Categories: Rebecca Romani, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: San Diego Latino Film Festival – Week One Guide

by Rebecca Romani

March 9, 2023

One of the longest running film festivals in San Diego is celebrating a very significant milestone- The San Diego Latino Film Festival is celebrating 30 years of screenings, special guests, and programs showcasing Latino music and food starting Thursday, March 9 and running through March 19 at the Mission Valley AMC and the Digital Gym downtown.

The festival promises to be a vibrant affair with numerous guests, live music acts and a chance to try food offered by various regional restaurants.

Expect the opening day to be well attended. Screenings start at 4:30 pm. If you miss some of these films, many play again later in the festival.

Exhibitions manager Moises Esparza has programmed a strong festival right out of the gate.  The opening night works as sort of a mini introduction as to where the festival is going. Major historical events are highlighted by some of the films, while diversity in both language and culture is part of the programming. The shorts offered are part of a robust selection of shorts this year, and the festival’s special guest makes an on-screen appearance.

Try not to miss Argentina 1985, nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film this year. The gripping film stars Ricardo Darín, one of Argentina’s most prolific and versatile actors. Based on a true story, the film boldly focuses on the role of Public Prosecutor Julio César Strassera and his inexperienced team, and how they brought the military Junta to answer for crimes against humanity during Argentina’s Guerra sucia.

Don’t miss Chile ’76, either. Three years into a US-engineered Guerra sucia against the Chilean people, led by Pinochet, Carmen, a sheltered middle-class woman, experiences a profound moral awakening which will change the trajectory of her life. When the family priest asks her to shelter an injured young man, Carmen is plunged into the dark world of disappearances, torture, and oppression engineered by Kissinger and Pinochet.  She will never be able to see life in Chile the same way again.

Amores Perros

The festival often brings back classics of Latin Cinema as well as known actors. The opening night classic is the popular Amores Perros, a psychological drama, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu in his directorial debut. Expect to see a very young Gael Garcia Bernal in a puzzle box of stories that result from car crash in Mexico City. Considered one of Mexico’s finest films, it is a beautifully edited, taut story that will have you on the edge of your seat.

True to its tradition of highlighting stories from around the Latino world, the festival has programmed the Peruvian film, Manco Càpa, in Spanish and Quechua.

Programmer Esparza does not shy away from an expanded view of Latin American culture and is clearly aware that Quechua is spoken by a significant number of people in San Diego County.  Look for other films either partially or wholly in one of the many indigenous languages of Mexico or Latin America.

There are also several shorts programs- one of the festival’s strong suits and a great way to see a wide variety of excellent films.

As usual, what would opening night be without a party? An all-female salsa band, Sabrosas Latin Orchestra, and Puente, provide music to dance to with light appetizers and drinks. The 21+ party is at the UCSD Park and Market space (East Village).

The 1st week:

Advice- check where the film is screening- there are two locations.

La Lucha: Getting Schooled in America

Friday seems like documentary night, something the SDLFF excels at. La Lucha: Getting Schooled in America, hits close to home as high-risk teens in a school in LA struggle to rise above the issues facing them such as poverty and limited opportunity, in order to graduate from high school.

The Wind Blows the Border and Albertina y los muertos are both set in Brazil, in indigenous communities. The Wind is timely as it looks at land rights and life for Brazil’s indigenous communities under Bolsonaro in Brazil. Albertina returns to Chile, where one woman seeks to honor the dead and help the living survive in a town built over a cemetery.

Also, not to miss: the Ritmo Latino shorts featuring stories set to music or even music videos by bands such as Los Sleepwalkers.

The evening finishes with features both at the Mission Valley AMC and the Digital Gym.

Saturday and Sunday are very full days with a 10th anniversary screening of the Academy-Award-wining documentary, Innocente, about a homeless, undocumented teen from San Diego who perseveres to realize her dream of becoming an artist.

In addition, festival goers can enjoy the offerings of food, beer and tequila tastings at the always popular Sabor Latino, held at the Mission Valley Mall. Tickets to the event are separate.

Joaquín Cosío

There is also a Joaquín Cosío tribute film, Il Infierno and a dead pan funny recent release from Mexico, Amor y matemáticas, about an ex-boy band member and a fan trying to fit into society now that the tour is over. Cosío is the festival’s featured artist.

Saturday and Sunday are a mix of features, shorts programs and some excellent documentaries. If you loved the Buena Vista Social Club, you will not want to miss Omara, a look at the life and music of one of Cuba’s most beloved stars and singer with the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo.

Much of the weekend is given over to shorts programs such as the Viva Mujeres shorts, Historias Originales-shorts about the filmmakers’ personal stories, and ¡SOMOS! Cine LGBTQ+ Shorts.

The festival continues throughout the week at both locations, with screenings starting at 4:30 pm. Be sure to catch the Frontera Filmmaker shorts, narratives by filmmakers on both sides of the border.

Later in the week, consider the El Corazon shorts program, Migrant Voices Today – the results of the annual film challenge, documania shorts, El Moviemento Continues shorts, as well as Un mundo extraño shorts-fantasy and science fiction.

Several heritage films are also programmed in for the 1st week. Y tu mama tambien is back!  The modern Mexican classic written by Alfonso and Carlos Cuaron, follows two teenage boys and an older women on a road trip. A very young Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna star.

One documentary programmed for later in the week promises to be something you should not miss. SANTOS–Skin to Skin. A world premiere, Santos looks at the life and rhythms of community activist and Grammy-award winner, John Santos, who uses the traditional Caribbean rhythms of his youth to resistance against racial injustice, gentrification, and social justice.

For more on the films and special guests:

Vanguard Culture

Vanguard Culture is an online media entity designed for culturally savvy, socially conscious individuals. We provide original interviews and reviews of the people, places, and events that make up San Diego’s thriving arts and culture community, as well as curated snapshots of the week’s best, most inspiring and unique cultural and culinary events. We believe in making a difference in the world, supporting San Diego’s vibrant visual and performing arts community and bringing awareness to important social and community causes.