The New York Latino Film Festival (NYLFF), the nation’s largest and most diverse Latino film festival, will be celebrating its 15th edition later this month. “We are proud to be celebrating our 15th year of serving and empowering our community,” said Calixto Chinchilla, founder of NYLFF. “This important festival, in celebration of inclusion, aims to highlight our untold stories, unique experiences and daily realities in this country. It is important now, more than ever, that we provide a strong platform for emerging and established filmmakers to showcase films that audiences can truly identify with. NYLFF is you.” Its programming does not disappoint on any of those accounts.

Opening the fest is Abner Benaim’s doc Ruben Blades Is Not My Name, which finds the usually private icon musing on his music and his legacy. But with a diverse slate representing 17 countries, spanning all genres and formats including features, shorts, documentaries, web series and experimental films featuring, about and/or for the U.S. Latino community, there’s no shortage of great films being screened at this year’s NYLFF. Check out our top picks below.

The New York Latino Film Festival runs August 22-26, 2018.

The Sentence

Director Rudy Valdez
Country United States
Production Year 2017
The Sentence - Still 1
Cynthia Shank, Autumn Shank, Ava Shank and Annalis Shank appear in The Sentence by Rudy Valdez, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Synopsis

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.


Film Details

Director: Rudy Valdez
Country: United States
Genre: Documentary
Producer: Sam Bisbee, Jackie Kelman Bisbee
Production Year: 2017
Running Time: 85

Rich Kids

Director Laura Somers
Country United States
Production Year 2018
Rich-Kids
'Rich Kids' courtesy of NYLFF
Synopsis

This vibrant portrait of six troubled teenagers showcases the talents of a young charismatic cast as it explores the ongoing challenges of economic disparities, gentrification, displacement, and evictions faced through the lens of Latino and Afro-Latino American youth in South Houston. Matías is a bright teenager whose family struggles with harsh financial troubles. When he discovers “Los Ricos,” a wealthy family, are out of town, Matías breaks into their mansion where he and his friends spend an afternoon basking in the good life. The party is soon disrupted when a trouble-making relative shows up uninvited. Loyalties are pushed to the breaking point as Matías’s desire for power in the house rises.


Film Details

Director: Laura Somers
Country: United States
Genre: Drama
Writer: Laura Somers, David Saldaña
Producer: Laura Somers, Eddie Rodriguez
Production Year: 2018
Running Time: 97

Make Love Great Again

Director Aaron Agrasanchez
Country United States
Production Year 2017
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Courtesy of Miami Film Festival
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Courtesy of Miami Film Festival
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Courtesy of Miami Film Festival
Synopsis

Mexican-born director Aaron Agrasanchez’s second feature is a pointed comedy about transnational lovers in a dangerous time. Set in Miami during the Trump ascendancy, Make Love Great Again pits adorable newlyweds Chris and Natalie against a pair of unduly suspicious federal agents charged with approving the verity of their marriage. Chris is American, Natalie’s a Mexican in the US on a student visa; their nuptials can grant her that coveted permanent residency—but only if their love story seems credible. Darting between fun and tumultuous flashbacks and the unnerving weirdness of Chris and Natalie being interrogated about their intimacy, Make Love Great Again is about how sometimes you need to lie in order to tell the truth—and how, with a little luck and tenacity, love trumps all.

 


Film Details

Director: Aaron Agrasanchez
Country: United States
Genre: Romance, Drama
Writer: Shane Kinsler
Producer: Alex Agrasanchez, Tom Musca, Jay Hemrajani, Shane Kinsler, Eduardo Prado
Production Year: 2017
Running Time: 98

American Curious

Director Gabylu Lara
Country Mexico
Production Year 2017
American Curious
Courtesy of CLFF
Synopsis

Jordan Belfi (Grey’s Anatomy, Entourage), Ana Claudia Talancón and Isela Vega star in this romantic comedy about a Chicago-based stand-up comedian, David Green, who finds out that the Mexican biological mother he never knew has passed away and left him a restaurant in Mexico City. David travels to Mexico where, with the help of Sol, the restaurant’s chef, he embarks on a journey in search of his roots and the secret recipe for a soup created by his mother.

 


Film Details

Director: Gabylu Lara
Country: Mexico
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Comedy
Writer: Ricardo Aguado, Gabylu Lara
Producer: Monica Vargas Celis, Leonardo Zimbrón
Production Year: 2017
Running Time: 85

Virus Tropical

Director Santiago Caicedo
Country Colombia
Production Year 2017
Virus Tropical AFICHE 01
'Virus Tropical' still courtesy of Animation is Film Festival
AFICHE 02
'Virus Tropical' still courtesy of Animation is Film Festival
Synopsis

Adapted from a graphic novel memoir by Colombian-Ecuadorian cartoonist Paola Gaviria (aka Power Paola), the black and white, Spanish-language animated film features Paola (voiced by María Cecilia Sánchez), an exceptional and independent young girl who grew up between Ecuador and Colombia and is trying to find her place in the world. But growing up in a traditional Colombian family with an estranged priest as a father, a psychic as a mother and two older sisters, gives Paola a unique perspective on life, which shapes her personality. It is reported that this coming-of-age, adult-themed animation contains approximately 5,000 individual drawings created by Gaviria.

