March 13, 2009
By Jose Guzman
Look at the list of countries screening movies in this year’s annual San Diego Latino Film Festival and you might get jet lag: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Peru, Spain, Venezuela, and even the U.S.
This is the festival’s 16th year in existence and 25,000 people are expected to take a part in the 165 feature and short films playing at the 11-day event.
The projectors are roll from March 12 and continue until March 22 at Hazard Center’s UltraStar Cinemas in San Diego. But while the movies are the highlight of the festival, attendees will find themselves inundated with Latin culture. A Latin orchestra will play the opening night gala. Movie stars famous in the Latin movie scene, such Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, along with crew members, will make appearances. Edward James Olmos, most famously known for his role in “Stand By Me,” will attend. Independent-filmmaking workshops will take place.
“Lion’s Den,” an Argentinean’ drama about the struggles of an incarcerated pregnant woman who gives birth in prison, will be the first movie to screen at the festival at 4 pm, opening day. Then, the movies don’t stop. Thirteen movies will screen before the day is over and an average of 12 movies will play each of the following weekdays. Twenty movies will screen per day on Saturday and Sunday.
Movies on the billboard hale from all over the world: there is “La Ronda,” a comedy/romance made in Argentina; or “O Pai O,” a comedy/musical made in Brazil; or “Amor, Dolor, y Viceversa” a romance/thriller made in Spain and Mexico. Some movies did not get the best reviews, like “Santos,” a movie made in Chile about a failed comic book artist who believes he is a superhero, which received four and half stars out of ten on www.imdb.com.
But along side the poorly received movies, are some gems, like one of the festival’s centerpieces, “The Garden,” directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy. The film, nominated for an Academy Award, is a documentary showing the struggles of modern-day, Latin-American immigrants surviving the harsh realities of East Los Angeles. It is about an impoverished neighborhood whose members depend on food grown in a community garden. But when the garden is sold in a supposed back-door deal, the people are forced to stand up for themselves and challenge the L.A. City Council.
An attendee can see one of the festival’s movies for the same price as the theater’s usual admission or gain increased access by purchasing either a $90 limited-access pass or a $180 full-access pass.
As the years go by San Diego Latino film festival has established itself and each year attracts a greater audience and not just people interested in film, it is much more of a cultural event. A giant cross section where one is going to meet people from all over the Americas, and where fresh actors and filmmakers who want to become the new stars get the opportunity to show their talents and desire to conquest the Hispanic market in the U.S. Movies and show times for the festival can be found at www.mediaartscenter.org.
Jose Guzman is a student intern from Southwestern College.