Timothy Rawles | Contributor
Latino Film Festival changes venues and expands
The 22nd annual Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) is coming to San Diego and it promises to be more exciting than ever. With a new venue and the addition of a career expo, organizers expect that this year’s event will go beyond anything attendees have experienced before.
The festival begins on March 12 and will run through March 22, with films screening at both the AMC Fashion Valley 18 and the Digital Gym Cinema.
Celebrating Latino films and the artists that make them, SDLFF will not only bring cultures together for 10 days of film, food and glamour, but also provide plenty of opportunities for aspiring artists to learn more about the entertainment industry.
Festival founder and Executive Director Ethan Van Thillo said this year’s event includes a new “Creative Careers Expo” that will not only showcase opportunities within the film industry but also many other industries. The expo is free for all ages and will take place on March 14 from 10 a.m. — 4 p.m. at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, located at 404 Euclid Ave., in City Heights.
Van Thillo said the new partnership with the Jacobs Center will allow people to take part in the festival in a unique way.
“We need more young Latinos, African-Americans and immigrant youth to get involved in careers in technology, software, visual arts, journalism, film and video, music, fashion and more,” he said. “Additionally, we need young people who will help our country grow by being creative and innovative, no matter what industry they choose.”
Exhibitions Director Phil Lorenzo thinks the new venue at Fashion Valley will give loyal attendees a new appreciation for the festival. He is excited to bring an element of fashion into the works — through both the expo and the new venue — something he said has been a big part of both the Tribeca and Sundance Film festivals.
The SDLFF will also include a showcase of films for the LGBTQ community. Cine Gay began nine years ago and consists of films from Venezuela, Mexico, Chile and Brazil. Van Thillo explained why this aspect of the festival is important, not only to the LGBTQ community, but the Latino community as well.
“The annual San Diego Latino Film Festival has for years been working on breaking down borders and barriers,” Van Thillo said. “Not only have we strived to create a better understanding between the Latino and Anglo-American communities through film, we’ve also strived to celebrate the diversity within the Latino community itself. It’s important to fight for the rights of the LGBT community. It’s important to fight against machismo and make sure women’s voices are heard. Diversity is what makes our country great and is what makes our communities and neighborhoods even stronger.”
Though this is a Latin film festival, one might think that speaking Spanish is necessary to fully appreciate all it has to offer. However, Lorenzo said that is not the case, adding that attendees merely need to keep their minds open.
“The stories that Latino filmmakers tell are the stories of you and me; they are every story,” he said. “Humanity is the key in filmmaking, it is tapping into the vein of what makes us, well, us.”
Organizers assure that all films will be screened with subtitles and many of them are already in English.
If you plan on attending the festival this year, expect everything a Hollywood-type experience would include: stars, directors and Latin filmmakers, because Van Thillo said he wants attendees to be immersed in the Latin entertainment culture.
While listing off some of the more well known Latin celebrities that will be joining the festivities — including Kate del Castillo, Adal Ramones, Edward James Olmos, Maria Rojo, Sandra Echeverria, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Hector Jimenez, and Julio Bracho — Van Thillo said getting the chance to meet the films’ makers and stars and participate in Q&As is what make all the annual festivals so special.
“The recent wins at the Oscars were a wonderful victory for both the filmmakers, producers and Latino cinema in general,” Van Thillo said. “It shows the world what we’ve known for 22 years now; that Latino filmmakers and storytellers are some of the best artists in the world.”
With Alejandro González Iñárritu’s best director and best picture awards for “Birdman” being a first for the Latin community, Van Thillo said he hopes the SDLFF will continue to foster Hollywood’s — and the public’s — appreciation for Latino filmmakers and their talents for years to come.
And who knows? Maybe this year’s SDLFF will be the place where Hollywood finds its next Oscar winner.
The 22nd annual San Diego Latino Film Festival will run March 12 — 22, at the AMC Fashion Valley 18, located at 7037 Friars Road in Mission Valley, and the Digital Gym Cinema, located at 2921 El Cajon Blvd., in North Park.
For tickets and more information about the festival or the Creative Careers Expo, visit sdlatinofilm.com.