Culture, Globe, Screen, United Kingdom

The resurgence of Central American cinema

The major film showcase will be held at The Garden Cinema in London, celebrating culturally driven innovative art and music, with the full-length season taking place between May 4 and June 11, featuring films from Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador.


Zalayka Azam


During the beginning of the 21st century in Central America, the unprecedented growth that transpired from the digital age increased opportunities, which paved the way for hundreds of films that shed light on the brutal realities of civil war and its impacts on displaced communities.

The evolution of Central American cinema has progressed from educating audiences about the severity of historical conflicts to producing contemporary films that recognise the resilience and struggles endured by its people and the region.

For six weeks, The Garden Cinema will showcase a wide range of modern films in a season called the “New Central American cinema” that explore a variety of visual techniques and themes, offering a culturally immersive experience.

The collection of films is interwoven with the connected narrative, conveying the preeminent themes of relationships and kinship in modern society. Prompting audiences to reflect and reconsider what societal norms tell us relationships should look like.

From the rainforests in Nicaragua to the ancient Maya ruins of Guatemala, the films display the ecologically diverse beauty that spans Central America.

Ideas explored

The season includes the film “Clara Sola”, set in Costa Rica, where director Nathalie Álvarez Mesén depicts the repressed womanhood of 40-year-old Clara, who uses her connection with the Earth and natural environment to rebirth her consciousness through a sexual awakening. In this work, elements of magical realism are prominent, which provides an alternative to the prominence of neo-realist techniques used throughout the collection.

Of the 12 films that will be screened, “La Llorona”, based on Latin American folklore and political drama about the Guatemalan genocide, was selected as the first-ever Guatemalan film to be shortlisted for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards.

Director Jay Bustamante, in an interview with Awards Watch, described the widespread misogynistic attitude towards indigenous women and his choice to “reframe the narrative and portray her (the main character) as a Mayan princess instead of a horrifying creature,” a change which reveals the depth and motivation behind her character. The nuance of employing indigenous cosmovision to pictorially express the holistic worldview of deep respect for the Earth demonstrates the kind of innovative filmmaking that will ultimately transform audiences’ viewing experiences.

The other films to be screened are the following: “Plaza Catedral”, by Abner Benaim; “Cumpleañero”, by Arturo Montenegro; “Our mothers”, by Cesar Diaz; “The moon stirs the waters: stories of seas, songs, and souls from Central America”, multiple; “Abrázame como antes”, by Jurgen Ureña; “Viaje” (A Trip), by Paz Fábrega; “El puma de Quelepa”, by Victor Ruano; “The whisper of silence” (El suspiro del silencio), by Alfonso Quijada, and “Daughter of rage” (La hija de todas las rabias).

The season will feature Q&A sessions with the filmmakers (both remote and in-person), as well as encouraging discourse post-films to share and unpack key contexts and themes, accompanied by live music from Central America.

Dates: 4 May to 11 June 2024. Venue: The Garden Cinema, 39-41 Parker Street, London WC2 5PQ. For tickets click here. More information: New Central American Cinema / The Garden Cinema.

(Photos: The Garden Cinema)



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