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In New Project “Instant Crush” Latinx Filmmaker Chris Carmona Keeps Putting South East LA on Screen

Last year at LALIFF, Chris Carmona, a young Latinx filmmaker from the city of Bell, experienced a powerful moment of validation and fulfillment when his debut feature, “Bad Labor” premiered at the festival in front of an enthusiastic audience.

The film made for just $700 with a group of friends showcases the people and places familiar to the Latino community in Southeast Los Angeles, which are rarely seen on screen. “It’s really humbling how moved people are by the fact that ‘Bad Labor’ got to play last year as part of LALIFF at the Chinese Theater,” said Carmona.

Representing people of color from places often ignored by the entertainment industry is a key part of what motivates him and fuels his storytelling decisions. Following the success of “Bad Labor,” Carmona embarked on an episodic project titled “Instant Crush” for Latino media company MiTú.

Though his idea was originally for another feature-length movie, Carmona adapted the story to MiTú’s preferred format: a web series to debut on their platforms that reach countless millennials. Centered on Cindy (Nisalda Gonzalez) and Andy (Emilio Garcia-Sanchez), the show emanated from the director’s own brushes with complicated romantic love.

The entire series was shot in seven days all over Southeast LA, and the cities of Torrance and Long Beach, remaining true to his philosophy of highlighting unseen places in the Los Angeles County. Originally, the series was supposed to be released as three long episodes, but then these were turned into 6 mini-episodes to facilitate its release.

This was the first time Carmona worked with a sizeable budget and a professional crew, a different experience than the scrappy project he’d made before. Still, while the task was undoubtedly overwhelming, it was equally empowering to know he didn’t have to be in charge of every aspect of the production.

Carmona admits that making “Bad Labor” wasn’t particularly enjoyable because of the level of ambition and limited resources. “The goal this time was to have fun,” he said. Whenever they encountered an issue his approach was to rationalize the problem as an opportunity. His mantra would be: “It’s great that this didn’t work because now we can find a new way to do it.” The prolific artist attributes this new professional outlook to his decision to meditate every morning.

For “Instant Crush,” Carmona brought along his two closest collaborators on “Bad Labor.” Tony Remigio returned as cinematographer, while Jose Martinez, who did sound in the feature, served as first assistant director on the series.

None of them had any formal filmmaking education, but Carmona believes that’s exactly what allows them to be less fearful of approaching the medium freely. They have built a community of likeminded people, just like many aspiring filmmakers do in film school, but don’t have adhere to any dogma. “I’ve become very comfortable with not having the film school limitations on my brain and just doing it,” he said.

Now that his career is starting to take shape in a more significant and professional manner, Carmona understands that his purpose should be to encourage other Latino creators and create spaces for them to be nurtured, just like many others have done for him. It’s not only about entering preexisting circles of power and opportunities, but also about creating their own.

“I don’t see white creators as any different than me, but it shouldn’t be my goal to try to be part of their circle. I got to form my own circle and start bringing people that are brown, that come from my hood, and that want to attain this thing so that they can know it’s real,” he emphatically explained.

Inspired by multi-hyphenates such as Donald Glover, Carmona is making his first professional foray into music this year with the upcoming release of an EP in the summer and a music video over the next few weeks.

Currently, he also co-hosts a podcast called “The Us Podcast” and is writing a lose remake of the troubled and virtually unseen production “Don’s Plum” that originally starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. His version will recast all roles with Latinx teenagers and is expected to begin shooting before the end of the year.

“Instant Crush” is currently available on MiTú’s YouTube Channel.

LOS ANGELES LATINO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL SETS 2019 DATES

Festival Which Promotes The Advancement of Latinx Voices To Focus on U.S. Talent Returns July 31-August 4 at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood

 

CAA, Egeda And AltaMed Confirmed As Sponsors

**Submissions Now Open At LatinoFilm.org **

LOS ANGELES, March 7, 2019 –Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF), the premiere international event dedicated to showcasing the entirety of human experience from the Latinx perspective, today announced it is set to return July 31-August 4 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Co-founded by Academy Award® nominee, Golden Globe® and Emmy® winner Edward James Olmos (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Stand and Deliver”) and run by Executive Director Rafael Agustin (“Jane The Virgin”), the platform agnostic festival which showcases film, television, digital, music and art – will this year put a major emphasis on U.S. Latinx talent. CAA, Egeda and AltaMed return this year as sponsors.

“LALIFF has become the preeminent destination for Latinx storytellers and this year we want to spotlight our homegrown U.S. community of filmmakers, musicians, students, TV writers, visual artists, digital producers and podcasters,” said festival co-founder Edward James Olmos.

LALIFF is programmed by two leading women with distinct pedigrees: Artistic Director Diana Sanchez (who is an International Programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival®) and Director of Programming Dilcia Barrera (who is a Programmer, Feature Films at the Sundance Film Festival). Submissions are now open at www.latinofilm.org.

LALIFF returned in 2018 after a five year hiatus, during which the organizers invested efforts in the Youth Cinema Project (YCP), which evolved from the festival’s youth program. YCP produces competent, resilient, and real world problem-solvers and bridges the achievement and opportunity gaps by creating lifelong learners and the entertainment industry’s multicultural future. This year YCP established its first-ever scholarship, which comes with a paid LALIFF internship, for a high school student who has shown great academic improvement and displayed extraordinary filmmaking excellence. This year it will go to a Santa Ana High School student from the Santa Ana Unified School District.

