Movies with a message: Cine Magnifico to showcase Spanish films in three cities in its 11th iteration

Sep. 16—Silvia Rodríguez Grijalba knows the impact film can have on a community.

As the director of Cine Magnífico, she looks for films that represent Latin stories.

This year's Cine Magnífico — which marks its 11th year — will screen films in three cities and three different venues.

The festival kicks off in El Paso at Southwest University, where it will run Wednesday, Sept. 20, and Thursday, Sept. 21.

The festival is run by Instituto Cervantes in Albuquerque.

The programming moves to Albuquerque's South Broadway Cultural Center for a two-day run on Friday, Sept. 22, and Saturday, Sept. 23.

On Oct. 6-7, the film festival will move to New Mexico Highlands University in Santa Fe.

"We've been trying to expand every year of the festival," Rodríguez Grijalba says. "This year, we've included programming in Santa Fe because Instituto Cervantes just signed a contract to have Spanish classes at the university there. In El Paso, we have a branch out there to move Spanish-speaking individuals forward."

In its 10 previous editions, this event has been committed to the dissemination of culture and audiovisual creation in Spanish and has given visibility over the years in New Mexico to numerous quality films and short films made in Spain and several Spanish-speaking countries.

It will include 20 feature and short films from countries such as Spain, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, the United States and the Dominican Republic.

Cine Magnífico will also feature panel discussions, talks and a focus on young filmmakers from New Mexico.

"We have a full-time person working on the festival from February to September," she says. "The festival has fluctuated over the years, and this year we've kept it to two days in each city."

Rodríguez Grijalba says this year's festival also has free admission until the theaters are at capacity.

"We have grants that have helped us make it possible to make the festival accessible to everyone," she says. "That's another important part of this festival. Anyone can come and enjoy the films."

Rodríguez Grijalba says the program will have two tributes in the 2023 program.

The first one will be dedicated to Agustí Villaronga, one of the most personal directors of Spanish cinema, who died last January.

He was winner of a Goya Award from the Spanish Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Original Screenplay for 1989's "El niño de la luna" and Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Direction for 2010's "Pa negre."

Cine Magnífico will screen his latest film work "Loli Tormenta," as well as his opera prima "Tras el cristal."

"We will also present to the Albuquerque audience the figure of Hebert Axel González, actor and theater director who, for four decades, dedicated himself to directing and training actors and actresses in Tijuana, Baja California," she says. "We will learn more about this exceptional theatrical figure thanks to Carlos Corro, producer of the documentary 'Hebert Axel: vida y pasiones de un teatrero norteño.' "

Corro is a founding actor and current director of Compañía del Sótano, an eyewitness of Hebert Axel's work over the course of 40 years at the Casa de la Cultura and other theatrical forums in Tijuana, Mexico.

The festival will present "Manuela", the debut feature film by U.S.-based Argentine director Clara Cullen, a stark portrait of absent motherhood and Latin American immigration to the United States.

Rodríguez Grijalba says the director Matías Bize will be one of the big surprises of this edition with "El castigo," winner of the award for best direction in the last edition of the Malaga festival. Shot in a single sequence shot, its harrowing and dramatic story is also an absorbing study of motherhood.

She says this year, the program supports the talent of New Mexico.

Two local filmmakers — Aliyah Lee and Gary Medina Cook — will be part of the panel discussion before the screening of their films "Dispatch" and "The Genízaro Experience" on Sept. 23.

"With New Mexicans creating amazing films, there's always a place for them in this festival," she says.