Tuesday, July 29, 2014

VOXXI: Latin American governments react to Israeli operations in Gaza

"Latin American governments react to Israeli operations in Gaza"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
July 29, 2014
Originally published: http://voxxi.com/2014/07/29/latin-american-react-israeli-gaza-hamas/

As the violence in Gaza continues, the Israeli government continues to receive criticism from the international community for targeting civilians as well as Hamas militants. On the other hand, Tel Aviv argues that these military operations are aimed at protecting its population.
It is difficult to remain neutral in this ongoing conflict as several Latin American governments are disparaging Israeli military tactics, prompting counter Israeli criticisms.
Latin American Critics
The most prominent example of disapproval against Tel Aviv was carried out by Brazil as it recently ordered the recall of its ambassador to Israel, Henrique Sardinah.
The decision was made last Wednesday, July 23, via a statement which stressed the hundreds of Palestine civilians that have died and also “condemn[ed] the disproportional reaction of Israel.”
However, Brasilia is not alone in denouncing Israel, as other regional nations have made similar strong statements.
For example, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has called for sanctions against Tel Aviv. The Andean head of state took accusations to a new level by stating that Israel is carrying out a “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza. Meanwhile, Ecuador recalled its ambassador to Israel in mid-July, preceding the accordant decision of Brazil.
Similarly, Argentina, which has a complicated relationship with Israel, has publicly reprimanded bothHamas and Tel Aviv. Namely, the Argentine government has declared that Israel is exacerbating the situation via its land military operations in Gaza.
To be fair, not all of Latin America has attacked Israeli military operations – other nations have condemned Hamas as well.
Colombia, for example, is opposed to any type of violence. Nevertheless, Bogota has been more negative towards Hamas, stating that their missiles flying into Israeli territory “aggravate the conflict and are a step backwards from peace efforts.”
Similarly, the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs has issued two press communiqués regarding the ongoing violence, on July 10 and July 14. The first press release expressed that Mexico finds fault with rocket attacks and aerial bombardments, but does not specifically single out the suffering of a particular nation.
Finally, the Peruvian government has similarly criticized the ongoing violence. A Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs communiqué highlights that Hamas and Israel should return to negotiations, and take into account the “Roadmap to Peace” as well as resolutions by the United Nations.
A United Latin America?
There have been attempts by regional blocs to form a consensus on appropriate reaction to the ongoing violence in the Middle East.
Most notably, on Wednesday July 23, representatives of several Latin America governments discussed their own positions during a meeting of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza called for an immediate cease-fire, declaring: “Gaza has no viability, no possibility of life in current conditions.”
While the OAS has attempted to be neutral (generally speaking), the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) has taken a stronger stance. In a July 11 press release, ALBA strongly condemns Israel’s attack against the Palestinians.
Finally, the members of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) will meet today Tuesday, July 29, in Venezuela. The Latin American media has reported that Brazil is expected to bring up the situation in Gaza and may push for a bloc-wide resolution.
Israel Responds
As for Israel, Tel Aviv has responded to some of the aforementioned actions. Most notably, when Brazil recalled its ambassador, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declared, “this is an unfortunate demonstration of why Brazil, an economic and cultural giant, remains a diplomatic dwarf.”
The Israeli government has also addressed Argentina’s disapproval of the Israeli land operations in Gaza. Tel Aviv explained that the “only reason” for these land military operations is to destroy the missiles used to attack the Israeli population.
A Game of Geopolitics
Certainly, Latin American policymakers should deplore the ongoing violence that has cost hundreds of lives, both Palestinian and Israeli. However, we would be remiss to disregard the role of geopolitics.
For example, Tel Aviv is a close Washington ally, serving as a major antagonist of President Morales throughout his presidency. Thus, Bolivia’s criticism of Israel is not particularly surprising. Meanwhile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru all have close political, military and economic relations with Washington. Hence, there is a limit to these nations’ willingness to denounce a major U.S. ally.
Moreover, Latin America in general has been increasing ties with Palestine and the Arab world for years. A major development occurred in 2010, when, to Washington and Tel Aviv’s disdain, various Latin American nations recognized Palestine as an independent state.
This was an understandable move, as Latin American trade and diplomatic initiatives with the Arab world have increased over the past years (i.e. summits between Arab and South American leaders). Therefore, the acknowledgment of Palestine was an important geopolitical move by Latin American governments as way to strengthen ties with investment-prone Arab nations.
Nations within Latin America have differing positions on the ongoing violence in Gaza. Latin American initiatives have progressed from recalling ambassadors to demanding sanctions, to neutral declarations for peace. However, everyone agrees that an immediate cease-fire is necessary. The Gaza incident’s effect on Israeli-Latin American relations in the near future remains to be seen.

