Andrés Arias, Coordinator, Puerto Rico Film Society Mayaguez
Puerto Rico has a unique cultural richness that is recognized worldwide. However, the availability of independent films and foreign films was lacking on the Island until recently. The Puerto Rico Film Society, a not-for-profit organization dedicated establishing and educating audiences, has developed a plan to extend the dialogue about films outside of the metropolitan area of Puerto Rico. This year, they proudly presented Film Forward to the local filmgoers at the Municipality of Mayaguez.
The Film Forward byline reads “Advancing Cultural Dialogue,” a discourse that began in the west of the Island. Cinematheque, now the SCPR Mayagüez Chapter, an organization whose goal is to provide cinematic experiences and educate audiences about film, has joined the SCPR in its vision to expand auteur cinema on the Island. This collaboration allowed them to organize a June 14-15 pre-screening of the films Udaan, Freedom Riders, and Son of Babylon.
The moviegoers gathered on a hot summer night to appreciate these films. The crowded audience was diverse. University professors, students, and members of the community attended the event, both days. They where expecting a unique experience, different from what local film theaters commercially offer.
Although Puerto Rico is a small island, the event was evenly spread across the entire land. Three of the films were screened at Mayagüez’s gorgeous and unique theatre, Yagüez. After the pre-screening, the audience had time to gather and talk about their experience, and share their thoughts abouth the films they just viewed. That exchange of opinions and ideas is ultimately the goal of Film Forward and the SCPR Mayagüez.
The event held in Mayagüez is just one part of a broader dialogue with Film Forward, where 10 selected films are presented in 14 locations. In San Juan, as I had the opportunity to see for myself, the event included a panel in which Lixin Fan, director of Last Train Home, and Debra Granik, director of Winter’s Bone, talked and answered questions from an audience of filmgoers and filmmakers. At day’s end, the audience appeared fulfilled by their experience and the promise from the SCPR Mayagüez to continue to bring this kind of dialogue to the people.