By Steven Mihailovich
Organizers of the 18
annual San Diego Latino Film Festival are expecting to break a record this year by drawing more than 20,000 attendees to the 11-day celebration of Latino culture that begins on March 10.
Showing on four screens at the UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center in Mission Valley, the festival will present 195 films, including 56 feature-length motion pictures, of the highest artistic as well as entertainment merit from Latino filmmakers in the U.S., Spain and across Latin America.
The film festival is more than just movies, however. With an art show and large parties that include food, drink, music and dancing, the festival will offer total immersion into the Latino culture. Festival organizers believe that just a glance at headlines that include booming economies in Brazil and Chile, as well as drug wars in Mexico and Columbia, can generate interest in an event highlighting films and culture from one of the most dynamic regions in the world today.
“If you see a movie from that area, it gives you a wide view of what’s going on there,” said Lisa Franek of the Media Arts Center San Diego, which throws the festival. “Art is a reflection of culture. You don’t have to be from that culture or speak Spanish to appreciate the films and enjoy the good times.”
All films are either in English or subtitled in English, she added.
With almost 200 films on the roster, presentations run the gamut from feature-length narratives like those at any cinema to documentaries, animation and shorts. At least 12 films will be shown on any given day, Franek said.
The festival is divided into showcases focusing on a particular country or theme that runs through a number of films over the course of the festival. This year’s five showcases are Brazilian Cinema; Jewish Latino Cinema; Cine Gay, which highlights films from and/or about the Latino LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transsexual) community; Documania, featuring documentaries; and Family Showcase.
“If it’s part of the Para la Familija Showcase, it’s most definitely fine for the family,” Franek said. “If not, it’s possibly inappropriate for younger viewers. The best thing is to ask the volunteers at the festival. We’ve seen most of the films and can direct any filmgoer.”
The San Diego Latino Film Festival website also provides synopsizes of each film that can help guide parents, Franek added.
Aside from films produced in motion picture meccas such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the U.S., Franek noted that this year’s festival includes films from smaller countries that don’t make many, such as Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama.
“We try to program those films that people want to see but can’t see anywhere else,” Franek said. “Most are not going to the Landmark (art cinema) after this. Whether you just want to be entertained or see something that makes you think or get information from a documentary, there’s something for everyone.”
Isaac Artenstein is a local filmmaker whose credits as director and/or producer include “A Day without a Mexican,” “Love Always,” and “Break of Dawn.” He also teaches film at UCSD.