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LALIFF’s Short Films Tell Hugely Relevant Stories in Bite-Size Form

Audiences seeking to explore bold and inspiring content created by Latinx filmmakers beyond the great selection of features at LALIFF, will find a treasure chest of stories and idiosyncratic visions in the festival’s Short Programs. Experimental works, hard-hitting dramas from rarely seen regions, and even animated narratives, comprise a curated compilation of the best short films created by or about Latinx talents in the last few years.

Through this selection of standout bite-size creations with hugely relevant stories, LALIFF is bridging the gap between its last edition and its return. Many of the short films included were made during LALIFF’s hiatus, thus this programs allows the festival to share them with audience and showcase some the best work Latinx filmmakers completed in this intermission.

One of the festival’s invaluable partners to bring incredible short form content to this year’s festivities is the Borscht Corporation, a non-profit redefining the way cinema is produced in a Miami. Borscht also puts together its own film festival every couple of years, an even that has garnered a cult following for their audacious programming and creative approach to production. For LALIFF, having Borscht be part of this new journey was a perfect match.

“It was so important to include Borscht Corp in LALIFF’s comeback year as they continuously represent Latinx creators and Latinx perspectives in prestigious film festivals throughout the world,” says LALIFF’s Senior Programmer, Dilcia Barrera.” Their ingenuity and approach is admirable and I hope their journey inspires other Latinx filmmakers to take chances, be bold and created art true to their own stories.”

Borscht is represented at the festival with a stunning lineup in a program titled Borscht Diez: 10 Year Anniversary Program. Apart from including Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins’ hypnotic short Chlorophyl, this look at a decade of Borscht-produced works also presents two animated gems by Brazilian-born Miami-based director Bernardo Britto. Both Yearbook and Glove premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and have cemented Britto as a singular force in multiple mediums.

Outside of the Borscht Diez package of wonders, one of the most anticipated directorial debuts playing at LALIFF is the short Good Crazy directed Rosa Salazar. The actress who’s had an immensely successful career in both film and television takes her first stab at writing and directing in a complex piece. Later this year Salazar will star in the title role of Robert Rodriguez’s new feature Alita: Battle Angel.

Distinct areas of Latin America are also present at LALIFF via award-winning shorts like Michael Flores’ My Treasure (Mi Tesoro), a touching tale about the aftermath of war from El Salvador; Juan Pablo Arias Muñoz’s Hombre, sharp take on masculinity from Chile; Carlos Morales’ Symphony of a Sad Sea (Sinfonía de un Mar Triste), centered on a young Mexican man escaping violence in his homeland; and João Paulo Miranda Maria’s Ant Killer (Feminas Formicida), a provocative look at a teenage girl’s personal battles.

Similarly, shorts from a Latinx points of view include the Boyle Heights-set The Town I Live In directed by Guadalupe Rosales & Matt Wolf; two documentaries on issues around immigration, Anna Barsan’s Libre and Lorena Manriquez & Marlene McCurtis’ Here I’ll Stay; and a hilarious comedy Diet & Exercise by Benjamin-Shalom Rodriguez.

Undoubtedly, shorts at LALIFF are a sample platter of ides, techniques, and perspectives that complete an already balanced program.

 

Alih Jey and Cunao - LALIFF

Latinx Bands and DJs to Score the Festival as Part of LALIFF Music Series

Picture Credit: JC Olivera (Instagram: @jcolivera)

For the first time in its long history of championing emerging talent, LALIFF will include a new section focused on Latinx musical acts that are pushing boundaries and reinventing traditional genres with modern sensibilities.

Each night during the festival, the Hollywood Roosevelt will transform into the perfect stage for an eclectic collection of bands and DJs to share their culturally complex creations with eager attendees. This new addition to LALIFF’s rich program encourages discovery and aims to connect artists with potential audiences in order to build a supportive community for them to thrive.  

“Our vision for LALIFF Music is to advocate and celebrate brilliant Latinx Musicians, DJs and Artists,” says Alexis de la Rocha, LALIFF Music Programmer. “It is important for us to highlight diverse independent acts who are not only creating spectacular sounds, but who are changing the way  the world views Latinx performers.”

Opening Night guests will dance to the rhythm of psychedelic Cumbia courtesy of the East L.A.’s whimsical Tropa Magica, as well as the bilingual and comedic tunes of The Mexican Standoff and Eastside Luv’s resident DJ: Bsyde. To call it an unmissable lineup would be an understatement.

With film screenings now in full swing, Thursday night’s performances by Grammy-nominated Dominican singer-songwriter Alih Jey, accompanied by South American-inspired folk group Cuñao, and globally-minded Cumbia fusion band We the Folk will set the tone for the rest of the festival.

Weekend vibes kick off on Friday thanks to Sin Color, an ambitious South L.A. duo crafting electronic beats grounded on old school Latin musical styles, and Salvadoran-American DJ and singer Linda Nuves of Chulita Vinyl Club.

Prominent DJ José Galván, who is currently an on-air DJ at radio station KCRW, will be spinning Saturday night delighting listeners with his distinct brand of mixes. The utterly idiosyncratic Soul Jazz band Brainstory and Chicago Batman’s multinstrumentalist É Arenas will also join the party.

Straight from Mexico City, the Closing Night act, El Conjunto Nueva Ola is sure to bring dance-inducing tracks to cap off the LALIFF’s return with revitalized interpretations of classic songs on Sunday night.

