A film festival which highlights a burgeoning culture s growth is admirable. The organizers of such a festival, though, may find it difficult to choose between catering to the familiar and safe audience or risking that core group s approval to branch out and proudly showcase its wares for more widespread recognition and acceptance.
The second-annual Orange County Latino Film Festival, which was held from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, displayed the latest artistic creations in the contemporary Latino film industry, ranging from an Ecuadorian action movie to a Mexican romantic comedy and more. This year, the Vanguard Cinema-presented film festival not only featured full-length action, comedy and drama films, but documentaries and short films about a variety of subjects as well.
The festival has changed significantly since last year, particularly in its selection of films. Whereas the first film festival featured fine cinematic work reflecting the growth of Latin film-making in the previous decade, the 2005 festival, which presented more than 20 films, focused on contemporary work created throughout this past year.
The overall mission of the film festival, however, remains the same.
‘By showcasing entertainment and displaying culture through the riches of the cinematic experience,’ states the OCLFF Board of Directors, they hope to ‘increase awareness and enjoyment of Latino culture, enriching our community as a whole.’
Orange County, as a center of Latino culture, is an ideal location for such a film festival. But if Vanguard is truly trying to increase awareness of Latino culture and these widely varying films, one wonders why the press conference for the event was held completely in Spanish, which suggests a catering to a more loyal and traditional Latino crowd.
This might seem natural given the content of the films (created by Latinos and inspired by Latino culture), but perhaps it also reflects the conflict between any Latino film festival’s motives and the reality in which it is presented.
How can a Latino film festival actively seek to attract a widespread audience beyond traditional Latino viewers and still maintain the interest of this core group?
The ideal film that realizes the stated goals of the OCLFF must be both accessible to a predominately English-speaking audience tolerant of subtitles, as well as entertaining to a Spanish-speaking audience. Such films would succeed in a similar way that subtitled films like ‘Amelie’ and ‘Triplets of Belleville’ resonated with French audiences and also proved to be hits in America despite the lack of English dubbing.
Unfortunately, the film ‘La Sombra del Sahuaro,’ which was the most widely publicized movie in the festival, does not hold the answer. The action movie, which pits a drug dealer against his local businessman brother in a violent tale based on the real life story of famous Mexican drug dealer Ricardo Lopez, does not impress the viewer with unique plotlines or unexplored themes. Instead, the movie, which stars famous Novela actor Eduardo Santamarina, is simply good. If you find yourself in the mood for an action flick which allows for a peek into the current state of Mexican filmmaking to pass the time, Vanguard Cinema has your movie.
More promising and more engaging is ‘Mojados: Through the Night,’ a film in which director Tommy Davis follows a group of four men attempting to avoid death and U.S. Border Patrol in order to start better lives in the United States. Davis captures the men as they undertake a 120 mile journey through the Texas desert. The twoand- a-half hour long movie’s trailer suggests that the movie is a wellmade documentary which depicts the current struggles faced by those who courageously try to immigrate illegally into the United States.
Short subject films were also represented by the festival. Selections included a film in which a young executive rides a subway and discovers the reason for discrimination (‘Pata De Gallo’), and another in which ‘the spirit of the deceased plays one last game’ during a wake (‘Espiritu Deportivo’).
Although a variety of film genres were featured at the festival, the country in which a majority of the films were produced was much more limited. The guidelines for submissions to next year’s festival thankfully encourage additional diversity, but mostly in terms of genre. As was the case before, films submitted to Vanguard Cinema must ‘reflect Latino culture domestically or internationally and