Back in November of 2007, Santiago, Chile, was the host of the first — and, sadly, never repeated — Hollyweed International Psychoactive Film Festival. The festival showcased an international selection of films related to psychoactive substances of natural origin, such as marijuana, coca, and ayahuasca.

El Grio

The festival was sponsored by the Spanish owners of the magazine Cañamo, or Hemp. Submissions included animations, short films, feature films. and documentaries, with prizes in each category. There were entries from Brazil, Spain, Peru, Argentina, Mexico, the United States, the Netherlands, Colombia and Chile. I am unclear as to whether there was any prize money, but I am certain that everyone had a very good time.

The first prize winner was a short animation by a young Chilean painter and muralist named José Benmayor Mansilla, known as El Grio, who paints oddly compelling cartoon-like and brightly colored creatures on canvas and public walls. “I enjoy creating scenes or situations in my own figurative style,” he writes, “characterized by synthesizing forms in different ways.”

Sometimes I have the scenes clearly in mind when I start the painting, and at other times they appear and start acquiring meaning as the work progresses. The images have a meaning that varies according to the perception of each viewer; different people feel different things when looking at the paintings. I believe this happens because I try to make the elements symbolic and to have a relationship among each other, even if it is not obvious. This also happens with the colors and the way in which I paint. Basically, I try to stimulate and make the viewer feel different sensations — memories, emotions, fears, and so on. My language is close to that of comic books and animated cartoons.

Benmayor’s winning project at the film festival was called Ayahuasca:

Benmayor has a blog and — if you want to see more of his fascinating paintings and murals — a Flickr photostream and displays of recent works here and here.

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