For ten days of Latino Heritage Month, the Latino Film Festival of San Francisco, presented by Cine+Más, will offer more than 40 feature-length and short films, both fiction and documentary. The films are produced in countries around the world, including the United States and Mexico, but they also come from as far away as Cuba, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Spain.
One reason to “support the art and support our community,” in the words of Lucho Ramírez, the director of the festival, is that “We have lots of variety, there’s something for everyone.”
The festival, now in its seventh year, opens Friday, September 18, and presents a broad spectrum of films, from grand productions to humbler films that are distinguished by their honesty, sensitivity and intimacy. The programming includes established local directors and filmmakers alongside younger directors just starting their careers “some veritable gems,” said Ramirez.
The festival kicks off with an excellent Mexican film directed by Alejandro Gerber Bicecci, “Viento Aparte” (“A Separate Wind,” September 18 at 7 p.m., the Brava Theater, and two other showings).
The film tells the story of two adolescent brothers, Karina and Omar, who face a family emergency while they’re vacationing with their parents in Oaxaca. The situation forces them to cross the whole of Mexico, from the South to the North, by themselves.
Their’ journey shows the country they live in, “a country that is living in a process of social decomposition,” said the filmmaker Bicecci. “I felt the need to find the seed of this social decomposition through these two adolescent characters who mature on the road.”
Written, directed and produced by Bicecci, the film strikes a fair balance between the personal – the tense relationship between the two brothers – and the contextual – a violent and surreal Mexico. With a dry tone, it presents two complex and memorable characters.
Bicecci will fly from Mexico City to San Francisco to join the audience screening his solid film.
The splendid Argentinian film “El patrón, radiografía de un crimen” (“The Boss: Anatomy of a Crime,” September 20 at 4 p.m., the Roxie), directed by Sebastián Schindel, also deserves special mention. The film retells the miserable life of an immigrant exploited by his boss in the city of Buenos Aires, where he works as a butcher. Neither Bolivian nor Paraguayan, but a provincial Argentinian, from Santiago del Estero, his story is based on true events.
“I come from a background of documentary filmmaking and did a lot of research, with the idea that everything should be as realistic as possible,” Schindel said. “I gave lots of raw material to my actors for them to construct their characters.”
The film makes use of an effective analogy between the decomposing meat and the destroyed humanity of the boss, a repugnant character with no scruples. It presents a complex narrative that portrays two temporal spaces and two separate worlds, two social classes with beautiful transitions using guitar music, agile dialogues and outstanding performances.
From Cuba comes the endearing “Conducta” (“Behavior,” September 20 at 6 p.m., the Roxie), by Ernesto Daranas. Filmed in Havana, it explores the life of a rebellious boy, Chala, who has problems at home and at school. With splendid interpretations of the boys as well as the teachers, and in a refined screenplay that reveals the producers’ ability to tell an entertaining story, the rich Cuban cinematic tradition is alive and well in this splendid production.
The film “Dos aguas” (“Two Waters,” September 19 at 5 p.m., Mission Cultural Center), directed and produced by Patricia Velásquez, also tells the story of a boy, this time one who finds his older brother embroiled in drug trafficking and wants to help him. Filmed in the communities of Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Cocles, Punta Uva and Manzanillo on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica, close to the Panamanian border, the film’s splendid images tell an emotional story in a simple, unpretentious narrative set to the steady rhythm of the Caribbean.
“It reflects the strong people of the Caribbean, who learned early to survive among the snakes and the unstoppable rain,” said the producers. “But who are at the same time joyful and tireless because they have the privilege of living in one of the most beautiful places.”
Several local filmmakers are featured among the short films that will show at the festival: “Coyote Creek,” by Brian Garcia, “Change”, by Xavier Andre Galindo and Don Allen Stevenson III, “Mi vida en baile” (My Life in Dance) by Amir Jaffer and “Resilience Undocumented” by Kayla Mulholland.
Among the documentaries, it’s worth highlighting the production “American Dreamers” (September 19 at 3 p.m., Mission Cultural Center) by Saray Deiseil and Jenniffer Castillo, which documents the journey of six youth who walked from San Francisco to Washington, DC to protest their treatment as undocumented immigrants.
“We wanted people to get to know undocumented people,” said Jonatan Martinez, one of the youth who marched. “So that the whole United States could see the face of an undocumented person.”
During the journey, the youth talked with legislators from different states, explaining their rights as immigrants to the United States and encouraging them to vote for immigration reform.
Jonatan and three other youth who appear in the documentary traveled to San Francisco to attend the screening.
Also in the documentary category, “Pedro Guerrero, a Photographer’s Journey” (September 20 at 7 p.m., Mission Cultural Center) deserves special mention. The film is produced by Latino Public Broadcasting and directed by the Bay Area filmmakers Ray Telles and Yvan Iturriaga.
The hour- long documentary revolves around the inspirational photographer Pedro Guerrero, born in Mesa, Arizona in 1917 and who worked for prestigious newspapers in New York City and collaborated with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the sculptors Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson.
“The story of a man who had passion for photography,” said Tellez. “And that of many other people from the Southwest of his generation who didn’t cross the border so much as the border crossed them”
Telles and Iturriaga interviewed the photographer in his house shortly before his death, and structured the documentary around the interview, paying special attention to the images which Guerrero captured with his camera.
Another local filmmaker, Marco Castro-Bojorquez, will show his documentary “El canto del colibri” (“The Song of the Hummingbird,” September 20 at 3 p.m., Mission Cultural Center), in which he shows the parents of Latino families who share their experiences as immigrants. They discuss machismo, religion, and equal rights, and supporting their gay and transgender children.
These and many more are the films that will be shown at the festival. But beyond that, the festival will bring music and celebration to the Mission.
Opening night, Friday September 18, a dance party will be held at Club Verdi after the screening of “Viento aparte” (“A Separate Wind”), set to the music of Candelaria and DJs Stepwise and Santero.
The following night, Saturday September 19, there will be a party at Brick and Mortar which, named “Cinephile,” will be enlivened by Bang Data, Héctor Guerra, Boca Floja, DJ Julicio, and a special guest.
“Plenty of opportunities to have fun,” Ramirez says.
Opening night is Friday, September 18, at the Brava Theater. Two short film programs are scheduled. One fiction collection will be shown Saturday, September 19 at the Roxie Theater at 4 p.m. and a documentary selection will screen at the Red Poppy Art House on Thursday September 24 at 7 p.m. Other presentations will take place at Artist’s Television Access, La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, and more. There will also be two free screenings. See a full listing of films, schedules, and tickets here.