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Hispanic heritage: !Cine Magnifico! screens 12 feature-length movies, 2 short-film programs

A still from the animated film “Black Is Beltza,” which opens the “¡Cine Magnifico!” film festival on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. (Courtesy of ¡Cine Magnifico!)

¡Cine Magnifico! Albuquerque Latino Film Festival has been screening films in the community since 2013.

This year’s festival, the seventh, begins on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 8. Locations for the screenings include the Guild Cinema, KiMo Theatre and the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

The program has 12 feature films and two short-film programs.

“We have more Spanish films than in previous years,” says Milly Castañeda-Ledwith of the Instituto Cervantes Albuquerque. “We try to mix them up, and this year, it happened that a lot of the films are from Spain.”

The animated film “Black Is Beltza” opens the “¡Cine Magnifico!” film festival at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. (Courtesy of ¡Cine Magnifico!)

The opening-night film is “Black Is Beltza” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, at the NHCC. The animated film is from the Basque region. It is free to attend, and director Fermin Muguruza will conduct a Q&A session after the screening.

The film is set in October 1965, and Pamplona’s troupe of giant figures – a typical sight at the San Fermín festivities – is invited to parade along Fifth Avenue in New York. But not all of them will be allowed to appear: American authorities will ban the participation of the two black giants.

Based on a true event, the film tells the story of Manex, a young man responsible for carrying one of the giants. Embarking on a long, unexpected journey, Manex will witness key events in history: the race riots arising from the assassination of Malcolm X, the eccentricities of the characters in The Factory, the alliance between the Cuban secret service and the Black Panthers, and the proto-hippie psychedelia of the first music festivals.

“When we are looking for an opening-night film, we want it to be a little different than the others,” she says. “It seems like it’s more common to be able to show animated films at film festivals. This one tackles an issue that is still a hot topic in today’s society.”

The submission process opened in March and closed on July 31.

The festival panel watched at least 120 films and whittled them down to 12 features and the short-film blocks.

“The quality of film has grown so much,” she says. “We look for strong stories to lead the way.”

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