To scour the lineup of this (or any) year’s San Francisco Independent Film Festival is to see a celebration of true indie cinema. Unlike other fests of its kind, you won’t find here any family dramas starring a Hollywood A-lister or a touching ensemble drama led by your favorite TV star. Instead, you’ll find Bay Area films anchored in the region’s issues and international fare that is politically engaged. Among its eclectic roster, there are a handful of Latino and Latin American films that are clearly speaking to today’s headlines.
In Richard Levien’s Collisions, audiences get to see firsthand what the real-life effects of ICE raids in the Bay Area look like. Twelve-year-old Itan Bautista’s promising life in San Francisco is turned upside down when she comes home from school, with her younger brother, to find her apartment ransacked and her mother missing. Suddenly, she must rely on her estranged uncle, a big rig truck driver. Itan manipulates him into taking them across the country in his truck, trying to find her mother and stop her deportation.
Also taking a close look at a timely immigration issue is Bernardo Ruiz‘s Harvest Season. The wine-focused doc asks us to meet the people who prune, bud, harvest, sample, press, and blend grapes from wood vine to bottle and bring together the extraordinary tastes of some of the world’s great wines produced in the Napa Valley. The film follows the stories of Mexican-American winemakers and migrant workers who are essential to the wine business, yet are rarely recognized for their contributions. Their stories unfold as wildfires ignite in Napa and Sonoma counties, threatening the livelihoods of small farmers and winemakers who are already grappling with a growing labor shortage, shifting immigration policies, and the impacts of a rapidly changing climate.
With a title like This Taco Truck Kills Fascists, Rodrigo Dorfman‘s documentary sets its agenda loud and proud. The playfully-titled doc follows artist José Torres-Tama who, in 2016 undertook a project to repurpose a truck into a mobile stage, establishing the Taco Truck Theater. He gathered a group of actors, musicians, and performers to explore the immigration crisis in New Orleans. José’s company practices devised theater, drawing on their own personal experiences and research among America’s undocumented communities. Among the players are José’s two sons, to whom he acts as a tour guide to Louisiana’s hidden history of injustice and struggle. By turns playful, funky, outraged, and anguished, Jose’s approach to protest art is unapologetic. Through it all, he maintains a rallying cry that should echo throughout the U.S.: “No Guacamole for Immigrant Haters!”
Elsewhere, the fest will also be screening the dark drug drama Little Woods, which stars Tessa Thompson; The Wolf House, an animated horror-doc about Pinochet’s legacy, and Rudy Riverón Sánchez’s Is That You?, which has been billed as the first ever psychological horror film shot in Cuba.
The 21st San Francisco Independent Film Festival runs January 30 – February 14, 2019