CineFestival, The Country’s Longest-Running Latino Film Festival, Is Back for its 41st Year

Lead Photo: 'The Garden Left Behind' still courtesy of SXSW
'The Garden Left Behind' still courtesy of SXSW
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The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center has announced the lineup for this year’s 41st CineFestival. For those in the San Antonio area, this is a rare chance to see many of the buzzed about films that have been making the festival rounds this year. Among these is the program’s opener, Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra’s The Infiltrators, which has proven to be a much-needed conversation starter wherever it’s played. The documentary follows the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), a group of activist Dreamers known for stopping deportations who went undercover at the Broward Transitional Center, arguably an ICE holding cell for immigrants at risk of being deported. Retelling the story of Claudio Rojas who was detained by ICE officials outside his Florida home and offering re-enactments that put audiences right in the middle of the soul-crushing world of these detention centers, the Sundance film is a rallying cry in these uncertain times.

Elsewhere, the four-day Latino film festival will feature 42 films from Latino artists, including the Texas premiere of Phoenix, Oregon, starring San Antonio native Jesse Borrego. “We are once again putting the spotlight on Texas filmmakers; we had a great response to that aspect of the festival last year that it made sense to build on that momentum. Immigration and how it affects communities near the border has emerged as another major theme with filmmakers looking at the issue with fresh eyes and avoiding some of the clichés audiences have seen before,” says Executive Director Cristina Balli. A comedy about a midlife crisis gone awry, Phoenix, Oregon centers on two two friends who seize an unlikely opportunity to reinvent their lives, quitting their jobs to restore an old bowling alley and serve the “world’s greatest pizza.”

Embodying the range of work audiences will find at CineFestival, this year’s roster features two New York City-set films that, despite focusing on young female protagonists, couldn’t be more different. Flavio Alves’s The Garden Left Behind traces the relationship between Tina, a young Trans woman, and Eliana, her grandmother, as they navigate Tina’s transition and struggle to build a life for themselves as undocumented immigrants in the Big Apple. Meanwhile, Rashaad Ernesto Green’s tender Harlem-set coming-of-age drama Premature tells the story of Ayanna, who finds herself needing to reevaluate her life choices (romantic and otherwise) in her last summer in the city before heading to college.

Furthermore, showing its commitment to local talent, the fest will be screening The Future is Now: Youth Videos from San Antonio featuring the works of local high school students, a Texas Filmmaker’s Showcase, which presents the best of Texas-made short films, and Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase, which in its third year will be showcasing six films that center on the theme of empowerment through the female perspective.

More highlights include Building the American Dream, a documentary about the abuse of immigrant labor in Texas’ construction boom, a children’s double feature that pairs Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with the Colombian animated fable El libro de Lila, as well as Singing Our Way to Freedom, a character portrait of Chicano musician, composer and community activist Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez.

CineFestival runs July 11 – 14, 2019.