Kiko Martinez

Film Details

Director: Santiago Caicedo
Country: Colombia
Genre: Animation
Writer: Enrique Lozano
Producer: Carolina Barrera Quevedo
Production Year: 2017
Running Time: 97

Ruben Blades Is Not My Name

Director Abner Benaim
Country Panama, Colombia, Argentina
Production Year 2018
Synopsis

Considered by many as the first musician to bring salsa music to an international audience, Panamanian singer, songwriter, and actor Ruben Blades is highlighted in a documentary that spans his 50-year career and gives audiences an in-depth look at his musical and political aspirations. (Does he really want to run for president of Panama?). The doc attempts to help Blades decide what the term legacy actually means. Blades has won 17 Grammys, earned a law degree from Harvard University, and has starred in such films as the 1988 comedy drama The Milagro Beanfield War, 2000’s drama All the Pretty Horses, and 2016’s biopic Hands of Stone. He currently stars on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead.

Kiko Martinez

Film Details

Director: Abner Benaim
Country: Panama, Colombia, Argentina
Genre: Documentary
Producer: Abner Benaim, Gema Juarez Allen, Cristina Gallego
Production Year: 2018
Running Time: 85

Un Traductor

Director Rodrigo Barriuso, Sebastián Barriuso
Country Canada, Cuba
Production Year 2017
Un Traductor - Still 5
Rodrigo Santoro appears in Un Traductor by Rodrigo Barriuso and Sebastián Barriuso, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Gabriel Guerra Bianchini.
Un Traductor - Still 4
Rodrigo Santoro appears in Un Traductor by Rodrigo Barriuso and Sebastián Barriuso, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Gabriel Guerra Bianchini.
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Maricel Álvarez appears in Un Traductor by Rodrigo Barriuso and Sebastián Barriuso, an official selection of 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Gabriel Guerra Bianchini.
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Rodrigo Santoro and Yoandra Surez appear in Un Traductor by Rodrigo Barriuso and Sebastián Barriuso, an official selection of 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Gabriel Guerra Bianchini.
Un Traductor - Still 1
Rodrigo Santoro appears in Un Traductor by Rodrigo Barriuso and Sebastián Barriuso, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Gabriel Guerra Bianchini.
Synopsis

In 1989 Havana, Russian literature professor Malin (Rodrigo Santoro) gets a mysterious note at the university with orders from the government sending him to a local hospital, where he learns he is expected to act as translator between the Cuban doctors and the families of young patients from the Chernobyl disaster. Initially raging against his new role, Malin is forced to stay on, and he eventually becomes deeply devoted to his patients. But while he becomes “king of the kids” at the hospital, his relationships with his pregnant wife and young son suffer. Meanwhile, life around all of them shifts as the “Special Period”—the economic crisis in Cuba that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union—begins. Rooted in the little-known true story of how twenty thousand Chernobyl victims were eventually treated in Cuba, Un Traductor immerses an emotional drama in crisply shot, beautifully realized period detail of Havana in 1989.


Film Details

Director: Rodrigo Barriuso, Sebastián Barriuso
Country: Canada, Cuba
Genre: Drama
Writer: Lindsay Gossling
Producer: Sebastián Barriuso, Lindsay Gossling
Production Year: 2017
Running Time: 107

Cenizas

Director Juan Sebastian Jacome
Country Ecuador, Uruguay
Production Year 2018
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'Cenizas' still courtesy of Miami Film Festival
Ashes film
Courtesy of the Miami Film Festival
Synopsis

On the brink of eruption, Cotopaxi spews ash issuing an eerie shadow over Quito while a young woman confronts dormant familial conflicts in this stunning and poignant drama. Caridad hasn’t spoken to her father in years—not since he left the family under a cloud of suspicion and accusations. But that changes when Cotopaxi, a long dormant volcano overlooking Quito, suddenly threatens to erupt, and Caridad finds herself isolated and trapped within the blast zone. Out of options, she reaches out to her father and confronts the emotions she repressed for so many years.


Film Details
Ashes
Director: Juan Sebastian Jacome
Country: Ecuador, Uruguay
Genre: Drama
Writer: Juan Sebastian Jacome
Producer: Irina Caballero, Andrew Hevia, Germán Tejeira
Production Year: 2018
Running Time: 97

La familia

Director Gustavo Rondón Córdova
Country Norway, Venezuela, Chile
Production Year 2017
La-familia NYLFF
'La familia' still courtesy of New York Latino Film Festival
Synopsis

Twelve-year-old Pedro roams the streets with his friends, raised by the violent urban atmosphere around him in a working class district of Caracas. After Pedro seriously injures another boy in a rough game of play, single father Andrés decides they must flee to hide. Andrés will realize he is a father incapable of controlling his own teenage son, but their situation will bring them closer than they have ever been. Director Gustavo Rondón’s paints a gritty, fast-paced picture of the violence of everyday life in Venezuela’s capital city while telling the story of a father willing to sacrifice everything for his son.


Film Details

Director: Gustavo Rondón Córdova
Country: Norway, Venezuela, Chile
Genre: Crime, Drama
Writer: Gustavo Rondón Córdova
Producer: Natalia Machado Fuenmayor, Marianela Illas, Gustavo Rondón Córdova, Rodolfo Cova, Rubén Sierra Salles
Production Year: 2017
Running Time: 82