The 22nd edition of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) kicks off Wednesday with a special screening of Eva Longoria’s Flamin’ Hot—you know, the Hot Cheetos movie. While the festival promises plenty of big blockbuster hits —Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Julio Torres’ Problemista, plus TV shows Primo and With Love— there’s also more arthouse fare for those looking for something off the beaten path.
And that’s purposeful, says Diana Cadavid, artistic director of the Latino Film Institute, which hosts the annual festival. Cadavid tells Latino Rebels that programming LALIFF was “a very organic process,” with some rules, namely, “at least 50 percent of the films being directed by women, at least 50 percent of the films being directed by U.S. Latinos, (and) to have diversity of languages, diversity of cinematic approaches.”
The goal here is not just to have something for everyone but also to make a point about our community.
“There is not one type of filmmaker that identifies themselves as Latinos,” said Cadavid, who’s curated a festival to reflect that.
In addition to feature-length films, LALIFF boasts shorts, music, panels, and series. Still, the word “film” is in the festival’s name for a reason, so let’s take a look at eight indie titles you may not get to see anywhere else…
From Mexican filmmaker Yolanda Cruz, Hope, Soledad follows two women who meet on a pilgrimage in Oaxaca. Both are dealing with loss, negotiating their relationship with the U.S.-Mexico border, and looking for healing.
Hummingbirds is the portrait of a dusty Texas summer as two friends (portrayed by and named after the actual filmmakers) come of age. U.S. Latinas Silvia Del Carmen Castaños and Estefanía “Beba” Contreras put together this film based on their experiences living in borderlands.
Do you ever imagine what it would be like to be at your own wake? That is essentially what the titular Moe does by staging one last rager, knowing he’s dying of AIDS. Of course, it doesn’t go as planned in Chicanx director José Luis Valenzuela’s adaptation of his award-winning play.
This documentary tells the story of the Cuban protest anthem “Patria y Vida” by following six Afrodescendant rappers who crafted it. The artists face threats, imprisonment, and exile for their lyrical stylings, and Spanish filmmaker Beatriz Luengo makes her directorial debut chronicling the power of their music.
The Other Shape is an animated, mind-bending sci-fi feature by director Diego Felipe Guzmán where humans have built a “square paradise” on the moon. To get there, people are bending their minds and bodies into square shapes. But what happens when these compressed and deformed citizens discover another shape?
From Venezuelan-American director Miguel Angel Ferrer comes The Shadow of the Sun, a tale of two brothers who enter a music contest in hopes of solving their financial problems. Older brother Leo is more at home working with his hands than singing, while younger brother Alex is Deaf and a dreamer. Together, this odd couple finds a way to triumph against all odds.
This documentary from Mexican-American filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz tells the story of a group of Argentinian students who become global leaders in forensic science after answering the call to exhume their county’s disappeared in the 1980s. The Team begins with them learning the trade from legendary scientist Dr. Clyde Snow and continues as they push his legacy by advocating for human rights in the wake of some of the world’s worst atrocities.
You Were My First Boyfriend mixes documentary, fantasy and memory to recreate and rewrite Puerto Rican filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo’s adolescence. She’s using the film to expose “the funhouse mirror of time’s passage” and hopefully find some healing for herself and all of us who are haunted by old, and perhaps not entirely true, memories.
The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival runs from Wednesday, May 31 to Sunday, June 4 in Hollywood, California.
Cristina Escobar is the entertainment reporter for Latino Rebels. She is also the co-founder of latinamedia.co, uplifting Latina and gender non-conforming Latinx perspectives in media. She’s a member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association and writes at the intersection of race, gender, and pop culture. Twitter: @cescobarandrade