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Festival Highlight: Horror at San Diego Latino Film Festival

March 13, 2013 4:36 a.m.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando looks at the horror programming at the San Diego Latino Film Festival.

Related Story: Festival Highlight: Horror at SDLFF


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: The San Diego Latino Film Festival continues through this weekend. For the first time, it will host a horror panel. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says Latin horror serves up a unique take on the genre.

The San Diego Latino Film Festival has a horror showcase this year.

AARON SOTO: I think the first emotion is horror, and I think it's very important to have a connection with that emotion because horror is part of our life. (:10)

Programmer Aaron Soto serves up 5 films and a horror panel at the festival. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando highlights one of the films showcased, that’s coming up next on Morning Edition.

Growing up Catholic can introduce you to horror at an early age. Just think about the images conjured up by Lazarus rising from the grave, Christ being nailed to a cross, and deaths by stoning, beheading, or being tied to a tree and shot with arrows. Add to that stories of Satan and Hell, and you can see how Catholicism could influence the horror genre especially in Latin countries.

Filmmakers like Luis Bunuel and Alejandro Jodoowsky provide a tradition of horror and fantasy colored by Catholic images and religious provocation, a tradition continued more recently by directors like Guillermo Del Toro. Tijuana filmmaker Aaron Soto has called upon this tradition in his short film “Omega Shell.” He has a passion for the horror genre in part because he feels horror is one of the most primal human emotions.

AARON SOTO: I think it’s very important to have a connection with that emotion because horror is part of our life. And it’s a way to confront our own demons but it’s also a way to question ourselves and to try to search for answers about ourselves.

Soto’s passion for horror makes him the perfect choice for programming a horror showcase and panel at this year’s San Diego Latino Film Festival says artistic director Lisa Franek.

LISA FRANEK: Aaron's enthusiasm is actually contagious. When he talks these films I want to see them.

Soto has selected 5 films from 5 different countries to show the range of Latin horror. He takes us from Mexploitation films of the 90s to Chilean extreme to a Costa Rican comedy about the end of the world. But the film Soto is most passionate about this year is “The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh.”

CLIP: I’m at my mom’s house and there’s something that happened that I can’t really explain.

AARON SOTO: It’s probably one of the very first films to tell a ghost story like you’ve never seen before. What I can say is that it is a very deep philosophical film about exploring faith and belief.

The story involves Leon, a man who returns to his estranged mother’s house after she’s died. The house is filled with religious statues that remind Leon of his mother’s strict and terrifying religious teachings. Writer-director Rodrigo Gudino explained in his online video diary that he wanted to make a supernatural horror film but one that avoided the devil.

RODRIGO GUDINO: I wanted to go the opposite, you know, kind of return to religious horror and there’s not a lot of those movies out at least recently that don’t focus on exorcism and then again that’s the devil. This film has nothing to do with Satan. It has to do really with angels.

And a cult of angel worshippers. Gudino turns statues of angels and the Virgin Mary into the stuff of horror as he meticulously builds a sense of growing dread. Gudino’s film is fascinating for the way it goes against expectations. While so much of contemporary horror is about extreme gore and in your face filmmaking, his film is all about elegant restraint and a slow ratcheting up of tension. It also surprises us with the type of religious images -- in this case angels – that it chooses to employ. And that the way Leon chooses to fight off his fears is not through religion and faith but rather reason and science. You could call this an atheist’s take on Catholic horror.

Soto says Gudino is the perfect filmmaker to bring to San Diego and to make the central focus of the upcoming New Wave of Fear Horror Cinema Panel.

AARON SOTO: Because he was born in San Diego and he was raised in Tijuana and this is the way for him to come back and show his art and what he has done to his roots.

Gudino, founder of the popular horror magazine Rue Morgue, brings together a perfect storm of elements. Born in the U.S., raised in Mexico, and making films in Canada, he seems influenced by all three countries but dominated by none. Perhaps that’s why his film feels like a fresh take on familiar genre elements.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

TAG: Beth Accomando will also be one of the participants on the New Wave of Fear Horror Cinema Panel this Friday at the Media Arts Centers’ Digital Gym Cinema. For more information go to Cinema Junkie at K-P-B-S-dot-O-R-G.