Vancouver, BC —

The city’s 10th annual Latin American Film Festival (VLAFF) opened on Friday night at the Empire theatre in downtown Vancouver. The VLAFF’s opening film, a comedy called JUAN OF THE DEAD (which I wrote about last year) gave us a hilariously ghoulish peek at what Cuba will look like come the zombie apocalypse.

I’m pleased to say ‘fue un éxito masivo’ (it was a massive success). Juan of the Dead is whip-smart, reliably funny, inventively shot, and boasts clever gory effects. It also contains the funniest scene in cinematic history where a man dances for his life because he’s handcuffed to a bloodthirsty zombie. GO SEE THIS FILM.

Before the movie started, a mariachi band played us into our seats. One trumpeter was so fun to watch, he inspired me to start a mariachi band. And by happy coincidence, it seems Mexico is opening its first ever mariachi school.


On October 8th, the Ollin Yoliztli Cultural Center — typically known for its chamber orchestras and classical music — is opening the mariachi school at the Plaza Garibaldi in downtown Mexico City. This plaza is known for its strolling mariachis (as opposed to ‘running-for-their-lives mariachis’ you’ll see when zombies attack Mexico City).

Public-access mariachi training is rare in Mexico, because mariachi performing has traditionally been handed down through families.

No more. Now anyone can learn from the multi-trumpet masters. According to a story in The Washington Post, school director Leticia Soto Flores said there’s increasing demand for mariachi instruction.

The centre started accepting applications this week. The first class will have 72 students out of 200 applicants. Then, three years from now, the first graduates will be unleashed on Latin weddings and Mexican theme restaurants. And the tuition? Just $190 a year.

For that, you’ll get intensive lessons in:

  • trumpet
  • violin
  • guitar
  • music theory
  • the history of mariachi music
  • how to shout “Olé!!” when you finish a song (just a guess, but it seems mandatory)
  • how to serenade a beluga whale

For information on how to apply, contact the Ministry of Culture here.

And if you’ll be travelling through sunny Vancouver this week, check out some films from Brazil (there’s a Brazilian gala tonight September 6th), Colombia (there’s a Colombian gala on September 7th), or Argentina (the Closing Night Gala screens an Argentine film on Sunday September 9th). Check out VLAFF for showtimes.


— Ken Hegan

VIDEO: World’s worst mariachi band?

Read all Ken’s stories here and follow him on Twitter: @KenHegan

Photo: Mike Fuentes/AP