SXSW & Other Film Festivals Are Canceled: What You Can Do to Support Latino Filmmakers Right Now

Lead Photo: 'El último balsero,' a Miami-set Cuban film. Courtesy of Miami Film Festival.
'El último balsero,' a Miami-set Cuban film. Courtesy of Miami Film Festival.
Read more

For a filmmaker, there’s no better launchpad for their project than a screening at a film festival. Such an opportunity offers the chance for critics to fall in love with a film and champion it in their reviews. It allows distributors and studios to negotiate the types of deals that bring such movies to theaters or streaming services. Above all it’s a chance to finally screen a film to an audience! It’s a moment where cast and crew get to share their hard work with friends, family and even local audiences who may have followed their journey for years. In the past week alone we’ve seen SXSW, San Diego Latino Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, Tribeca Film Festival and even the Miami Film Festival (from where I’m writing this dispatch right now) canceled and/or postponed amid the growing concern over the spread of the Coronavirus. These decisions were not made lightly. They rightly put people’s health and safety first, hoping to encourage the self-isolation policies that leaders across the country understand to be a key way of “flattening the curve” of this epidemic. But it’s hard not to ponder what this means for filmmakers and audiences alike.

Just a few days ago I got to meet the crew behind The Last Rafter, a Miami-set film about an undocumented Cuban. They were very excited about showing their film at the Miami Film Festival, knowing this would be a tough yet welcoming crowd for a film like theirs that openly talks about the end of the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy as well as the homophobia that was rampant in Cuba following the revolution. After premiering it at the festival soon after, I saw them again. They were giddy because of its reception but also because they already had several sold out shows to look forward to this weekend. Those are now all canceled, as is the rest of the fest’s program including a much-publicized screening of another homegrown project that shot here, the Walter Mercado doc Mucho Mucho Amor.

As I keep thinking of these canceled screenings and as I’ve seen my social media feeds be full of messages from Latino filmmakers saddened over missing what for many may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, I tried to come up with ways we can all help in ways both big and small.

  • If you can afford to, please consider not asking for a refund if you had a ticket for a film festival that was coming up that got canceled. Think of it as a donation to an organization that you were already hoping to support and which will be struggling this year to be able to return next year.
  • Follow those filmmakers on social media whose work you were looking forward to. You may already know that Mucho Mucho Amor is headed to Netflix this summer, but other films that may not have been picked up yet or that may not get to premiere as they had hoped at SXSW or Tribeca will still need your support once they do. If you were planning on catching, say, Oscar Ernesto Ortega and Carlos Rafael Betancourt’s The Last Rafter here in Miami, Loira Limbal’s Through the Night at Tribeca or maybe John Leguizamo’s Critical Thinking at SXSW, keep tabs on those directors’ feeds to see when you may be able to catch their work next.
  • Spread the word! Maybe you’ve already seen some of these films at other festivals: there’s no better way to support filmmakers right now than word-of-mouth. Better yet: reach out to see how you can help. In uncertain times like these, there’s no better balm than knowing there’s a community of like-minded film lovers eager to support one another.
  • Stream the kind of work you want to champion. Just as theatrical releases will continue to dwindle in the coming weeks (mainstream releases like F9 and No Time to Die have already been pushed off their original release dates), make sure you are supporting Latino creators in other ways: peruse our own Netflixeando lists to find U.S. Latino and Latin American content for suggestions. Consider joining smaller streaming services like Pantaya, whose mission is precisely to bring Latino films and shows to wider audiences.

Filmmakers can sometimes work for years for a chance to screen at a film festival. It’s unfortunate that so many talented individuals may well see that chance disappear. But here at Remezcla we wanted to extend our support for their work and let them know we’re here for when their films finally make it to a screen (big or small!) in the coming months.