Ryan Gilbey on film

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The Independent Online
The film festival season is upon us. Cambridge and Edinburgh have both been terrific successes. (Quick update on the latter: 31,000 people attended this year; were they all at Pulp's "Scene By Scene" event? No, it just felt that way.) And before London gets what it deserves in November, it's time for one of the smaller but more interesting digressions from normal programming. The Latin American Film Festival (which began last week and runs until next Thursday) has grown this year, and attracted some prestigious work. You may already have heard of Lone Star, the second film by underdog auteur John Sayles to be released this year (after the more disappointing The Secret of Roan Inish). It's the story of a revelatory murder investigation near the Rio Grande, and features brilliant performances by Frances McDormand and the underused Kris Kristofferson.

The late Tomas Gutierres Alea is another director you might be familiar with, after his penultimate feature, 1994's cloying Strawberry & Chocolate. Thankfully, the other work in his retrospective - his tough 1968 drama Memories of Underdevelopment, or his last film, the prickly Guantanamera (below) - confirm that he was an artist of great wit and perceptiveness. What else? Well, try Gay Cuba, which documents the country's stormy relationship with homosexuality; The Eye of the Scissors, a political drama about shifting eras; or Manhattan Merengue, a sometimes tragic tale of immigration buoyed by the spirit of mambo.

The Latin American Film Festival runs until 19 Sept at the Metro Cinema, Rupert Street London W1 (0171-734 1506)

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