The Los Angeles Film Festival announced some major changes in staffing, particularly its programmers, just a few months ago. After injecting new blood into its film curating team, the newest incarnation of the fest revealed a lineup jam packed with premieres, and more diverse behind-the-camera talent than ever before. The Los Angeles Times weighed in on the LAFF’s makeover with some impressive stats, “The festival is presenting 45 world premieres — more than half its feature slate — with more than 80% of the program by first- or second-time directors. Looking to give further voice to diverse perspectives, nearly 40% of the films in the festival were directed by women and nearly 30% directed by people of color.”
Even still, when everyone is clamoring to appear diverse and film event organizers try to be more inclusive of international fare and female directors — Latino cinema usually gets lost in the shuffle. The City of Angels though, has got our back. This year’s Latino films at the L.A. fest run the gamut from comedies to thrillers to documentaries; go from Puerto Rico to Mexico to Colombia and beyond; and feature our favorite stars like Luis Guzman, Rosario Dawson, and Rosie Perez, plus up and coming actors like Veronica Sixtos and indie stalwart Jesse Garcia.
Here are ten movies that are so diverse in themes, story, and style that they prove there really is no such thing as a “Latino film.”
The Los Angeles Film Festival runs from June 10 – 18, 2015.
Puerto Ricans in Paris
Puerto Rican brothers–in-law Eddie and Luis just happen to be NYC’s two best counterfeit detectives. When the latest, must-have “It Bag” from celebrated Parisian fashion designer Colette’s new collection has been stolen, they head to Paris in hopes of cracking the case and collecting a handsome fee. With clashing sleuthing styles and personality traits, the comedic duo infuses a bit of color into the City of Lights. This hilarious new caper features the incomparable Luis Guzman and co-star Edgar Garcia alongside Rosie Perez and Rosario Dawson.
Bastards y Diablos
Ed and Dion are half-Colombian half-brothers who were raised in the U.S. estranged from their father, their roots and each other. After their father’s death they reunite and travel together to Bogotá to fulfill the wishes in their father’s will, only to find a mysterious set of instructions sending them on an unexpected journey all over Colombia. Leading them on this quest is their enigmatic father’s spirit, linking his own formative journeys as a young man with his sons’ present day adventures. Amid the mystical splendor of Colombia’s panorama, Ed and Dion experience a brotherhood and sibling rivalry they missed out on growing up. A fresh and distinctly bi-cultural story brimming with resonant moments, Bastards y Diablos is about finding your inheritance at the end of the world.
Juan and Mercedes use their makeshift generator to keep their housewarming party going after curfew. A cop arrives to break up the rowdy noise, warning them about the unsafe neighborhood and offering protection — for a fee. The unexpected proposition causes tension between the couple and when a mysterious stalker begins to prowl they’re helpless against an increasingly bizarre and suspenseful siege.
Elvira, te daría mi vida pero la estoy usando
Elvira’s husband went to buy a pack of cigarettes – and never came back. The 40-year-old mother of two young children frantically hunts for clues. Erratically taking things into her own hands, Elvira turns into an amateur sleuth on a relentless and hysterical quest to discover what happened. As Elvira begins to unravel secrets about the husband she thought she knew, her own repressed identity begins to unravel before her. With a charming vivacity, resplendent cinematography and a talented cast with impeccable comedic timing, Cecilia Suarez shines in this delightfully rare, physical and emotional comedy.
Las Malas Lenguas
Manuela is the daughter of wealthy parents, their family a part of the Colombian elite. She appears to have every advantage in life but she’s completely unhappy and living a multitude of lies. She yearns to escape the patriarchal city but when she discovers she’s pregnant, her life and dreams begin to unravel. Can she regain control or is her life out of her hands?
The ghost of a famous ballerina dances into Luis’ life the day before he reads about her death. Her mysterious appearance haunts him, stirring memories of their clandestine love affair from another time, when he was a young idealistic writer and she, a fledgling dancer. Luis struggles to remember a melody from one of her performances, his reverie intricately intertwined with the present day as he witnesses a young neighborhood couple on the brink of separating. Gorgeously shot on Super 16mm by Sean Price Williams, and imbued with poetic cadence and a hypnotic score, the film captures the texture and sensuality of a lost Havana from the 1960s.
No Más Bebés
In 1960s and 70s Los Angeles, Mexican immigrant women allege they were sterilized without their consent at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Archival footage of the booming Chicano rights movement is juxtaposed with interviews in a long abandoned hospital. Interwoven are opinions from both sides of the landmark case Madrigal v. Quilligan. The women who brought the case to trial are represented by a young and fearless lawyer, Antonia Hernandez. Academy Award-nominated director Renee Tajima-Peña (Who Killed Vincent Chin) saved this important case from becoming a forgotten footnote, facilitating a measure of closure and raising a timely topic amid the ongoing battles over reproductive rights and discriminatory practices.
American filmmaker Michael Dwyer’s debut feature follows the story of Claudia, a young woman deported to Mexico after being convicted of credit card fraud in the United States. Sent to live on her estranged father’s ranch, Claudia has difficulty adapting to the way of life in a country she hardly knows. After falling in with a drug trafficker who promises to smuggle her back into the United States, Claudia finds herself caught up in a dangerous and complex web of betrayal and deception that will pit her own selfish needs against those of her family.
El elefante desaparecido
It’s been seven years since crime novelist Edo Celeste’s fiancée Celia vanished without a trace. On the anniversary of her disappearance, Celeste receives an envelope from Mara, whose ex-husband died the same day that Celia went missing. The envelope contains photographs that Celeste quickly realizes provide a long-sought-after clue to his beloved’s whereabouts. The obsessed author embarks on a quest that takes him from Lima to the outlying beaches of Paracas, his literary and real-life mysteries becoming evermore intertwined. This original and mind-bending whodunit mystery pays homage to Hollywood film noir and the reality-twisting fiction of Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar.
American DREAMers tells the story behind the Campaign for an American DREAM (CAD), a group of six undocumented youth and an ally who risk their freedom when they publicly come out as undocumented and walk 3,000 miles to the nation’s capital to organize for immigrant rights. They are college students, young professionals, activists, and community leaders. Follow their journey as they come out of the shadows, share their stories, empower communities, and put everything on the line to fight in what they believe is their civil rights movement.