With the country slowly working its way into a post-pandemic reality, movie enthusiasts are excited to see how film festivals around the country will return in a safe and engaging way.
One of the first to make a comeback this year with a hybrid model is the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) from June 2-6. This year, LALIFF is celebrating its 20th anniversary with both in-person and virtual screenings, including a special preview screening of the highly anticipated musical In the Heights.
“After such a challenging year, LALIFF comes stronger than ever with a diverse program that is a testament to the creativity and resilience of our artists,” said Diana Cadavid, LALIFF’s Artistic Director, in a statement. “Our combination of in-person and virtual events is designed to enhance our viewership experience and to ensure that everyone can enjoy the rich offering of films, episodics, music and art that we have carefully curated.”
As was announced before, LALIFF will kick off with the world premiere of the boxing drama 7th & Union directed by Anthony Nardolillo (Shine). The film stars Omar Chaparro (No Manches Frida) as a Mexican boxer fighting for a better life for his family. Closing the festival is the coming-of-age drama Women is Losers, directed by first-time feature filmmaker Lissette Feliciano. The film follows a young Latina living in 1960s San Francisco trying to improve her economic standing.
“The film asks audiences to examine their own role in perpetuating the status quo,” Feliciano told Remezcla earlier this year. “What would the world look like if we embraced women’s stories without somehow taking away from the men? Wouldn’t that be a cool world? I think we’re getting there.”
Here are five more films playing at LALIFF that you should circle on your calendar as must-see cinema. You can find the full LALIFF schedule on their website.
Venezuelan American writer, director and actress Maria Corina Ramírez tells her family’s story as undocumented immigrants coming to the United States from South America. The drama follows Maria Cecilia (Ramírez), a high school senior who realizes that although she is the valedictorian of her class, going to college is not going to be easy because of her immigration status. “It was a painful story,” Ramírez told Remezcla earlier this year. “But I knew if I told it from my heart, it would be different.”
Director and co-writer Lázaro Ramos takes audiences into a dystopian future in Brazil with the story of a lawyer (Alfred Enoch) fighting to get reparations for his fellow country men and women who are the descendants of slaves. In response, the Brazilian government enforces martial law to send those descendants to Africa. “What’s interesting about the film is that it doesn’t look at the judicial processes,” Enoch told Remezcla earlier this year. “It looks at what happens to people as a result…and what happens when we take that to an extreme.”
Fruits of Labor
In this inspiring documentary, Colombian American filmmaker Emily Cohen Ibañez tells the story of 15-year-old Ashley Solis, a high school senior who attempts to balance her life as a teenager and as a day laborer working in the strawberry fields of a small town in California. “I don’t think there are many coming-of-age stories told from the perspective of a working young woman of color,” Ibañez told Remezcla earlier this year. “I wanted this story to reflect that.”
The psychedelic animated short film from filmmaker Kristian Mercado transports viewers into a futuristic Puerto Rico where a pair of twins are trying to steal magic from a group of Taíno gods, so they can become reggaetón superstars. “The animation world is sometimes super white, so I wanted to really do something super Latino,” Mercado told Remezcla earlier this year. “It’s like, ‘Yo, here we are!’ We can all do this.”
Rita Moreno: A Girl Who Decided to Go for It
In the compelling documentary, director Mariem Pérez Riera explores the life of legendary performer Rita Moreno (West Side Story) from her move to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1936 to her incredible career in Hollywood, which includes winning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (EGOT) awards. “I’m eighty-f–king-nine,” Moreno told Remezcla earlier this year. “And when [the remake of] West Side Story comes out later this year, I will be 90! That’s pretty spectacular.”