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Drugs, war and samba on screen at Vancouver Latin America film fest

Tomorrow, the ninth annual Vancouver Latin American Film Festival will kick into gear with a gala screening of The Man Next Door, the biggest dramatic hit out of Argentina last year. Festival organizers are sure the first evening's film will show to a full house, and if the sold-out opening party at the Waldorf Hotel is any indication, they're dead on.

The films in this year's VLAFF, which runs from Sept. 1-11, span the hemisphere, from the New Mexico border all the way to the Southern Cone. Festival passes, tickets, and information about the full range of festival programming are available online.

Here's a rundown of the Tyee's top five VLAFF picks:

El Infierno (Hell)

A fictional take on the narco-culture of northern Mexico, this film is as hilarious as it is disturbing. The narrative follows Benny, a Mexico native deported from the United States to find himself slowly but steadily reeled into the world of drugs, money and guns. Released to critical acclaim in 2010, El Infierno is director Luis Estrada's latest film and stars Damián Alcázar, one of the most respected actors in Mexican cinema.

Saturday, Sept. 3, 9 p.m., Pacific Cinémathèque
Thursday, Sept. 8, 9 p.m., Pacific Cinémathèque

El Cielo Abierto (The Open Sky)

Thirty-one years after the assassination of Bishop Oscar Romero, El Cielo Abierto reopens the books on one of the most high-profile crimes committed during the war in El Salvador. Mexican director Everardo González weaves extensive commentary with hard-hitting archival footage to explore the context and events of Romero's late life conversion to liberation theology and the circumstances that led to his death.

Saturday, Sept. 3, 6:30 p.m., SFU at Harbour Centre
Sunday, Sept. 11, 1 p.m., Pacific Cinémathèque


This difficult documentary delves into the horror that continues to mark Colombia today. Switching between official trials of members of the country's murderous paramilitary organizations and moving testimony from survivors and the families of victims of violence, Impunity casts a bright light into an often-ignored conflict that continues through to today. Co-directed by Colombian/Swiss filmmaker Juan José Lozano and Colombian journalist Hollman Morris, this film has stirred up much needed debate about one of the U.S.'s closest allies in the hemisphere and one of Canada's free-trade partners.

Saturday, Sept. 3, 5 p.m., Pacific Cinémathèque
Sunday, Sept. 11, 3:30 p.m. Pacific Cinémathèque

Tambien la Lluvia (Even the Rain)

Set in Cochabamba, Bolivia during uprisings modelled after the well-known struggles against the privatization of water, Tambien la Lluvia is a fictionalized exploration of the privilege of big picture filmmaking in a turbulent environment. When the star of the shoot becomes involved in anti-government protests, the loyalties of the cast and crew area called into question, and play out on the big screen. Spain's official selection at the Academy Awards, the film stars Gael García Bernal, one of Mexico's best-known actors.

Sunday, Sept. 4, 9 p.m., Pacific Cinémathèque
Saturday, Sept. 10, 1 p.m., Pacific Cinémathèque

O Samba Que Mora en Mim (The Samba Within Me)

A musical journey through the Manguiera favela of Rio de Janeiro, this documentary starts from the filmmaker's own connection with samba, and leads us on a wandering exploration of Brazil's most known musical genre. O Samba Que Mora en Mim is a film without a clear narrative, but instead takes viewers behind the music and dance that breathes life into urban Brazil. If you enjoy the rhythms of samba, this film can't be missed.

Friday, Sept. 2, 3 p.m. , Pacific Cinémathèque Thursday, Sept. 8, 5 p.m., Pacific Cinémathèque

-Dawn Paley reports on Latin America for The Nation, This Magazine, The Tyee and others.

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