Now, I am a member of the Media Arts Center San Diego and I attend the festival as a guest. I get inspired, I make observations about operations (yes, I can't help it!) and I watch a lot of Latino film.
Here is the rundown of the films that I most enjoyed (and some admittedly I did not entirely digest)
The best film of the festival was definitely La Mission, this film featured Benjamin Bratt (currently in the show "The Cleaner" and most noted for his performances in BLOOD IN BLOOD OUT and PIÑERO (Leon Ichaso, who was at SDLFF for his film PARAISO). He was also featured in TRAFFIC and one of my favorite guilty pleasure action films DEMOLITION MAN (one of three movies he would co-star in with Sandra Bullock).
The film was directed by his brother Peter Bratt and takes
place in the Mission district of San Francisco, which heavily identifies itself strongly with the Chicano culture. Benjamin Bratt plays Che, a reformed convict and recovering alcoholic who drives a bus and tells all of his friends to "stay brown".
This seemingly tough man gets the biggest test of his life; his teenage son, Jes, who is about to graduate and go on to UCLA, and who is Che's pride and joy, is also gay. Upon the discovery, Che is challenged by his neighborhood, his personal views, and the love of his son.
La Mission is powerful in that it handles the complexity of this family situation with a maturity and subtle strength that is found in the finest of cinema. La Mission could have easily be done with melodrama and exposition, instead the film challenges the viewer through a voyeur-istic examination of a trying moment in the life of a man with plenty of trying moments.
The film is set to come back to San Diego in April, click here to find out more.
The other films I enjoyed immensely were EL REGALO DE LA PACHAMAMA
a beautifully observational film capturing a young indigenous Bolivian as he undergoes a caravan with his father.
The film was co-presented by SDAFF for two screenings, why? The director of the film is Japanese (Toshifumi Matsushita), and is a part of a continuing trend of Asian filmmakers wanting to capture the Latino experience. CONTRACORRIENTE, the audience award winner at Sundance, is a well-paced Peruvian love story (certainly not conventional, but fantastic).
SONS OF CUBA; a film about the training of young, Cuban boxers hit a personal chord with me. The film PARAISO, was a nostalgic tour of my hometown of Miami, FL and felt very familiar with a story of the Cuban-American and immgrant experience in Miami. Meeting director Leon Ichaso was also a treat; he is one of the few voices of my experience on cinema. A great weekend for the Cubanos!
The festival always has a lively crowd; unafraid to express their opinions, full of passion and very loud! This festival carries with it the hope that these faces and experiences can be seen in cinema and be appreciated as being part of the American experience.
The SDLFF is also very chaotic! With music playing in the lobby, the activity of the art exhibit and with the entertainment of the films themselves, for an experience of Latino culture on screen, there is no better option. For more info about the festival: sdlatinofilm.com.