also strengthens its ties with the international film scene.

The festival closed with an open-air ceremony under the chilly Guatemala night, and Icaro statues were awarded in all categories, including:

  • Best Central American Fiction Feature Film : “Tercer Mundo” (Costa Rica)
  • Best International Fiction Feature Film: “The Black Pimpernel” (Sweden)
  • Best International Feature Film Documentary : “La frontera infinita” (Mexico)
  • Best Central American Feature Film Documentary: “Algunas dimensiones de Efraín Recinos” (Guatemala)

Tourism in Historic Sites in Guatemala

This was the first time in Guatemala for many of the filmmakers, and the festival’s protocol department made sure its visitors took with them a good impression of the country’s architectural, historical and cultural richness.

There was the obligatory visit to the colonial city of Antigua, a World Heritage Site according to UNESCO that is famous for its well-preserved colonial architecture and ruins of churches and monasteries, including the Convent of Capuchinas and the Casa Santo Domingo, a convent turned luxury hotel where the filmmakers were invited to a lunch event. And for those more curious about local cultures, there was Chichicastenango, a town known for its open market, where vendors sell everything from handicrafts and medicinal plants to chickens and incense for religious rituals.

With more than one hundred films to watch, and lectures and workshops to attend, there was not much time for exploring this rich country. It will definitely take a second trip to Guatemala to visit the pyramids of Tikal, or the yoga retreats in Panajachel.

There is no doubt that if Icaro could fly, he would flap his wings all the way to Guatemala and join the filmmakers as they discover this wonderful country during the Icaro Film Festival.

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