San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Film Festival Brings Culture to Montezuma

The first Montezuma International Film Festival, which kicked off Nov. 1, wrapped up Monday after screening more than 60 short and feature-length movies, as well as featuring an art exhibition, discussion panels, dances and excursions that brought an extra jolt of energy to this village near the southern tip of the NicoyaPeninsula.

Dagmar Spremberg, who runs Montezuma Yoga, which provided one of the venues for film screenings, said the festival contributed to a new vibe in Montezuma, a place with a reputation for partying.

The German expat said the community is moving away from a college party town to an older crowd looking for more than fiestas, adding that many area residents have been looking for activities such as the festival to bring something new to Montezuma.

Julia Villalobos, owner of Yacamares clothing store, said the event brought a little culture to the community.

“We needed it,” she said. “It’s a bit of art.” And it seems to have been well received. “For a first time, (the festival) was a success,” said Spremberg, whose studio hosted drama and animated shorts for the festival, as well as a dance show prior to Saturday’s film showings.

Screenings almost had a feeling of a sleepover with friends. An organizer would introduce the movies, which were projected on white screens, and then people would find a place to sit – including on the floor, leaning against the walls, and on laps.

In addition to Montezuma Yoga, venues included El Sano Banano and Luz de Mono hotels, both of which turned their restaurants into screening halls.

The festival’s organizers, the Atlanta-based Festival League, were pleased with how the event unfolded, and said they will try to include more Costa Rican films in years to come.

That’s because few Ticos came out to the movies, most of which were in English. Most of those attending were tourists and expats.

“We had a joke that most of the locals were at the soccer game,” said Eric Panter, the festival’s chief organizer.

Panter said he learned his lesson about marketing to the Tico population; they just need to do more of it, and will do so next year, he said.

Those who attended the screenings were greeted with a wide array of movies and shorts on varying subjects, but Panter said the feature films had a common theme: nearly all were critical of U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration.

Two of those films were screened Friday night. “Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers,” by Robert Greenwald, explores the hiring of private companies for the Iraq War and analyzes the involvement of corporations such as Blackwater and Halliburton.

The German-Swiss production “The Short Life of José Antonio Gutiérrez” critiques U.S. involvement in not only the mid-1980s genocide of the indigenous Mayans in Guatemala, but also the Iraq War.

Along with the free film screenings, the festival included an art exhibit that raised money for the area school to buy supplies for the whole year, said Festival League member Sarah Madden.

Drawings – many with beach themes, such as surfing – made by the schoolchildren were sold for $5, and participating artists donated proceedings from purchased pieces.

Saturday, the festival spilled onto the street with a group of fire dancers wowing the audience with acrobatic flips and gyrations.

The dancers performed on the village’s main strip, and a large crowd of people encircled them to watch.

That same night,“PacifiCALL Surf Movie,” a film about surfing on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast, packed El Sano Banano.

Panter estimated that 40 people traveled from the central Pacific beach town of Jacó just to see that movie, made by Venezuelan Marcel Maduro and North American Michael Cruden, both Jacó residents. The movie interlaced scenery from Costa Rica with panning shots of Tico and foreign surfers doing tricks on the waves.

The festival cost about $8,000 to stage, and took nearly two years to organize, according to Panter. He said the Jacó-based Central Pacific Chamber of Commerce and Tamarindo residents have contacted him inquiring about organizing something similar in their locations.


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