Street Cinema Festival in Guatemala

March 3, 2014

“Have you ever gone to the cinema?”

“Of course,” she answered before she started laughing with the kids around her, which seemed to belie her answer.

“Have you been recently?”

“My last time was ten years ago,” she laughed. I like animated movies. I love that movie… how is it called?… Rambo! with Sylvester Stallon… I like him. You know, you look like him”.

This young woman is not a rarity in a country like Guatemala, where extreme poverty and inequality are widespread, some three-quarters of the population are poor and almost  58 percent have incomes below the poverty line.

Under these circumstances, and taking into account that 70 percent of the population is under thirty, going to the movies is an appealing idea for families, but a privilege that only few can afford.

The power of film

Film is the modern way of history. Through films we can relive our society’s historical milestones, or just take a break from the daily routine. Cinema offers viewers both a form of entertainment and a unique instrument to promote change, an opportunity to see the world through a different set of eyes.

The Cine en la Calle (Street Cinema) festival acknowledges the power of film, but also realizes that many people can’t afford to sit back in a theater for one or two hours. So it has revolutionized the idea of ‘going to the cinema’. 

Behind ‘Cine en la Calle’

Asking people in slums to leave their homes and gather in the street at night, not to patrol the area –as they are used to –  but to chat with neighbors and enjoy a movie, could have been a risky proposal, but three communities (Ciudad Peronia, Nebaj y Bethania) decided to try.

Cine en la Calle (Street Cinema) is an initiative that started two years ago with the idea that if you put people in front of a screen in a public square, such as bus terminals, football pitches and parks, this will allay their fear of going out at night in areas affected by violence, poverty and exclusion. The open air screenings are mainly of Latin America films and documentaries that can be used to reflect on existing problems and trigger debates.

The Street Cinema Festival 2014 (Festival de Cine en la Calle) kicked off the 14th of February with the screening of the documentary La Camioneta in Ciudad Peronia, followed by a Q&A with director Mark Kendall and producer Rafael Gonzales.

This three month-festival, organized by Collective Cine en la Calle, will be held in both rural and urban areas. Screenings on the first four weekends will be in Ciudad Peronia.  Then they will move to Nebaj, located in El Quiché region, part of the so-called Ixil triangle, one of the regions that suffered the most from violence and hardship during Guatemala’s civil war. The closing ceremony will take place in Península Bethania, an urban slum just outside of Guatemala City.

For many years, Hivos has supported festivals and cultural spaces throughout Central America as a way to foster the exchange of ideas and make art and culture accessible to a wider audience.  Hivos supports the Street Cinema project because of their initiative of promoting social debate on matters that are currently affecting society.

Cultural spaces are a unique instrument to encourage the appropriation of public squares, making them safe spaces (both physical and symbolic) filled with positive meaning for their local communities.