WATERVILLE — Maine International Film Festival programming director Ken Eisen didn’t intend to pick guests for this year’s World Filmmakers’ Forum who hail exclusively from Latin American countries, but it just so happens, he said, those regions are cultivating some of the most interesting works of cinema today.

“It is and isn’t a coincidence,” said Eisen, who lives part-time in Argentina, in an interview Thursday afternoon. “It’s a very vital region.”

Santiago Gallelli, an Argentinian producer; Alana Simoes, a Brazillian-born filmmaker living in Mexico; and Brazilian directing duo Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, have all been honored over the course of the festival, with their films being shown throughout the week.

“These are all filmmakers whose work is really exciting,” Eisen said, and it’s the talent of the filmmakers, rather than a common culture or background, that they all share.

“What do Argentina, Mexico and Brazil have in common? Really nothing at all,” he said. “In Brazil they speak Portuguese, and even the Spanish spoken in the two other countries is different.”

For the forum’s third year, Eisen said, he picked filmmakers who are “up and coming artists with different points of view that ideally reflected their culture.”

“We were looking for filmmakers who were in the vanguard of what is happening,” Eisen said.

Gallelli and Simoes talked about their work after screenings of their respective films, “The Queen of Fear” and “Mi Hermano,” this week.

It took over 10 years to finish “Mi Hermano,” Simoes said Monday. The documentary tells the story of two boys, Alexey and Mateo, who become brothers over the course of the film. Gabriela, a single woman from Spain, first adopts Alexey, who was born in Russia. A few years later, she adopts another son, Mateo, who was born in Siberia. The audience watches as the boys form the bond of brotherhood and the bond grows stronger.

“With the time I understood that maybe I was shooting how a family starts,” Simoes, whose short films also were shown during the festival, said after the film’s premiere. The documentary will be shown again at 3:15 p.m. Friday at Railroad Square Cinema.

She said she learned about the family through the boys’ uncle, a Spanish filmmaker, and was intrigued by Gabriella choosing to adopt — a decision that had exiled her from her wealthy and conservative family.

“I met them and I was really in love with this little child, his silence,” Simoes said of Alexey, who was portrayed as a stoic young man who had a dream to become a dancer.

Simoes had to finish shooting before he got his big break, she said; but Alexey is now dancing in a Russian company.

“It is very interesting and strange for him to return to the region in that way,” Simoes said.

When she finished the film, Simoes said, she thought she would never work with children again because of the difficulty of getting the parents’ permission to shoot the difficult moments.

“And now I’m thinking about it again,” she said.

The film Gallelli produced with his partner, Benjamin Domen, tells the story of an eccentric and anxiety-ridden actress.

“The Queen of Fear,” which premiered in the United States at the Sundance Film Festival, stars Valeria Bertuccelli as Robertina, a celebrated theater actress who is one week away from opening her one-woman show. At the same time, she is dealing with internal fears, the unexplained departure of her husband and the news that a close friend is dying.

Gallelli talked about the magnetism Bertuccelli, a major star in Argentina, possessed in the role after the film Wednesday.

“I noticed during the first of shooting this film that you shoot her with any kind of camera and you look to the monitor and you are watching a movie automatically,” Gallelli said of Bertuccelli, who also wrote and directed the film. “It’s like a magic trick that (some actors) do, and I could stare at her for hours. She’s very magnetic.”

Gallelli said Bertuccelli drew on her long career as an actress to write the screenplay, which she had been working on for eight years. It’s her first feature film that she has directed, he said, and a major departure from her previous work.

“She’s usually associated with box office tanks, easy-going comedies that you can see on a plane,” he said. “This is much more quirky, more dark. It revolves around the genre of comedy, but it is a character study. What happens with her is that you always find her to be very close to the emotion, and crying and smiling is very next to each other in her case. It takes us to that feeling as well.”

He said her performance really brought the script alive.

“The screenplay in itself was not enticing enough, but the moment she stood up and gave you a hint of what that character was about, everybody got it and it was much, much better.”

Eisen said the film from directors Rojas and Dutra, “Good Manners,” is the most exciting film he had seen all year, and it is scheduled to play at 9:30 p.m. Friday and at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Railroad Square.

“It’s a tough film to describe because it’s unlike any others,” Eisen said. It’s a genre-bending horror film that’s also a love story that involves a werewolf, he said.

“It’s not scary in the way we expect, but in the way that the world is scary and we’re coming to grips with it,” Eisen said.

Overall, Eisen said, the films included in the forum should be approachable for the average moviegoer.

“I think they’re all very acceptable movies, and I don’t think they’re hard to get into at all,” he said. “They share a common vitality, freshness and originality.”

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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