Until recently, the Costa Rican film industry has been relatively sparse. Although the country is a popular filming location for international big-budget motion pictures like ‘Congo’ and ‘Spy Kids’, movies created by Costa Ricans tend to achieve limited international distribution and recognition. An up-and-coming generation of filmmakers is beginning to break this trend, and among the best of them is Paz Fabrega.
In her premier feature-length film, Agua Fria de Mar, or Cold Water of the Sea, Costa Rican writer and director weaves an achingly emotional story that reaches deep into the human psyche. A truly refreshing cinematic experience, the tale is about a young vacationing couple (played by ticos Lil Quesada and Luis Carlos Bogantes) that stumbles across a seemingly homeless seven-year old girl (played by Mexican actress Monserrat Fernández).
Although Agua Fria de Mar is set against the breathtaking backdrops of Costa Rica, the motion picture forces the viewer to confront blatant truths about the country’s more disturbing cultural and familial norms. Throughout the feature we observe that ugliness lies within beauty, cruelty within kindness and honesty within lies.
The piece also deals with the way in which women and girls interact with the people in their lives; Fabrega felt driven to explore “the things that happen to girls in our education and when we’re young…that make us quiet, restless and confused.” She succeeds in this venture through the creation of an existential, poetic, and sharply edited film – grounded in hard truths while injecting magic and twisting the viewer’s perception of reality. Brave and courageous, cutting edge films like Fabrega’s play an important role in challenging societal norms, discussing current issues and bringing awareness to human rights violations.
Agua Fria de Mar has played to the applause of critics from around the world. Since its 2010 release, the film has won international accolades such as the Tiger VPRO award in Rotterdam; the Jury Special Prize in the Lima Film Festival; the Best Fiction award in the London Latin Film Festival; the Festival de L'environment in Paris; and a special mention in the Calgary International Film Festival.
Sadly, its reception in Costa Rica has been “not mixed, but extreme,” according to Ms. Fabrega – critics seemed to either love or hate the piece. Controversial content likely played a role in this national response, but many “positive reactions came from unexpected sources,” says Fabrega. “Overall the results were quite good, considering the film played for a very short time in just a few venues.” With two upcoming movies in the making (both scheduled for production in Costa Rica), we have much more to look forward to from this talented writer and director.
Consistent support of local culture and arts is essential for the success of Costa Rican film. Shooting for Agua Fria de Mar was made possible through funding from the Costa Rican Art Council and other international sources; similar efforts must continue in order to infuse the country’s already vibrant and growing film community with fresh new talent. Visit the Ministry of Youth and Culture’s website www.mcj.go.cr
for more info.