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San Diego Latino Film Festival Wants To Build Bridges Not Walls

March 13, 2019 1:33 p.m.


Moisés Esparza, programmer, SDLFF

Miguel Rodriguez, Un Mundo Extraño programmer, SDLFF

Beth Accomando, film critic, kpbs

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

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The San Diego Latino Film Festival celebrates its 26 year and kicks off tomorrow night. The festival showcases 170 shorts features and documentaries from around the world Latino film festival programmer Moises Esparza and on Mondo X drawn yo showcase curator Miguel Rodriguez talked about this year's festival with PBS Arts reporter Beth Hall commando and here's that interview.

Moore says this is going to be your sixth year programming films here at the San Diego Latino Film Festival. What has been any particular challenge for this year.

So every year there's the issue of relevancy.

How do you maintain your festival attractive to your supporters who have been with you since the beginning but also how do you appeal to brand new audiences. That has been my quandary for the past six years but what I always go back to is select films that speak to issues that the San Diego community cares about. So through my programming I try to think of these communities very specific groups who I know well want to come see these films and we'll bring people to them. So in the festival lineup you'll always see films on immigration and art because those have been topics that are unsuccessful at the festival and we always bring back successful showcases like so most which is our LGBTQ showcase.

When one looks Daniel wishes or Sean or horror showcase so it's always about connecting with the past while trying to look forward. So it's a challenge. I'm going to say it's not. I think this year the programming is pretty unconventional in a very.

Dynamic and exciting way.

This is a border city hosting a Latino Film Festival and we have a very politically charged environment at the moment with talk of a border wall. So how does the festival respond to that is that something that you want to program for or is that something where the films you're getting are different. How has it been.

Absolutely we as a festival that caters to a predominantly Latino audience feel that it's our responsibility to address these issues head on particularly the theme of immigration and the humanitarian crisis taking place at the border. So this year we have a special shorts program called Migrant voices which is a collection of 15 shorts that tackle that issue head on. So we are as a festival taking a stand stands in solidarity with these asylum seekers and refugees and we hope that comes through with this program.

Now you brought up moon Strangio as the sidebar that you have as a programmer for a film festival. I always feel like festivals are the place where you can take risks and with this in one to Australia it seems like you're taking a bit of a risk because these are not going to necessarily be the crowd pleasers. Why do you feel it's important to showcase films like this that are not going to please everyone.

As a programmer of course I hope that people show up to the movies that I book. However I don't necessarily set being a crowd pleasing festival as a priority for me. I want to screen confrontational cinema. I want people to feel a little bit uncomfortable. I want them to feel like they've seen something new and fresh and innovative. I like challenging audiences. I'm not really necessarily interested in whether our supporters like the movie in a very conventional way or what appeals to me is if they're willing to have a discussion about what they just watch because I think that fosters growth and understanding.

So for someone to have an initial reaction like oh I didn't like that or I hated that what interests me more is digging a little deeper like why you like that or what about this dislike. Can we dissect to maybe make it more appealing for you in the next round and also for myself to learn as a as a programmer.

Miguel you are the festival director for Horrible Imaginings Film Festival which showcases horror films and you are curating these films along with my sense. How do you feel about kind of a festival's purpose in highlighting works like this.

The purpose of the festival is to offer a platform for various types of expression those modalities are not always pleasant. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not. And frankly there is an audience out there for things that are not saccharin or more joyful or musicals or romantic comedies. There is. There is definitely an audience who want to be challenged by cinema and who wants to use this art form to go down or experience a darker path.

Now you mentioned it showcases horror but it doesn't. It's not exclusively highlighting horror films so how do you define kind of the qualities that a film needs to be part of this in one direction.

So really the name itself one strange world when Mondo extraneous is really I just view that as using a lens of a fantastic lens to deal with real life topics. So we might be able to talk about something that is that causes anxiety or fear and use something like science fiction or horror or crime thriller for example to to access that and maintain a little bit of distance from it. But honestly all I'm really looking for are films that are a little off kilter. And as we said maybe a little uncomfortable or for my personal view films that showcase a topic that a filmmaker is using to express some type of anxiety about the world and using a fantastic means or an unusual means to get that message across.

Now one of them is going to be on opening night which is murder me monster which I have to say is my favorite of the three films program.

You know what that film for me is defined by how it opens with such a hit again without giving anything away. The audience needs to prepare themselves for the first three minutes of this film. But after that it kind of takes a more measured pace. It's full of atmosphere and surreal imagery that might be unexpected after such a a shocking beginning. But you know I think it will satisfy those people who like surreal nightmares and who like just a creature feature they're all in there. So this is something for horror fanatics but it is a lot more than that.

And I think my says you use the term kind of a thinking man's monster movie thinking man or woman's horror film really.

It's insightful and it speaks to interior fears I think became becoming exterior.

There is the element of seeing the monster and such and that shock value of finally witnessing what's causing all the mayhem. But there are as Miguel mentioned surreal moments and really vivid imagery that I think evoke a explicit feeling of dread and that dread carries from frame to frame. And it's less about in a way who is doing it as in the greater question becomes like what are we doing to ourselves which I think is a really horrific question to contemplate.

You can hear more of the interviews this Friday on Beth's cinema Junkie podcast.