By Priscilla Blossom, Special to Denverite
Film buffs should mark their calendars as the CineLatino Film Festival, a cultural celebration of Latinxs in film, returns for its third year later this month.
Hosted by the Denver Film Society, this year’s CineLatino will feature 13 films over the course of four days. Features and documentaries will be at the forefront of this year’s fest. Among the most highly anticipated films of the fest are “Ceviche’s DNA,” “X-500,” and “The Woodpeckers.”
One outlier, “You’re Killing Me, Susana” (featuring Gael Garcia Bernal, star of Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle,” Che Guevara biopic “The Motorcycle Diaries” and “Y Tu Mamá También”), is a dramedy sure to elicit some laughs.
“The process of selecting films is very curatorial. We don’t take submissions for this festival, but track films screening at other festivals and see what distributors have that might be appropriate and timely. We try to put together as diverse a program as possible and include as many different countries as possible,” says Brit Withey, artistic director of the Denver Film Festival.
“For the most part, films are from countries outside of the U.S., but that’s not exclusively the case,” Withey says, citing the closing night film, “Elián”— which features U.S. filmmakers taking on the contentious story of Elián Gonzalez, the boy at the center of the famous international custody battle in 2000.
Following in the footsteps of last year’s gastronomy-themed opening night, this year’s opener, “Ceviche’s DNA,” is also about food. Directed by Orlando Arriagada, this documentary details the history of the Peruvian seafood dish known as ceviche, which has been eaten in some form or other since prehistoric times. Through conversations with fishermen, archaeologists, and notable chefs, Arriagada manages to not only celebrate this simple-yet-flavorful dish, but also explores deeper matters of colonialism as well.
“Woodpeckers,” directed by 29-year-old filmmaker Jose Maria Cabral, tells the story of a group of inmates who develop a new form of sign language (“woodpecking”) while doing time at Najayo, a prison in the Dominican Republic. The film follows new inmate Julian Sosa as he develops a relationship with a female inmate through woodpecking. Actor Jean Jean (who plays the starring role in the film) will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening.
And considering the current climate regarding immigration, “X500” is certain to be another festival favorite. The film, directed by Juan Andres Arango Garcia, focuses on the complex experiences of three teenage migrants and their transition into a new home after losing a loved one.
There’s Alex, a fisherman trying to make an honest living but finding it hard due to the strong influence of the Colombian gangs that surround him; Maria, a young Filipino woman struggling to adjust to life with her grandmother in Quebec; and David, who moves to Mexico City from the rural town of Michoacan to pursue work as a laborer, only to fall into the gay punk scene.
Aspiring filmmaker Dalex Ruiz attended the festival last year to see the film, “Desierto,” directed by Jonas Cuaron, who co-wrote the script of the blockbuster hit, “Gravity.” Cuaron was present for the screening at CineLatino, making it a prime opportunity for Ruiz to meet the acclaimed director and even ask for advice on making it in film.
“I’d really like to come back this year and have more experiences,” Ruiz says, adding, “We need more activities like this one to involve our community, especially the youth.” The young film buff says it’s hard to find Latinos working in the film industry here in Colorado.
“Latin cinema has a lot to offer, and I get few chances to enjoy films like these ones that relate and speak to me…. It feels very familiar and close to home,” says Mario Gonzalez, another film fan who’s planning on attending this year. Gonzalez is especially excited to see “Chavela.”
“As a musician and a Mexicano, [Chavela] has lived closed to my heart…. Against all, she was openly gay. She was Frida [Kahlo]’s Lover…and an intimate friend to [director] Pedro Almodovar, and Joaquin Sabina wrote her a song.”
Rocio Rowland has attended numerous CineLatino festivals, and adds that the fest is “important because you don’t get to see many Mexican movies in Denver.” Rowland also says she hopes more will be done to promote the festival.
Denver Film Society’s CineLatino Film Festival runs from September 21st through the 24th at the Sie FilmCenter. While individual film tickets are $12 each ($10 for Denver Film Society members), the best way to get the full experience of the fest is by purchasing a festival pass. They’re $85 per person ($70 for members) for four days of film, including both opening and closing night receptions featuring catered food and drink specials. Tickets can be purchased online as well as the Sie FilmCenter’s box office. Free parking is located in the garage adjacent to the theater.
Priscilla Blossom writes about travel, parenting, and (pop) culture. She’s a staff writer for Romper.com, and a contributor to USA Today’s 10Best, Miami.com, and MommyNearest. Her days are spent practicing yoga, binge-watching teen dramas, adventuring with her toddler, and running a feminist lifestyle blog at prisblossom.com. Reach her on Twitter/Instagram at @prisblossom.