by Kathya Alexander
The Seattle Latino Film Festival (SLFF) opened for in-person viewing on Friday, Oct. 8, and continues through Sunday, Oct. 17.
The festivities began last Friday at the Seattle Asian Art Museum with an opening night gala and after party reception. Dennis Mencia, a Honduran American actor known for playing Mateo Villanueva on CW’s Jane the Virgin, was MC for the event. The gala showcased the Uruguayan comedy, The Broken Glass Theory, one of the festival’s 106 in-person and online films supporting the magic of filmmaking as part of Hispanic culture globally.
The in-person showcase continued at The Beacon Cinema in Columbia City on Saturday with an American film called Coast, directed by Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart. Also shown was the Venezuelan film, Opposite Direction, and an LGBTQ film called Liz In September. The director, Fina Torres, known for Fox Searchlight’s Woman on Top with Penélope Cruz, was present for the Q&A after the screening.
Started in 2009 by Cuban immigrant Jorge Enrique González, SLFF is the only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Coinciding with Hispanic Heritage Month, the festival runs every year during the month of October. Films this year again come from all over the world, including Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, U.S., Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Greece, Italy, Puerto Rico, and Spain.
With in-person programming canceled last year due to COVID-19, this year SLFF will strictly follow federal, state, and local COVID-19 safety protocols. Hand sanitizers and masks will be provided on site for in-person viewings. Attendees, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks for the movie theater screenings.
Tonight at 7 p.m., two short documentaries and two short films will be shown at The Beacon Cinema from Pacific Northwest filmmakers, including Valor and Sacrifice by Seattle-based Emilio Miguel Torres. Many other student filmmakers from the Pacific Northwest will have their films shown too during the 10-day festival.
There is also an online portion of SLFF which began Oct. 11 and continues through Oct. 17. Nari Weaver, executive director of Development for this year, said the festival was very strategic about which films to show in-person and which ones to present online.
“Since, obviously, we have a pandemic going on and a lot of people are freaking out that they don’t want to go out, we put the majority of the documentaries — the reason a lot of people go to the festival — online. What you see in person, you’re not going to see online.” Weaver recommends everybody see one of her favorites, The Rumba Kings. Often called African Jazz, the story of Congolese rumba is the story of a people that decided to fight the oppression of their Belgian colonizers with music.
The all-volunteer staff at SLFF devote their time, energy, and passion to this festival to give people an opportunity to see authentic experiences of Hispanic culture, including literature, dance, anime, and art from a unique cinematic perspective.
The goal is to bring audiences and filmmakers together for an educational and cross-cultural experience by showing a diverse selection of films that go against Latino stereotypes often seen in the mainstream film industry. Some of the films featured in SLFF are Spanish speaking, some are Italian, some Portuguese — all with English subtitles. The unique films were selected by a team of seven visionaries, a group of people from all around the world, explained Weaver.
“It’s not the typical stereotype of what you’d be used to seeing. For instance, with Latino actors, if you go to Hollywood and see the main characters that they do … you’re the maid, or you’re the gardener. Here, you’ll be able to watch awesome independent films and it has nothing to do with the stereotype, where you can be the villain or you can be the main character. I think that’s the beauty of this whole thing. It’s just pure diversity and it’s just beautiful. The content that everybody brings is just vitamins to your eyes.”
In addition to cash prizes, film festivals like this one also provide the opportunity for new filmmakers to get their films shown before a live audience and reviewed by professional critics. Once a movie is chosen for SLFF, it is easier to get into other festivals and get the attention of agents and managers that may have never known of its existence otherwise.
SLFF gives Seattleites the opportunity to support independent international filmmakers so people can see that there is something more out there. “The more we spread the word and the more we support these filmmakers, the more content we’ll get. We don’t need Hollywood for that. Our people will get it out there,” said Weaver, using The Rumba Kings as an example. “If a lot of people support that film, I’m pretty sure that HBO will pick it up.”
The Full Festival Pass costs $100 ($50 for seniors and students) and gives you access to the whole program at The Beacon Cinema plus the Streaming program through slff.org. After purchasing your ticket online, email the ticket number to Nari Weaver at firstname.lastname@example.org for your waiver code.
Editors’ Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that all of last year’s SLFF was canceled due to COVID-19. This article was updated on 10/26/2021 with the correction that only in-person activities were canceled last year due to the pandemic.
Kathya Alexander is a writer, actor, storyteller, and teaching artist. Her writing has appeared in various publications like ColorsNW Magazine and Arkana Magazine. She has won multiple awards including the Jack Straw Artist Support Program Award. Her collection of short stories, Angel In The Outhouse, is available on Amazon.
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