After a 5-year hiatus, the Los Angeles-based film festival dedicated to showcasing Latino perspectives through art is back. And its return brings with it a slew of new events and initiatives that hope to make its mission a year-long endeavor as well as a one-stop shop for all things Latinx. “LALIFF has long been the most important Latino film festival in the U.S.. But this time around, with the launch of LALIFF Art, LALIFF Music and LALIFF Legacy, we are making sure it becomes the Mecca of Latino content,” said Edward James Olmos, founder of LALIFF. “LALIFF is a celebration of having our voices heard beyond the film screen, and we felt it crucial to bring the festival back to the place where it started– Los Angeles.” True to its mission, the fest will be screening films from all over the continent, including projects from Argentina, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, and the United States.
In addition to the features and shorts presented at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, LALIFF will host a series of cool events. There’ll be a special Latinx podcast event (“Live from LALIFF”) with Latinos Who Lunch and Locatora Radio. The event will be free and open to the public, and will allow fans of Starz’s original hit show Vida to hear their podcast faves interview creator, Tanya Saracho, and the stars of the Latinx series. And for fans of El Santo, LALIFF has partnered with the Academy Film archive to screen a new print of the 1961 luchador classic film Santo Contra “Cererbro del Mal.”
Since there’s so much to see, we’ve narrowed our top picks to 10 films you should keep an eye out for. They run the gamut from soccer dramas to get you into the World Cup spirit to comedies about gold-seekers that are fun for the entire family.
LALIFF runs June 20-24, 2018.
Drawing from hundreds of hours of footage, filmmaker Rudy Valdez shows the aftermath of his sister Cindy’s incarceration for conspiracy charges related to crimes committed by her deceased ex-boyfriend—something known, in legal terms, as “the girlfriend problem.” Cindy’s 15-year mandatory sentence is hard on everyone, but for her husband and children, Cindy’s sudden banishment feels like a kind of death that becomes increasingly difficult to grapple with. Valdez’s method of coping with this tragedy is to film his sister’s family for her, both the everyday details and the milestones—moments Cindy herself can no longer share in. But in the midst of this nightmare, Valdez finds his voice as both a filmmaker and activist. He and his family begin to fight for Cindy’s release during the last months of the Obama administration’s clemency initiative. Whether their attempts will allow Cindy to break free of her draconian sentence becomes the aching question at the core of this riveting and deeply personal portrait of a family in crisis.
Bad Lucky Goat
After accidentally hitting a goat with their father’s truck, two siblings, Corn and Rita (played by first-time actors), go on an adventure of a lifetime to try and fix the vehicle before they have to pick up a group of tourists staying at their family’s hotel. On their journey, they come across, a butcher, Rastafarian drum makers, and a witch doctor. The comedy, which was shot in the Creole language and on a small island in the Colombian Caribbean, is directed by Sami Oliveros, who raised the $60,000 he needed to make the film through a Kickstarter campaign.
Matar a Jesús
Set in Medellin, this pulse-pounding thriller follows a young girl’s attempts to find the sicarios behind her father’s murder. When the local police proves unhelpful she takes matters into her own hands once she spots the guy on a motorcycle who’d shot her father – who’s a teacher and lawyer. Her intent is to enter his world and getting a hold of a gun to enact the revenge she so lusts for. Drawing from director’s Laura Mora Ortega’s own life (like her protagonist, Mora Ortega’s father was killed and she eventually got to face the guy responsible), Matar a Jesus breathes new life into the kind of violence-ridden Medellin stories arthouse audiences are used to, pausing on the moral ambiguity of her characters’ actions instead.
Irene is raising four rambunctious sons in a home that is physically crumbling but warm and happy. As Irene simultaneously shelters her sister Sonia (who just left a volatile marriage), supports her own husband through a financial crisis, and plans her own long-awaited high school graduation, Irene’s eldest son, Fernando, suddenly announces he has been recruited by a professional handball team in Germany and will be leaving in just three weeks. Consummate caretaker Irene prickles at the idea of emancipating the 16-year-old so he can travel and live alone, and she becomes increasingly anxious about what her future holds.
Weaving historical elements about the Paraguayan War into a thrilling storyline, the new film by the directors of Paraguayan sensation 7 Boxes, follows Manu, a paperboy from an impoverished neighborhood who, thanks to his treasure hunter grandfather, discovers a map that might lead him to a valuable find. The pressure of helping his family will push Manu to carry out a plan to get to the site, which is now an embassy. Using both Guarani and Spanish, this high-octane adventure is a more visually polished than Schémboru and Maneglia’s gritty previous effort, but just as engaging.
Violeta al fin
Recently divorced, 72-year-old Violeta (Eugenia Chaverri) lives alone in her childhood house, tending to her lush tropical garden and making plans to turn her property into a boarding house. When she discovers the bank is about to take away her house, she breaks all the rules to hold onto her home and her freedom. A character portrait driven by a precious central performance, Hilda Hidalgo’s Violeta al fin is a tender reminder that it is never to late to start anew.
A day laborer takes a job from a stranger that pays handsomely, only to discover that it entails kidnapping, murder and a burial. What first looks like a great job opportunity (a day’s work that would pay him $10,000) soon turns into a nightmarish ordeal once Roberto (Salvador Chacon) realizes that he’s been picked up by a batshit crazy assassin who’s driven him out into the desert and offered him an offer he literally cannot refuse — unless he wants to drop dead right then and there.
Based on Daniel Baldi’s book by the same name, Mi mundial tells the story of Tito, a 13 year old small-town soccer prodigy who sees his life turned around when he’s traded into a big team in the city. But this chance to move on up in the world and to help his family escape the cycle of poverty comes at a cost. As he makes his way to daily training sessions with the guys from the team, Tito must choose whether those sacrifices are truly worth it in this heartwarming family-oriented soccer drama.
Quién eres tú?
The Secretary of Health of Puerto Rico, Dr. Eduardo Suarez, is forced to resign after disagreeing with the governor’s new health reform. To make things worse, his wife has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which effectively takes over his wife after only a couple of years. Eduardo and his six children try their best to face the gradual disappearance of the woman who was once their wife and mother, and eventually Eduardo begins a new relationship. Ernesto, the youngest of the children, disagrees with his father’s actions and does what can to stop it, pushing the family at an already difficult time in Arí Manie Cruz’s touching drama.
The 90s. Cuba is drowning in hunger, cigars, and rum. In this grim landscape, the life of Candelaria and Victor Hugo, a couple who stayed together out of inertia, takes a surprising turn the day Candelaria finds a video camera. Yes, an indecent proposal follows thereafter, igniting desires both old and new, in this sun-dappled look at elder romance in a Cuba that’s ravaged but resilient.