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Cuba is coming to Providence this week, despite dropping temperatures and changing leaves.

The 17th Annual Providence Latin-American Film Festival begins Wednesday and runs through Sunday. The festival includes a showcase of 67 Latin-American films, four panels to discuss issues addressed in some of the films and a Cuban film poster exhibit at the Watson Institute for International Studies.

The poster exhibit opened on Sept. 16 and will run until October 15 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.  

Jose Torrealba, the festival's executive director, said it includes a "huge spectrum of films," ranging from a 1930 silent film called "La virgen de la Caridad,"  ("The Virgin of Charity") to numerous films released within the last few years.  

"A lot of the films are very rare, and some of them have never been shown in the U.S.," he said.

Each year, organizers choose a specific country to feature in the festival. This year, a majority of the films — which include shorts, animations and documentaries — are from Cuba.

"Choosing a location gives us an opportunity to show classics, and we are not limited by date," Torrealba said. "The showcase will show how Cuban film developed through time."

Torrealba said this year happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematografico , the Cuban Film Institute.

"It was an interesting and unintended coincidence," he said.

Nine Cuban artists will come to the festival — with some making their first visit to the United States, Torrealba said. This group includes the showcased actors and directors, who will be available for question-and-answer sessions. Other visiting artists will take part in the four panel discussions.

The festival will also celebrate films from other Latin American countries. These eight films are in the running for the Fernando Birri Award, named after the honorary president of the festival, who Torrealba called the "father of new Latin American cinema." Every year, the award goes to a new filmmaker for a first feature film.

"The heart of the festival is the annual competition for the best first feature narrative," Torrealba said.

He praised "Los dioses rotos" ("Broken Gods"), a 2008 Cuban/Mexican film, which will open the festival. The director, Ernesto Daranas Serrano, and three of the actors in the film, Annia Bu Maure, Claudia Valdes and Hector Noas, will be at the screening and will be available for questions later.  

"I'm really excited about the panel discussions," Torrealba said. "I think it's great that we were able to work not only with the students, but with the professors as well.  And having the Cuban visitors is magnificent."

Torrealba emphasized that though people often think of educational films as boring, the films screened at the festival will be entertaining.

"I don't think that a film needs to be empty to be entertaining," Torrealba said. "A good film doesn't end when you leave the screening. There's that something extra that stays with you."

The screenings of the films and panel discussions will take place in the Rhode Island School of Design Auditorium, MacMillan Hall, List 120 and the Cable Car Cinema. Detailed information about pricing and scheduling can be viewed at plaff.org.




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