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Thursday November 2, 2000

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Run from the border

By Ian Caruth

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Screening Room brings Latin films to Tucson

For lots of gringos, a Latino film event is getting a box of Hot Tamales on the way into the theater.

Tucson's more internationally-aware denizens might realize that the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St., is providing a valuable opportunity to experience authentic Latino cinema with the 5th annual Cine Latino film festival, running over the next three weekends.

"It's mainly to fill a void in the community," said Giulio Scalinger, owner of the Screening Room. "(Tucson) is an over-30 percent Spanish-speaking community, and there are hardly any films that are shown to address that community. So, (Cine Latino) has become an annual event.

"We try to bring in a collection of Latin-American films, so that the different Latin American communities can have access to some of their films - that's really the main reason."

The Old Pueblo's proximity to Mexico means that many Tucsonans have relatives or friends south of the border, a fact not lost on Scalinger.

"There's a big interest in Tucson in Chiapas (Mexico), so we always try and look for something that relates to Chiapas," he said.

"This year, we were able to find two films, one of which was made in 1974 ("Chac: The Rain God"), which is a restoration - that film is going to be released to theaters in a couple months," he added.

Movies with non-Mexican origins are also quality films, Scalinger said.

"We find that Cuba and Argentina tend to be where a lot of sophisticated filmmaking exists, so we always try to find Cuban and Argentinean films," he said. "A couple years ago, we were able to show a film from Colombia, but there aren't a lot that come out that are available, so we also have to look at the availability. We basically look for interesting films, films that have some critical acclaim, films that have some topical issues."

Scalinger said that appealing to a certain demographic is not the only reason for the festival.

"Latin American films are pretty interesting, pretty dynamic, very political, so naturally, other audiences will be interested in these types of films as well," Scalinger said.

Latin American filmmaking differs from its American counterpart mainly because of finances, Scalinger said.

"It's state subsidized, so it gets some money from the state. When people have less money, they tend to come up with creative solutions (to filmic problems) - $2 million would be a huge budget in Mexico," he said.

However, with state money comes pressure to censor or restrict film content - a problem that Scalinger said did not hinder Latin film very much.

"(Filmmakers) become very creative and sophisticated in how they put out their political message," he said. "You have to read between the lines - it makes for much more interesting, much more complex filmmaking."

Scalinger stressed that the Screening Room fills a unique niche in the Tucson artistic community.

"While the Catalina and the Loft will bring in some interesting films, that's more of the high-end foreign films," he said. "We go below that, and find some smaller films - else, we'd never get to see a lot of those. If you read the New York Times or the Village Voice, you keep saying, 'wow, this is a great film. Wonder when it's coming to Tucson?' (Without Tucson's independent theaters) the chances are it would never come."

Scalinger urged Tucsonans not to squander their opportunity to view these rare films.

"These films are like one-time opportunities - a lot of them just come through once," he said. "We just recommend people to come down and see as many as they can."