I’m bad at math, but driven by stats.
Recently, Remezcla produced a feature story entitled, A Guide to Everything Latino at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. When I pulled out my trusty calculator, I was stunned (once again) that out of 101 feature films screening at this year’s Festival, only 8% were by Latino filmmakers—and this is an increase from 5% over the past two years.
Out of 20 Latino countries comprising Latin America, only five countries were included, and out of 72 short films, only 6% were by Latinos.
All this in a city with a 27% Latino population.
I have always believed in taking proactive measures when spotting a problem, so after a number of attempts to connect with Tribeca and provide a solution by forging a partnership at some level or the other that went unheeded, I am left with no alternative than to withdraw the support of PRIME LATINO MEDIA for the Festival this year.
For the past four years, PRIME LATINO MEDIA has developed into the largest network on the East Coast of Latino multimedia-makers, actors and musicians in bilingual Latino and mainstream media and entertainment.
We are not officially boycotting Tribeca because a few Latino filmmakers who are part of our network are premiering works in this year’s Festival, and we have proudly supported them over the years in the successful development of their projects and advancing their career, which is what defines PRIME LATINO MEDIA in the community.
But also consider this: tickets to screen a film by the general public at the Tribeca are $23.50. Some screenings followed by a panel discussion are $43. These are prices out of reach for many struggling Latino filmmakers who are challenged enough in trying to fund their independent projects, not to speak of the Festival extending its reach to include our general community.
Riding a cab over the weekend, I watched a news clip by Sandy Kenyon of WABC-Taxi TV. Kenyon was interviewing both of Tribeca’s co-founders, Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. At one point, Rosenthal went on to proudly tout that “a third of this year’s filmmakers are women,” a statistic normally abysmal in the industry. At the Festival, such an achievement is celebrated. However, a Latina filmmaker screening in this year’s Festival who embraced the inclusion of more women, questioned the low number of Latino filmmakers present.
She is not alone in this thinking or in asking this question.
For many Latino filmmakers in the U.S. and Latin America, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival (one of the top 10 North American film festivals) is vital to achieving a career-changing goal that can open so many doors for their projects (from promotion to distribution), but unattainable to the talented ones who cannot participate. Before even completing their passion project for submission, many of our multimedia-makers face impediments, ranging from a lack of available funding streams to connections with powerful networks that would unlatch doors for serious consideration of their noble works.
This lack of inclusion in storytelling beyond documentary filmmaking inevitably impacts our narrative filmmakers and ultimately, the visibility of Latino English- and Spanish-speaking actors and their potential for crossover into Latino and mainstream media.
This is the fourth year New York City lacks an International Latino Film Festival and the third year Los Angeles lacks one, too. These are the two largest media capitals in the U.S. with large and vibrant Latino populations. I am intent on launching one in NYC correctly, but it is sad that we can’t partner with existing mainstream festivals. This only furthers our resolve to create our own. Historically, I have always hated when certain entities that have excluded some groups from the process direct you to your community as a channel to promote your work or to form your own organization.
I’m not an activist, rather an advocate. But what has always spurred me on to champion a cause are underlying injustices due to non-inclusion, misrepresentation or worse yet, omitting a segment of a community from the whole. Please feel free to share and circulate. Only when a united community registers a truly profound disdain, will change take effect.