It’s official #LALIFF2013 open for submissions

After celebrating its Quinceanera in 2011, it took a hiatus in 2012

It appears that The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival is back this year after canceling what would have been last summer’s sixteenth edition.  Without much fanfare, no press release or even news item on their website, yesterday @LALIFF tweeted that the call for submissions was open and shared the link to the entry form.  Yet there are no festival dates specified, only that it will take place (sometime) in the fall. For anyone who submitted last year, the submission page encourages you to reach out to them directly:

Last year I wrote a rather lengthy post about LALIFF’s sudden flatline here. In it I interviewed Moctezuma Esparza, Ben Odell, Douglass Spain, Alex Rivera among many other filmmaker and industry vets and luminaries who have participated over the course of many if not all of LALIFF’s history.  Repeated attempts to reach figurehead Edward James Olmos went ignored.   A lot of the community was confused at such a quietly suppressed shutter, and shaken that the festival had to hit the brakes so sudden and hard after accepting submissions and in some cases inviting films for the 2012 edition.  For fifteen years LALIFF had been the fundamental forum in our great city of Angels for US and Latin American filmmakers.  In many cases it was the ONLY place US Latino films had a real shot of screening.  I was personally appalled that the mainstream press didn’t bother to lend weight to such a cultural riptide, let alone pick up the story, so I took it upon my amateur self, counting on just my personal experience and contacts to examine it closer.  It was the very first film festival I ever worked on.  Like many filmmakers and filmgoers, it kind of changed my life.  I took that passion for nurturing original Latino films and went forth into the world working at high profile film festivals, mainstream and specialized, to gain a wealth of programming experience, most influentially at Sundance and Morelia.  It’s been seven years now, and every year I make sure to reach out to LALIFF with the hopes of capitalizing on my ever growing network, relationships, programming insight and producer skills I’ve accumulated to apply it towards making LALIFF’s infrastructure and programming sustainably stronger.   It is only natural, like wanting to give back to your alma mater once you’ve made it because you feel that at long last you can actually make a real impact to something that made such a difference to you.  But for either vague reasons given (or sometimes no response at all) my eager interest to help has never been taken up.

This year once again I offer myself up to do what I do best, steering an innovative programming vision and implementing a well executed festival.  It’d be easier for me to sit back and critique its’ weaknesses but what is the use, or greater good in that?   Instead, I’m saying right here, right now, Eddie, Marlene, I’m here, ready and willing to get my hands dirty and help make this institution reach its full potential and thrive once again.

Are you down for collaborating with the festival?  Will you be submitting to LALIFF this year?  How do you feel about its return?  Cuentame.


Are you?

Films to watch at LALIFF’s Quinceañera

The Quinceañera edition of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival kicks off this Sunday, July 17 and will go through Monday July 24 at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.   I’ll be on the scene focusing on U.S. Latino films.  I’m looking forward to the Saturday July 23 free panel called New Modes and Old of Distribution for Latino Films, moderated by Sydney Levine of Indiewire’s Sydney’s Buzz.   Per the website, panelists include  Lionsgate’s new Latino division, Pantelion, Maya Entertainment (Sleepdealer, Dry Land) and Film Collaborative, an innovative non-profit distributor of niche films.  Let’s see if anyone has any breakthrough thoughts on how to reach the ubiquitious, ill-defined named “Hispanic” market.

Below is my list of films I’ve seen that I really like and highly recommend you come see at the Festival (* denotes first feature)  I definitely include Natalia Almada’s documentary, El Velador as a must see.  Check out my interview with her.  Click  here for film schedule.

Capsulas (Guatemala)  directed and written by Veronica Reidel – Flawed, but a powerful and fresh female voice sizzling with such unbridled intensity, about a mother and her son who live smack middle in the upper-class elite contending with the drug-fueled violence in Guatemala.

*Gun Hill Road directed and written by Rashaad Ernesto Green –  Silverfox oozing-machismo Esai Morales may take top billing but the explosive star wattage comes from super fierce newcomer Harmony Santana.

*A Tiro de Piedra  (Mexico) directed and written by young multi-talent, Sebastian Hiriart. A gorgeously shot and mystical odyssey that stands out from the usual border-crossing stories.

*Octubre (Peru)  directed and written by Daniel and Diego De La Vega.  Strikingly formal brushes inhabit this tale about an emotionally dry pawnbroker whose thrown for a loop with a surprise during a holy season known for miracles.

*All She Can directed by Amy Wendel and co-written with Daniel Meisel – Premiered at this year’s Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition under its former title Benavides Born.  A window into the interesting and rarely seen Texan -Mexican-American world, through the eyes of an empowered teen.

La Vida Util (Uruguay) directed and written by Federico Veiroj – second feature from the filmmaker of 2008’s AFI Grand Jury Prize winner Acne.  His follow up is in black and white and about an awkward soul who hides behind his job as a classic film archivist and programmer.  For hard core film geeks everywhere.

Chico y Rita (Spain) directed by Fernando Trueba – A crowd pleaser – an enormously satisfying and romantic animated romp about a Cuban jazz player featuring the best jazz music from the 40s through today, including endearing characterizations of jazz icons like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie among others.  One of my discoveries at last year’s Telluride.