Carson International Film Weekend
When Ismael Garza was growing up in San Antonio in the 1950s, his mother would take him downtown to the Alameda, a Spanish-language movie theater, where the Mexican comic actor Cantinflas often had the audience roaring with laughter.
“The man is an incredible comic—he’s been called the Mexican Charlie Chaplin,” said Garza, who now lives in Carson City and is on the selection committee for the International Film Weekend there.
“In the Latino community, in the Latino world, Mexico and South America and Spain, Cantinflas is it,” Garza said. So, when he came across the 2014 biopic Cantinflas, he wanted it in this year’s lineup. He predicts it’ll appeal to speakers of Spanish and English alike.
Garza’s pick sounded just right to festival committee chair Linda Bellegray.
“We needed a comedy, and we have not done a Mexican film,” she said. The committee aims to show a mix of comedies, dramas and documentaries from as many regions of the world as possible.
The now-annual event began after members of a church book club that Bellegray belonged to read a Brazilian novel, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, and then watched the film version together. That screening quickly evolved into a small festival, which began in the church in 2014 and drew about 400-500 viewers.
“It was a springboard into thinking, ’We’re enjoying these foreign films and books—I bet the community will as well,’” said Bellegray.
Her group connected with Friends of the Carson City Library, a non-profit through which it could secure grant funding, which has helped to keep the festival free to attend. Screenings are now held in the Carson Community Center’s theater, which holds almost 800.
This year’s films include Water—a 2005 movie from India that shows the world through the eyes of a widow who is only 8 years old—and the 2011 Norwegian thriller Headhunters, about which Rogert Ebert wrote, “I knew I was being manipulated and didn’t care. It was a pleasure to see how well it was being done.”
The festival also screens independent films on two afternoons.
“Over the years, we have had films submitted from as far away as from Iran and as close as UNR,” said Bellegray. This year’s independents include Reno filmmaker Gwen Clancy’s 1990 film on an early 1900s cowboy artist, The Man They Call Will James, and three films on youth homelessness made by journalism students and faculty from University of Nevada, Reno. Those films arose out of Our Town Reno, a collective effort to cover homelessness in Reno that was started in 2016 by instructor Nico Colombant and student Jose Olivares, an RN&R contributor.
The Our Town Reno films can be easily viewed online, but Bellegray is pleased with the prospect of people assembling to see them in a theater. The shared experience of viewing films together is important to her, and because of that, her committee has also scheduled informal discussions after each feature film and an appearance by Janine Comoletti, president of Carson City PFLAG, who will talk about youth homelessness in the LGBTQ population.