Now in its 24th year, the Los Angeles Film Festival is back with what’s looking to be yet another great lineup. With films starring the likes of Tessa Thompson, Gael García Bernal, Kate del Castillo and Raul Castillo, LAFF will feature no shortage of Latino and Latin American talent. Moreover, in addition to a slew of great films, some awesome-sounding VR projects, and even some episodic work, the festival will be hosting the We the People summit.
Taking place September 22 and 23 at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, We the People will feature free panel discussions and a keynote conversation. The talks will range from the state of the entertainment industry’s inclusion efforts both on screen and behind the camera, in addition to how women, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ+, Native Americans, people with disabilities and people of color continue to be systemically marginalized or not represented. It’s a clear sign that festivals like LAFF are committed to moving the conversation forward when it comes to the appalling diversity numbers we’ve seen as of late, both when it comes to gender parity as well as Latino inclusion.
And if you’re curious what Latino and Latin American faces you can expect to catch at this year’s fest, check out our list below.
Los Angeles Film Festival runs September 20-28, 2018.
All About Nina
Nina (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) isn’t your typical brash stand-up comic. Her sets may be littered with frank sex talk, sarcastic cynicism, and vulgarity, but her act is no mere act. Having finally ditched her abusive lover (Chace Crawford), Nina hightails it to Los Angeles with the hope of finally making it big. She stays there with a lesbian hippie (Kate del Castillo, in full dry comedy mode) and her girlfriend, who hope to bring out the positive energy Nina is so clearly lacking. Things begin to improve in her career, as well as in her love life—thanks to a new love interest, Rafe (Common)—but this hard-drinking heroine isn’t sure she can handle stability. Despite her budding successes, Nina struggles to reconcile being authentic and happy in both her career and in her personal life. Through these complicated and resonant characters, as well as its deft examination of timely matters like trauma, abuse, and sexism in the world of stand-up comedy, Eva Vives’s film offers insight into what it means to be a talented, creative woman today.
Set in 1985, Alonso Ruizpalacios’ follow-up to Güeros stars Gael García Bernal as part of a group of criminals who break into the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City to extract 140 pre-Hispanic pieces from their showcases. While based on the real life heist that shocked the art world back in the 80s, Ruizpalacios has made it clear he’s taken some artistic license, going beyond mere changing the names of those involved to evoke something closer to what Terence Malick achieved with Badlands in terms of a film that’s both real and fictional at the same time.
Guerra de Algodão
Dora arrives in Brazil to spend the summer with her grandmother, María, a complete stranger to her. But the connection between the teenager, raised in Germany, and her mother’s mother isn’t happening. María is cold, distant and peculiar, to say the least. Dora soon finds out that this is not just a visit; her mother wants them to stay in Brazil permanently. Frustrated with the news, Dora tries all sorts of ways to buy a plane ticket back to Europe. During her endeavors, she starts getting to know the city, makes new friends and—most importantly—uncovers the secrets behind her grandmother’s unique story and personality: that María was one of the pioneers of Brazilian cinema, an actress and performer ahead of her time. Dora keeps digging into Maria’s feminist background as she becomes closer to grandmother in this beautifully contained coming-of-age story.
Socrates is a 15-year-old boy wise beyond his years. His life in São Paulo becomes much harder after he finds his mother lying dead in her bed. After being promised that he will be able to collect his mother’s ashes once her cause of death is determined, he tries to continue making a life of his own. Deep in debt and needing a job just to make the rent, Socrates faces struggles he had never previously experienced. Upon landing a small job, he becomes smitten with a troubled boy and a romance begins. First-time director Alex Moratto beautifully helms the film, which was co-written, produced and acted by a team of at-risk teenagers from low-income communities in Brazil. The result is a story about love, sacrifice and resilience.
Mamacita is a force of nature: businesswoman, former beauty queen, mother and grandmother. She built her family’s wealth by spearheading an enormous Mexican beauty empire. Now at 95, this matriarch remains as strong-willed and impassioned as ever. Accustomed to the spotlight, Mamacita is overjoyed when her grandson, Jose Pablo Estrada Torrescano, finally agrees to fulfill his promise to make a film about her. In his debut feature, Torrescano crafts a beautifully complex and honest portrait of his grandmother, shot primarily in Mamacita’s extravagant home. Great attention is paid to the ornate details that help conceal deep familial wounds. The film’s strength lies in the relationship between Torrescano and Mamacita and the realizations the filmmaker makes about their similarities and ways in which they open each other’s eyes to newfound emotional awareness.
Ollie (Tessa Thompson) is a reformed drug runner in an economically depressed small town in North Dakota, who was caught coming back from Canada with medicine for her terminally ill mother and has been toeing the line ever since. After her mother dies, Ollie’s sister Deb (Lily James) shows up on her doorstep with a hungry child and an unplanned pregnancy. Ollie can only see one viable option: quickly raise money to pay back the bank and hold onto their mother’s home, so Deb can raise her family safely away from her abusive ex. But to do that, she’ll need to return to the dangerous way of life she thought she’d left behind. Writer/director Nia DaCosta won Tribeca Film Festival’s 2018 Nora Ephron Award for this emotionally-charged small-town modern Western about two women in a rural part of America.
Director Gregory Nava made movie history when his 1983 film El Norte became the first American independent picture to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay (Places in the Heart won that year). The film, which would be selected only 10 years later for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, told the three-part story of two Guatemalan immigrants, a brother and sister, who travel north through Mexico in hopes of reaching Los Angeles to start a new life. In the first part of the film, the siblings, Rosa and Enrique (Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez and Ernesto Gómez Cruz), escape Guatemala after their father is killed by government troops and their mother disappears. In the second part, Rosa and Enrique try to cross the Mexican border with the help of a coyote. In the final chapter, the duo makes it to the U.S but find that life is more difficult that what they had expected, especially since they are undocumented. One of most powerful quotes of the film comes when Rosa says, “In our own land, we have no home. They want to kill us. … In Mexico, there is only poverty. We can’t make a home there either. And here in the north, we aren’t accepted. When will we find a home, Enrique? Maybe when we die, we’ll find a home.”
Growing up in East LA, twin brothers Diego and Pedro (Raúl Castillo) always knew they had each other, from goofing off on bikes to spying in on parties. As adults, Diego became a police officer looking out for the streets he used to play on, while Pedro turned to a life of crime. When clues start connecting Pedro’s death to a case Diego is working on, the mysterious vigilante figure of their youth—“El Chicano”—returns, drawing Diego in deeper than he ever expected. Director Ben Hernandez Bray puts his skills with action and authenticity to good use, balancing adrenaline-filled beats with moments of emotional connection. Writers Bray and Joe Carnahan offer up a socio-political allegory within the framework of the superhero genre, taking advantage of audience’s familiarity with what they see in the movies and what they see in the news.
Going behind the headlines and debate that mark the public outcry over Los Angeles’s unprecedented homeless crisis, The Advocates offers pragmatic, hopeful stories of real-life transformation, told straight from the trenches. As experts supply insight into the underlying causes of the crisis amid a changing policy landscape, the invaluable role that caseworkers play—and the personal toll it takes on them—is laid bare. These workers demonstrate in daily practice what the lost ideal of “care in the community” looks like, and encourage others to do the same. Keeping pace with the tireless work and around-the-clock commitment of his subjects, director Rémi Kessler paints a realistic portrait of an ongoing crisis that still allows for moments of grace and humanity to shine through.