Friday, July 25, 2014

VOXXI: ‘Meñique’ is Cuba’s first 3D animated film

"‘Meñique’ is Cuba’s first 3D animated film"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
July 25, 2014
Originally published: http://voxxi.com/2014/07/25/menique-cuba-3d-film/

“Meñique” , Cuba’s first 3D animated film, was released in Cuban cinemas this month; the Cuban media has hyped the film, which is expected to be a hit with the Cuban population, particularly younger viewers.
Leaving aside potential earnings both domestically and abroad of “Meñique”, the fact that embargo-crippled Cuba is now producing 3D animated films is a milestone achievement.
A 3D movie
“Meñique”(“Pinkie”) is inspired by Edouard de Labouyale’s famous work “Tom Thumb,” which was also adapted by the famous Cuban writer José Martí for his children’s magazine La Edad de Oro (The Golden Age). The plot of this children’s movie is fairly simple: A young peasant wants to help his family emerge from poverty, and while attempting to do so, he falls in love with the king’s daughter.
The film debuted on July 20, Children’s Day in Cuba, in cinemas across the island.
“Meñique” was directed and written by the Cuban Ernesto Padrón (brother of Juan Padrón, who directed the Cuban animated film “Vampires in Havana” in 1985). The soundtrack was composed by the Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who also wrote four original songs for the film.
Meñique is a co-production between the Cuban arts institute Estudios de Animación del Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos and the Galician company Ficción Producciones. The film reportedly required six years to complete, and over 200 artists and designers (including 34 from Spain) took part in the project. Other organizations involved in the film included the Cuban Universidad de Ciencias Informaticas and the Venezuelan Fundación Villa del Cine. The budget of “Meñique” was roughly four million dollars USD. As a point of comparison, the 2013 hit “Frozen” had a budget of $150 million USD.
Cuban Vice-President Miguel Díaz-Canel attended “the premiere of “Meñique” in Havana, declaring, “I am very proud that we have made this film.”
While this is a predictable compliment, it’s important to keep in mind that Díaz-Canel is viewed as the next president of Cuba, as Raul Castro has tipped him as his successor. If he does indeed come to power, the current vice-president may choose to further support Cuban cinema initiatives.
Meñique” has already been showcased in international events, most notably at Animazine, a film festival in Malaga, Spain. It has also been commercialized in Spain, France, Germany and South Korea.
Latin America’s film industry
Plenty of lists are available online regarding the most famous Latin American films, so we will not delve into them (for examples, check out Forbes15 Highest-Grossing Mexican films or a Top 25 list of Latin American movies).
Suffice to say, the region has had several internationally successful films over the decades. Among these are Brazil’s “City of God,” Mexico’s “Amores Perros,” Mexico’s “Y Tu Mamá También” and Brazil’s “Pixote”. In 2009, the Argentine film “El Secreto de Tus Ojos” won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, while the Peruvian film “The Sorrow Teat” was also nominated. Cuba also produced the 2011 hit film “Juan of the Dead,” a zombie terror-comedy.
While Latin American films can be successful, they have also received harsh reviews. Namely, some movies have been critiqued for having been made for mainstream mass audiences.
Case in point is the 2014 Peruvian comedy “A Los 40,” which has become the second highest grossing Peruvian film ever. After only eight days, it attracted around 750,000 viewers. Nevertheless, Ivan Thays (a Peruvian writer and TV host) argued that the film’s producer, Miguel Valladares, cannot say that “A Los 40” is a “patriotic film” simply because it was made in Peru and has been successful, as the final product was of low quality. Thays also stated that the film’s success was due to marketing and the casting of popular actors instead of the quality of the movie itself.
As for the recognition of Latin American films in the near future, sadly only one film, “Wild Tales,” will be showcased at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival 2014. The film is an Argentine-Spanish co-production, produced by the famous director Pedro Almodóvar. However, Latin Post highlights that the showcasing of “Wild Tales” in Toronto “is not a world premiere, as the film already screened at the Cannes Film Festival where it received rave reviews.” In other words, no other Latin American film will enjoy a Toronto “bump” to increase its popularity.
It is positive that Latin America’s film industry continues to produce hits that do well not only domestically but also internationally. The Cuban 3D animated film “Meñique” will hopefully be another example of this ongoing momentum.
Latin American films cannot compete with their American counterparts in terms of budget and special effects, but strong and appealing plots, good acting, captivating soundtracks and overall pleasing aesthetics often make these films memorable and financially successful.