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May 7 - May 9

The Poetic Realism and Casual Expressionism of Victor Gaviria

Poet and Filmmaker Victor Manuel Gaviria (b. 1955) received international acclaim with his feature debut, Rodrigo D: No Future (1990), the first Colombian film to screen in competition at the Cannes Festival. Gaviria’s career began during the era of drug lord Pablo Escobar and a terrifying escalation of the violence that plagued the director’s native city, Medellin, which is the setting for all of his films. As Medellin became known as one of the world’s most notoriously violent cities, Gaviria intervened with a series of extraordinary films that reveal the human dimensions of the spiraling violence fueled both by the drug trade and by glaring economic inequity.  

Gaviria’s filmmaking draws its strength from its skilled combination of neorealist drama – gritty urban settings, an attention to the powerless and downtrodden, a cast of nonprofessional actors – and more extravagant modes of fiction – the crime thriller, the fairy tale, the gangster film. His eclectic visual style similarly alternates between elaborate long takes with complicated camera choreography, intimate handheld sequences and an understated use of close-ups and the more classical grammar of the shot/reverse shot. This ability to blend registers and styles lends Gaviria’s work a complexity often lacking in the Colombian films of previous decades that had sought to address the country’s poverty and ended up seeming to exploit it, earning them the label “pornomiseria,” or “poverty porn.” Some of the nonprofessionals in Gaviria’s films, pulled from the world they go on to depict, have gone on to successful careers while others have been claimed by the mean streets seen in his films.  

Special thanks: Brad Epps; Maria Ospina; The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies; Fundacion Patrimonio Filmico Colombiano.


Special Event Tickets $12
Friday May 7 at 8pm

The Rose Seller (La vendedora de rosas)

Directed by Victor Gaviria, Appearing in Person
With Lady Tabares, Marta Correa, Mileider Gil
Colombia 1998, 35mm, color, 116 min. Spanish with English subtitles

This film’s title deliberately recalls Hans Christian Andersen’s tragic fairy tale “The Little Match Girl,” which served as the model for the story of street children who eke out a living by selling whatever they can and by sniffing glue to forget the grinding poverty and ever-present violence around them. Inspired by a girl selling roses in the city’s nightclubs, Gaviria uses a constantly moving camera to follow the cast of very young nonprofessionals with relentless intensity as they travel between the slums where they live to upscale city streets and back again. The film bears astonishing witness to Gaviria’s ability to cast and work with untrained actors, several of whom, like some of the performers in Rodrigo D, were dead within months of the film’s production.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Saturday May 8 at 7pm

Additions and Subtractions (Medellin: sumas y restas)

Directed by Victor Gaviria, Appearing in Person
With Fabio Restrepo, Juan Uribe, Maria Isabel Gaviria
Colombia 2004, 35mm, color, 108 min. Spanish with English subtitles

Gaviria’s most recent film is a look back at the 1980s, when the drug violence in Medellin first broke out and reached its highest peaks of ferocity. In this ambitious work, Gaviria shifts his emphasis from the slum to the neighborhoods of the middle class, illustrating how the drug trade spread across social and economic boundaries. Although each class is affected differently, ultimately, in the film’s view, no one is spared. For American audiences, Gaviria’s focus on the seemingly inescapable reach of organized crime recalls the work of Scorsese, while his use of an ensemble cast recalls Soderbergh’s film Traffic. But above all, Additions and Subtractions highlights Gaviria’s constant concern for realism, revealed by the use of then-unknown actors and by the emphasis on detail over spectacle.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Sunday May 9 at 7pm

Rodrigo D: No Future (Rodrigo D. no futuro)

Directed by Victor Gaviria, Appearing in Person
With Ramiro Meneses, Carlos Mario Restrepo, Jackson Idrian Gallego Colombia 1990, 35mm, color, 93 min. Spanish with English subtitles

Music is a constant presence in Gaviria’s powerful first film as the source of almost the only happiness in the life of its impoverished and aimless title character, who dreams of playing the drums in a punk band but drifts instead into a life of violent crime. The “No Future” of the title is presumably a reference to the closing words of the Sex Pistol’s “God Save the Queen.” Rodrigo D marks the first collaboration between Gaviria and the now-celebrated cinematographer Rodrigo Lalinde, who has shot all three of the director’s features. Gaviria has described their collaboration on Rodrigo D as creating a “casual expressionism,” which, as the term implies, is itself a perfect example of the filmmaker’s ability to infuse realism with aesthetic qualities from other styles and genres.

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