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LALIFF’s Volunteers Find Community and Inclusion While Supporting the Fight for Latino Representation

Since its inception, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) has thrived thanks to the support of countless individuals who believe in its mission as a bastion for Latino representation. LALIFF is an event powered by community, and as such the role of its volunteers carries immeasurable significance. In short, the festival wouldn’t function without them.

Last year, upon the festival’s return from hiatus, a new generation of cinema lovers, emerging artists, and committed supporters in general had the chance to be part of the LALIFF family as volunteers. Though their help in a variety of positions regarding the operations of the event is crucial, volunteers also benefit from the creative environment and inclusivity that define the festival.

Take the case of actress Graciela Campos, for example, who joined LALIFF’s band of volunteers in 2018 and was able to “meet many creative Latinx people, and also learned a lot about the business.” Her genuine dedication and openness made her an invaluable member of the team. Floating around multiple tasks, Campos soaked in the experience and engaged not only with other members of the staff, but also audiences, and guests.

“As an actor I love being in that atmosphere,” added Campos. “I learned that a good attitude will get you a long way. Just being genuine and helpful will work in your favor. It’s not about rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. It’s about community and people can see where your intentions are. Good intentions get you in doors.”

For Valentina D’Agostini, a student at Marymount Manhattan College, it was the vision behind the festival and all of the Latino Film Institute’s initiatives and the change they are trying to enact that enticed her to be a part of it.

“One thing I learned at LALIFF is how important it is that we continue to work on and be in discussion about the lack of inclusivity in the entertainment industry,” said D’Agostini. “On top of being a cool event to be involved with, LALIFF is about promoting culture and Latinx representation in media which is something I would consider myself passionate about. “

Following the fantastic and welcoming experience she had during her first year, D’Agostini is returning to volunteer at LALIFF 2019 this summer, and her continued involvement is proof that everyone in the team immediately becomes part of a likeminded group pushing forward for our collective advancement.

“The number one thing about the organization that made me want to come back and volunteer is the people! I got to meet so many incredibly talented and kind people that immediately made me feel at home. I felt like I was surrounded by family the entire time,” added D’Agostini.

Along the same lines, for student Randy Cruz, who’s starting this fall at CSUN, joining LALIFF’s volunteer force represented a sort of homecoming as she tried to navigate the ins and outs of the entertainment business. “Being a Latina trying to find my place in the film industry, I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like or where to go, but I’m so happy to have found LALIFF and become part of the team and meet so many amazing people,” said Cruz.

LALIFF became an open space for Cruz to feel connected to a larger community of Latinos in the industry, so much that she didn’t think twice about returning once again to support the organization. “The feeling of inclusion is amazing at LALIFF and am happy to be coming back for my second year volunteering,” she added.

Beyond an astounding film program, unforgettable musical performances, and networking opportunities for career advancement, LALIFF stands as a unique intersection for all Latino creators and their patrons to engage not only with the art on the screens, but with the issues, yearnings, and shared experiences that concerns us as a community. No one embodies these sentiments of selfless dedication for the good of our people as a whole than the volunteers.

In her own words, Cruz summed it up nicely: “If someone wants to come in and help, allow them. It may seem silly but being in an inclusive place like LALIFF helps spread that sort of mentality. There is a place for everyone if we open up our doors.”

To become a LALIFF volunteer apply here.

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