No Latinos took home the winged statuette at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards, but representation came in the form of actress Aubrey Plaza, who hosted the event boasting her biting sense of humor. In her opening monologue Plaza, whose father is from Puerto Rico, shouted out Jennifer Lopez, nominated in the Best Supporting Female category for her work in Hustlers. “Boricua!” she exclaimed after noting both her and Lopez are “super hot Puerto Ricans” and comparing the island to an independent film:

“Puerto Rico is kind of like an independent film, you know? It’s beautiful, not enough people have seen it, and its financing is always falling through,” she acidly explained.

While Lopez was undoubtedly the highest profile Latino artist in attendance, there were other Latino and Latin American nominees at the ceremony with notable projects featuring narratives centered on indigenous communities or from an Afro-Latino perspective. Remezcla was on the beachside blue carpet prior to the awards show to chat with them.

Álvaro Delgado Aparicio, Retablo (Best International Film)

“A miracle,” is how Peruvian director Álvaro Delgado Aparicio describes the dreamlike journey of Retablo, his Quechua-language debut feature about an indigenous teen grappling with traditional masculinity and his father’s identity. In addition to playing over 100 festivals around the world, the film secured theatrical distribution across Latin America, the U.S., Europe, and even China. It also earned a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding Debut.

For Delgado Aparicio there was an instinctive need to appreciate and highlight indigenous communities through film. “In our countries there are so many treasures, and our responsibility is to try to find a good story and tell them to the world. Instead of looking outside, we should look at what’s around us,” said the filmmaker who was accompanied at the event by the movie’s stars Amiel Cayo and Junior Bejar Roca.

“Indigenous languages are an ancestral heritage that shouldn’t disappear. The predominance of languages like English and Spanish tends to minimize the value of these languages. In this case, it’s important that through cinema we revalue them and make these languages more visible,” said Cayo.

According to the performer, watching Retablo was for many, at home and abroad, the first time they had heard the language of the Incas, which like many other tongues has different varieties depending on where it’s spoken, everywhere from Peru, to Ecuador, to Bolivia, and even as far as Argentina. Cayo and Bejar’s dialogue was specifically in Quechua Chanca from Peru’s central region.

Hesitation initially plagued Bejar Roca since the project deals with LGBTQ issues, still a taboo subject in the South American country, but audiences surprised him. “I always understood it was a love story, above al else, but of course Peru is divided on the topic of homosexuality. In general, people’s reception was great because they understood the message of love and tolerance that’s at the center of Retablo.

Karim Aïnouz, Invisible Life (Best International Film)

Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz, whose 1950s period drama Invisible Life speaks about women’s agency in a male-dominated society, expressed joy at being considered Latin American arguing that more often than not people don’t count Brazil as part of the region because of the language difference.

When asked about the Brazilian government’s attacks against compatriot and fellow storyteller Petra Costa, whose hard-hitting documentary The Edge of Democracy is nominated for Academy Award, Aïnouz was vocal about the situation at home. “There’s a fascist government in the fifth largest economy in the world, and the biggest problem is that the elite is behind the regime and their numbers are growing. It’s great that it’s that film that’s nominated for an Oscar.”

Rashaad Ernesto Green, Premature (John Cassavetes Award)

During a brunch in early January, the Bronx-born Puerto Rican writer-director Rashaad Ernesto Green was awarded the Someone to Watch Award, an honor given to an emerging filmmaker. Premature, his sophomore feature, was also nominated for the John Cassavetes Award for projects made for under half a million dollars.

On Saturday in Santa Monica, he told Remezcla about the fact that sometimes the preconceived image of Latinos doesn’t include those that look like him. “Just based on visual we are not apt to include Afro-Latinos in the spectrum, but I would say that when someone knows that you are Latino, the community very much embraces you,” said the director. Green mentioned that every time he releases a new project, whether it’s Latino-themed or not, the Latino community has always been extremely supportive, and singled out organizations like NALIP as a major champion.

“When you are black Puerto Rican or you are white Puerto Rican you still refer to yourself as Puerto Rican. You don’t say I’m a brown Puerto Rican, or ‘I’m a light brown Puerto Rican,’ you just say, ‘I’m Puerto Rican.’ That pride is there. But, is there racism? Of course, it might be a little bit subtler in our communities, but it’s still there,” he added in regards to the prevalent issue among Latinos.

With Premature, which he co-wrote with Zora Howard, Green wanted to contribute a love story to black cinema and step away from trauma narratives.