Reflecting the Latino Film Institute’s commitment to championing and providing spaces for Latinx talent—those born and/or raised in the United States with Latino heritage—the recently announced slate of feature films, shorts, and episodic content to screen at the 2019 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) focuses predominantly on these experiences often neglected by film festivals and the industry at large.
Opening night will see the LA Premiere of the formally stunning and timely hybrid film “The Infiltrators” by Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera, which combines fictionalized sequences with documentary footage to tell the incredible story of a group of undocumented youth who banded together against a for-profit detention center. Their clever tactics are a testament to the strength that comes from community, which is also a core notion of the messaging LALIFF is promoting.
New Latinx voices are poised to dazzle audiences with their powerful first features addressing diverse topics relevant to our people and beyond. Chelsea Hernandez’s documentary “Building the American Dream” dives deep into the precarious conditions faced by immigrant workers, Daniel Fermin Pfeffer’s “I’ll See You Around” is a drama centered on an African-American striving to improve his life against adverse circumstances, and Diana Peralta’s “De Lo Mío” deals with two sisters caught up between their life in NYC and the Dominican Republic, where their brother lives.
With more credits under their belt, seasoned Latinx talents are also bringing their latest works to LALIF. Rashaad Ernesto Green, who’s had a successful career in television over the past few years, will present his second feature, romantic Harlem-set tale “Premature.” Adding an edgy vibe to the festival, Daniel Garcia and directing partner Rania Attieh are having the West Coast Premiere of their new work “Initials S.G.,” which takes the duo to Argentina for a story about an aging actor with delusions of grandeur.
While Latinx stories are taking a big part of the spotlight this year, Latin American storytellers are also present at LALIFF via some of the most notable works to emerge from the region over the last year.
Entrancing Brazilian dystopia “Divine Love,” from acclaimed auteur Gabriel Mascaro, explores a future where religion has infiltrated secular society in disturbingly pervasive ways. It’s a thought-provoking vision of a country currently undergoing a peculiar political moment. On a more intimate scale, Uruguayan director Lucía Garibaldi’s debut feature “The Sharks” uses mass panic and unassuming danger to convey a coming-of-age narrative where a complex female protagonist discovering desire in a small town.
Highlighting Latinx and Latin American art, as well as the intersections between them, a trio of fantastic biographical documentaries will celebrate some of our greatest talents in multiple disciplines: “Raúl Julia: The World’s a Stage,” honors the Puerto Rican who left his mark in Hollywood, “Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire” dissects the complicated life of the Chicano activist and artist, while “Siqueiros: Walls of Passion” explores how the singular Mexican painter became a symbol for the Chicano movement.
Prolific globetrotting filmmaker Michael Flores spearheads the shorts programs with two distinct works, one is a bit-size biopic of late narcocorrido star Chalino Sanchez and the other, “The Bell,” takes Flores to El Salvador for a heartfelt drama about displaced people.
A variety of genres and stylistic approaches are featured across the two collections of shorts screening at LALIFF this year, all of which have in common the utter authenticity of the experiences portrayed that find universality in their specificity. From Jessica Mendez Siqueiros’ food-related dramedy “Pozole,” to Chicana filmmaker Lizette Barrera’s friendship story “Chicle,” Cuban-born director Gabriela Garcia Medina’s delightful period piece “Little Con Lili,” or Victor Hugo Duran take on masculinity in “Figueroa.”
As television becomes a major platform for stories by people of color to enter the mainstream, LALIFF’s episodic slate includes several pilots showcasing up-and-coming creators.
The Latino Film Institute’s very own Benjamin-Shalom Rodriguez, who’s served as a mentor for the Youth Cinema Project, will debut his comedy project “Stoned Breakups” about a writer’s romantic mishaps. On a similar vein, writer-director David Tripler will present “South of Sunset: Fake Mexicans,” a narrative following a Mexican-American writer as he embarks on a journey to understand his own identity. Also notable, is the docu-series “Werq the World: Valentina,” following the Latina star who became a “RuPaul’s Drag Race” sensation.
As previously revealed, the organization LatinX in Animation, which recently joined the Latino Film Institute, will be present at LALIFF through a masterclass with important figures working in the animation industry: Pilar Flynn, producer of “Elena of Avalor,” Miguel Jiron, story artist for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Niki López, creator and producer of “Santiago of the Seas,” Silvia Olivas, executive producer and head writer of “Maya and the Three,” and Eric Robles, co-creator and executive producer of “Glitch Techs.”
Put together by seasoned Sundance programmer and LALIFF’s Director of Programming Dilcia Barrera, the film and episodic programs for the 2019 edition are bold, original, and above all true to the diverse voices that comprise the Latinx community.