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CASA Latin American Arts Festival 2021

CASA multi-arts festival runs throughout September 2021 at venues across London

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‘After a Covid-required hiatus in 2020, I’m thrilled that CASA Festival is returning for the whole month of September 2021,’ says CASA’s artistic director, Cordelia Grierson. Despite Covid, this year’s programme is all about connecting: connecting UK artists with global artists to create and enhance their practice, and connecting audiences with each other. ‘With CASA 2021 we will reopen creative borders and encourage genuine inter-cultural exchange,’ she says. Here are LAB’s top picks from the CASA 2021 programme.


Founded as a theatre festival in 2007, CASA has expanded its remit to include multiple art forms, as well as becoming a commissioning body and a production house. To date, the festival has created and commissioned over 100 pieces of new work.

Through an exhibition, installations, performances, films, an open mic and a party in Brixton, CASA 2021 will showcase some of the beautiful, challenging and unique work being made both in Latin America and by the UK’s Latinx artist community – including four new brand new works commissioned by CASA using emergency funding from the Arts Council.

The programme

Exhibition

Running from September 2-11, this year’s exhibition at Monochrome Studios in Whitechapel, east London, seeks to question the meaning of nationality and displacement, ‘…wondering what it means for a body to belong to a land that has been dominated and violated by western power,’ according to the artistic director. Seven different creative projects will reflect on the subject.

Highlights include ‘Entrar Tarde’, by Argentinian artist Damiana Poggi: a video performance about the pat-downs carried out in jail by police officers to inmates and visitors, based on her experiences visiting her father in prison; and the expressive art project ‘Aiku’è Zepé from Zahy Guajajara,  who, born in an Indigenous Reserve in Brazil, uses art to defend indigenous people and their causes. 

Aiku’è Zepé’ from Zahy Guajajara,  who, born in an Indigenous Reserve in Brazil, uses art to defend indigenous people and their causes. 

Installation

CASA 2021’s installation programme will take over a shop window in Brixton Village, south London, from September 16 – 18.

Don’t miss ‘Casa Comun‘ (common home), an artistic research project and multimedia collaboration with 10 multidisciplinary Amazonian indigenous artists. The project builds on Renato Rocha’s residency in the Amazon in 2017, where he led theatrical workshops with local artists, indigenous tribes and riverside communities.

Performance

Live performances at Monochrome Studios include ‘Where to Belong (September 3), presented by Jewish-Lebanese Latinx queer theatremaker Victor Esses. It is a tender, moving autobiographical story of Victor’s journeys – an exploration of how to find your place in a complex world of identities. 

‘Where to Belong’ looks at how to find your place in a complex world of identities. Image: Alex Brenner (info@alexbrenner.co.uk)

Thanks to emergency funding from the Arts Council, CASA has commissioned four new works to be performed at the festival. 

Highlights include They Gave Me A Map (and I drew them a line) by UK-based Chilean/Indian artist Shalini Adnani, which combines satellite images from Google Earth with images of mourning women – to explore land, loss and displacement; and ‘Work, Workers, Working by UK-based Brazilian Joana Nastari, which uses verbatim dialogue to portray how workers across the adult industry have adapted under lockdown. 

Film

CASA 2021’s film programme embraces themes of loss, identity, political struggle and timeless love.

Winner of the Audience Award at Sundance 2020, ‘Identifying Features(dir: Fernanda Valadez, Mexico/Spain, 2020 | September 15 at Curzon Hoxton) is the tale of a mother who hasn’t heard from her teenage son since he left home months ago to cross the border into the United States: she’s asked to sign his death certificate, but cannot rest without knowing his true fate, and so begins an odyssey across contemporary Mexico.

LAB reviewer, Lia Gomez-Lang, says,

Through this one mother’s quest, Valadez examines shared migrant stories as part of a large-scale social crisis, asking why so many have been lost on this particular journey.

In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped citizenship from anyone with Haitian parents retroactive to 1929, rendering over 200,00 people stateless: without nationality, identity or homeland. In February this year, divisions deepened, and the President of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, announced plans (as LAB reported in April 2021) to build a high-tech border wall along Dominican-Haiti frontier. 

Weaving together elements of magical realism and intimate documentary, ‘Stateless (dir: Michele Stephenson, Dominican Republic/Haiti, 2020 | September 1 at Castle Cinema) tells the story of young attorney Rosa Iris and her impassioned campaign to win back citizenship for those left adrift. 

Stateless (2020) tells the story of young attorney Rosa Iris and her impassioned campaign to win back citizenship for those left adrift. 

A haunting and deeply personal exploration, ‘Asphyxia(dir: Ana Bustamante, Guatemala, 2018 | September 8 at Genesis Cinema) sees this first-time documentary filmmaker submerge herself in the memory of her father – a political activist who in 1982, alongside 45,000 others, was detained and disappeared by Guatemala’s military.

Ana is the cousin of fellow Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamente, whose 2019 film, La Llorona (reviewed by LAB back in February), sensitively used the horror genre to talk about the Guatemalan conflict.

Part ethnographic documentary, part woven drama, Lapü‘ (dir: Juan Pablo Polanco & César Alejandro Jaimes, Colombia, 2019 | September 22 at Prince Charles) follows a young Wayuú woman who dreams of a reunion with her deceased cousin. It is an eerie, dreamlike, and beautifully framed examination of tradition, ritual, and superstition, mirroring the Wayuú traditional belief that the dead coexist with the living.

Check out the full festival programme here.


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