LALIFF and YCP are programs of the Latino Film Institute (LFI), which this year added Dr. Ana-Christina Ramon (co-author of the highly influential Hollywood Diversity Report) to its Board of Directors. She said: “As the largest minority group in the U.S. and one whose buying power outpaces other groups, Latinos are still severely underrepresented in film and TV. My goal is to provide the data necessary to enact meaningful change and motivate those in the industry to make content that is authentic and representative of how the majority of Latinos and other people of color live and work in America.”

To further expand efforts to be in the forefront of our industry, LFI this year has added LatinX In Animation as one of its signature programs. Championing the growth of diversity in animation, the LatinX in Animation team will continue monthly networking events as well as take on developing an Animation curriculum for YCP and building out LALIFF Animation at this year’s festival.

About LALIFF

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) was founded in 1997 by producer, director, actor and activist Edward James Olmos and independent producers, Marlene Dermer, George Hernandez, and Kirk Whisler. LALIFF is a non-profit 501c (3) organization with the mission to support the development and exhibition of diverse visions by Latinx creators. LALIFF brings awareness to the richness and diversity of Latin cultures, artistry and countries through film and other mediums. The festival brings together filmmakers, buyers and distributors serving as a springboard and catalyst for the promotion locally, nationally and internationally. LALIFF also offers industry workshops, panels, labs, networking receptions, educational programs, and hosts some of the best Galas in tinsel town.

For more information and updates on LALIFF visit https://latinofilm.org

For more information on the Youth Cinema Project visit https://youthcinemaproject.org

Follow LALIFF on social media:

Instagram: @laliff_

Twitter: @laliff

Facebook: facebook.com/laliff

Media Contact:

Emily Spence, [email protected]

Taking Stock of LALIFF 2018 as We Set Sights on the 2019 Edition

With an expanded vision aimed at highlighting even more Latinx and Latin American talent than ever before in multiple artistic fields, 2018 marked the stellar return of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF)—an indispensable platform for the appreciation, exhibition, and development of our community’s artistic ambitions at a time when positive representation is truly imperative.

Enhancing the highly-curated film program, new sections including LALIFF Music, featuring emerging acts performing in an intimate setting, and LALIFF Art, which provided a space for creators in other visual disciples to showcase their works, helped the festival evolve into an even more inclusive event with a fresh voice.

Calling LALIFF the Home of Latinx content is no overstatement as it brings together an array of diverse experiences under one roof: from undocumented youth, to local directors, as well as celebrated auteurs from across Ibero-America. Looking at the trajectories of LALIFF 2018 alumni, it’s clear that what the festival is investing in is talent with the potential to reshape the global cinematic landscape, but perhaps more importantly, the way Hollywood represents the Latino identity here at home.

Since last year’s festival, U.S. Latino creators who shared their work with LALIFF’s audiences have gone on to receive incredible recognitions and to participate in even more prominent projects.

Rudy Valdez’s deeply moving documentary The Sentence went on to have a theatrical release in October and later premiered on HBO. This portrait of a family enduring separation because of excessive punishment is at once hopeful and devastating. The Sentence won the Cinema Tropical Award for Best U.S. Latino Film back in January.

Actress and filmmaker Rosa Salazar screened her short film Good Crazy at LALIFF following success at Sundance. Earlier this year she graced screens around the world as the star of Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel, a sci-fi fantasy that has defied box office expectations stateside and has become a significant success in China. Salazar is a trailblazing Latina lead setting an example for the industry

Young filmmaker Chris Carmona, a proud Southeast LA native, stunned festival attendees with his debut feature, Bad Labor, a genre story about a day laborer in peril, which he produced for $7000 in the spirit of Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi. Carmona just completed a romcom web series for Mitú titled Instant Crush. Its six episodes will debut online  

Lastly, writer-director Gigi Saul Guerrero was recently named one of Variety’s 10 Latinxs to Watch in 2019. Guerrero premiered the feature-length version of her web series La Quinceañera at LALIFF. The gritty revenge story proved her outstanding directorial abilities ready to take on even more ambitious ventures.

Additionally, several Latin American titles that played at LALIFF last year found a home at HBO Latino reaching a mass audience in the U.S. Uruguayan soccer story Home Team, Colombia revenge drama Killing Jesus, Paraguayan adventure tale The Gold Seekers, Dominican biopic Veneno, The First Fall, and the Salvadoran short film My Treasure, are now available on HBO’s Spanish-language channel. Lastly, the Spanish documentary Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle by Gustavo Salmerón had a theatrical release stateside in the fall of 2018 and went on to win the Spotlight Award at the Cinema Eye Honors Awards, which recognize excellence in documentary filmmaking.

While LALIFF will continue to celebrate outstanding features and shorts from Latin America, Spain, and Portugal, a significant focus going forward is to provide even more spaces and opportunities to U.S. Latinos, those born stateside with Latin American heritage, who still terribly underrepresented in the entertainment industry. U.S. Latinos are often lumped together with their Latin American counterparts creating a deceiving perception that progress has been made.

Whereas filmmakers in Latin America have access to government subsidies and incentives to finance their projects, U.S. Latinos struggle to break into an industry that doesn’t understand the subtitles of their experiences and how these are distinct from those of Cuarón, del Toro, Iñárritu, and other major names that have emerged from the region.  

To that end, LALIFF will continue to support the Youth Cinema Project (YCP) through its LALIFF Legacy section. YCP brings filmmaking into Southern California schools presenting the craft as a plausible and exciting career path for kids in the Latino community and beyond who may have otherwise never contemplated the possibility of working in entertainment. Their work then finds a home at LALIFF Legacy in a special screening event that demonstrate the relevance of the LALIFF ecosystem for filmmakers working professionally today and those that are coming behind them.

LALIFF 2019 will build on the foundations set into place last year to continue to become not only the epicenter for our creative endeavors to shine and be shared, but a key participant in the year-round conversations around meaningful inclusion and access.