When it comes to Latino film in Hollywood, no one can deny the impact directors Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) have had on the industry. All hailing from Mexico, the trio has proven that cinema from south of the border can stand side-by-side with its U.S. counterpart.
That’s all well and good, but what about Latino filmmakers who were born in the U.S., have a unique perspective on Latino issues, and want to translate those to film? When will those filmmakers be recognized by mainstream studios?
“The film industry has really been revitalized by Latino filmmakers over the last few years,” says Victor Payan, co-director of the 30th annual CineFestival, who has also directed the San Diego Latino Film Festival for the past 13 years. “Everyone from Cuarón and del Toro, who made blockbusters, to cinematographers like `Emmanuel`
Lubeski have done their part.”
As always, CineFestival, which is considered the oldest running international Latino film festival in North America, will highlight cinematic work from across the globe including the countries of Chile, Bolivia, and Mexico. What Payan is most excited about, however, is the number of U.S. Latinos who will screen their films at the Guadalupe Theater this year.
“This is something you might not see in many other festivals,” Payan said. “The reason is because in these other countries the industry is supported by the state or is a national industry. In the U.S., Chicano film remains very independent. The fact that there is so much work this year is really
One of these emerging U.S. Latino filmmakers is Alex Rivera. A veteran of CineFestival (his mockumentary Animaquiladora/Why Cybraceros? won Best Experimental film in 1997, and two other films were selected in 2000 and 2003), Rivera returns to San Antonio with his first feature narrative, Sleep Dealer.
“For me, CineFestival and festivals like it are home,” said Rivera. “It’s a festival that has supported my work and given it life when not a lot of other places were.”
Sleep Dealer is a science-fiction story about a young man who migrates from Oaxaca to Tijuana to work in a factory where his labor is transferred via virtual-computer network to control machines in the U.S. The film won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival this past January.
“In sci-fi we’ve only seen Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, New York, and Los Angeles,” Rivera said. “Latino filmmakers as a group should stretch it further. We should inhabit every genre.”
Rivera considers himself part of a “hybrid culture,” a Latino filmmaker, who’s a member of a film community that crosses all borders. Because U.S.-born Latinos have not had the same mainstream success as Latinos from other countries, Rivera says it is time to organize and create a parallel movement alongside the Cuaróns, del Toros, and Iñárritus.
“I am from the South and from the North,” Rivera said. “I think it’s our duty to look at our world through a lens that sees a third world and a first world. CineFestival has always been a champion of cross-border cinema that really acknowledges that the Latino experience is not the Latin American experience. The Latino experience is on both sides of the border.” •
Single screenings: $6-8
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