As part of LALIFF’s evolution into the epicenter of Latinx entertainment, the new musical component is a revolutionary idea to open the platform beyond cinematic works. It’s a bold move on the organizers part, but one that wholeheartedly aligns with the inclusive mantra the festival preaches. The LALIFF Music Series will provide a soundtrack to the five-day celebration of the multitude of Latinx identities, interests, and influences.

US Latinx Voices Break Out at LALIFF 2018

Works by Latin American filmmakers are always present at international festivals, sometimes in abundance, simply because government incentives and opportunities for both emerging and established talent are available in many foreign countries. However, for US-born Latinos or those who work stateside, the same doesn’t apply because those financial stimuli are non-existent here.

In addition to having no direct access to funds, US Latinos must also battle an industry that doesn’t understand their specific cultural perspective, which is shaped by their Latino heritage yet distinct from that of those who grew up, live, and work in Latin America. The white mainstream media tends to place everyone under the same umbrella without acknowledging the experiences of those who identify as Americans with a Latino background.

LALIFF, at its core, has always been a bridge between US Latinos and Latin Americans in order to shine a light on our similar sensibilities but also  offers a space for specificity to stand out. More than ever, US Latinx voices are demanding to be seen in the context of their struggles and triumphs as people of color within the United States.

The Pushouts

A prime example of such a vision is Rudy Valdez’s hard-hitting and heartbreaking doc The Sentence, which earned him the “Audience Award – U.S. Documentary” at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. In this personal debut feature, the Mexican-American filmmaker assembled a portrait of his own family as they endured the tragic consequences of his sister Cindy’s unreasonable 15-year sentence for her alleged involvement in the crimes committed by her deceased ex-boyfriend. Rudy, his brother-in-law, his parents, his siblings, and Cindy’s daughters must adapt to life without her, while at the same time venturing into the uncertain path of trying to get her released through the clemency initiative implemented by the Obama administration. The Sentence will serve as the festival’s Opening Night film on June 20th.

On a similar note, The Pushouts, directed by Katie Galloway and co-directed by Dawn Valadez, is a non-fiction work that centers on the story of Dr. Victor Rios, who went from gang member to professor and author after being inspired by a teacher who refused to see him simply as a troubled Latino youth. Driven to give back, Rios agrees to lead a program mentoring young people of color at the Yo! Watts YouthSource Center. He helps change Changing the notions around these teenagers by referring to them not as dropouts but pushouts also shifts the responsibility of their struggles is shared with the system that is currently not designed to help them succeed.

Playing with genre elements Chris Carmona’s first-feature Bad Labor takes the preconceived stereotypes about Latino day laborers and turns one of them into the audacious protagonist of his action-packed and sleekly photograph debut. The film reflects the story of a Hard-worker, Roberto Vargas (played by Mexican actor Salvador Chacon), who takes a job from a suspicious white man. As the plot unfolds, Roberto begins to understand that what he has been hired to do is a much darker, violent, and a dangerous task than he could have ever expected.

Lastly, defying the format constraints that other festivals impose,constraints regarding format that other festival’s imposed, LALIFF has included a web series from Warner’s Stage 13 studio: Gigi Saul Guerrero’s La Quinceañera, as part of its program. This gritty Tex-Mex reimagining of the fragile image of a Latina teenager girl is a revenge tale ready to surpass all expectations by pushing its characters out of their comfort zone and into a thrilling narrative. Across the board, LALIFF is pursuing greater inclusion of US LatinxLatino voices and the varied ways and genres in which they are producing content.

Undocumented Storytellers Take Over Hollywood Via LALIFF Art

Under attack by the anti-immigrant rhetoric that plagues the highest circles of power, young undocumented creators have embraced budget-less filmmaking to fight generalizations, ignorance, and the unrealistic standards they are held to because of their status. Undeterred by their circumstances and armed with their stories, these artists are tackling the undocumented experience through humor, mood pieces, traditional documentaries, and even web series.

A collection of these works created over the last decade will be exhibited as part of an art installation titled Con Camaras Y Sin Papeles in the lobby of the TCL Chinese Theatre during LALIFF 2018. This year, the festival is collaborating with CultureStrike, a nonprofit whose focus is on supporting art geared towards spotlighting social justice issues, and they are bringing undocumented storytellers to the heart of Hollywood. Not only is the installation a move for wider visibility, but also an educational opportunity for those who are unfamiliar with the reality of undocumented life in this country.

Curated with the help of acclaimed artist Rafa Esparza, this selection of short videos represents a myriad of genres and worldviews all encompassed within the undocumented realities in America. Featured creatives include activist Angy Rivera, who is behind the popular YouTube channel Ask Angy and who was the subject of the 2015 documentary No Le Digas a Nadie; Armando Ibañez, who advocates for “undocuqueer” struggles through his episodic venture Undocumented Tales; as well as other fresh talents like Marco Nieves and his three-part short doc Almost American.

Attendees at LALIFF will have the opportunity to engage with the material during the five-day event between screenings and events. With over a dozen different pieces, all equally  fascinating and insightful, each visit will deliver new information that refutes the false statements about undocumented people perpetuated by racist figures and will replace them with connections that reaffirm our shared humanity.

The significance of calling attention to undocumented voices cannot be overstated. Their prominence at the festival as part of the LALIFF Art section reiterates the values that guide every programming decision: Our stories, all of them, matter.   

The 2018 festival runs June 20-24 at TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood.