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San Diego Latino Film Festival Kicks Off 23rd Year

Arturo Ripstein's new feature "La Calle de la Amargura" looks to a real-life crime as the inspiration for his deeply humane portrait of characters living under desperate conditions.
Leisure Time Features
Arturo Ripstein's new feature "La Calle de la Amargura" looks to a real-life crime as the inspiration for his deeply humane portrait of characters living under desperate conditions.

Festival returns to Fashion Valley with 165 features, shorts, and documentaries

San Diego Latino Film Festival Highlights
GUESTS: Moises Esparza, San Diego Latino Film Festival Programmer Beth Accomando, KPBS Film Critic
Preview: 23rd Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando previews the 23rd Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival.

The 23rd annual San Diego Latino Film Festival kicks off tomorrow night (Thursday) at Fashion Valley. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando has this preview. The San Diego Latino Film Festival comes on heels of another year of all white acting nominees at the Oscars. This makes executive director Ethan Van Thillo think about the importance of the festival and the reason he founded it. ETHAN VAN THILLO: We started it because we needed more Latino actors in front of the screen, more Latino producers behind the camera, we need a more positive portrayal of Latinos on TV and film. So yes we want everyone to have a great time, see great international films but at the base of everything it’s really about education and getting more Latino voices in front of the screen and behind the camera. The 23rd annual San Diego Latino film festival runs March 10-20 and will showcase 165 shorts, features, and documentaries from around the world. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.   LEDE: The 23rd annual San Diego Latino Film Festival kicks off tonight (Thursday) at Fashion Valley. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando has this preview. LATINO 2 (ba) The San Diego Latino Film Festival returns to Fashion Valley for the second year with the shopping center serving as the presenting sponsor. Founder and executive director Ethan Van Thillo is excited about expanding the festival beyond film screenings. ETHAN VAN THILLO: We literally have a parade on multiple days during the festival, a musical parade, something called Sabor Latino Beer and Food Festival where we’re bringing in chefs from Baja California and San Diego and beers and wines that’s March 19th. We have two concert stages one in front of Macy’s, one in front of AMC’s 18 so it’s really a celebration of Latino culture, cinema, and arts and music and food. The 23rd annual San Diego Latino film festival runs March 10-20 and will showcase 165 shorts, features, and documentaries from around the world. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

The 23rd annual San Diego Latino Film Festival kicks off Thursday in Fashion Valley with a trio of films, as well as an opening night concert and party.

This is the second year the festival will be held at the Fashion Valley shopping mall, which is not just the location for this year's festival but also the presenting sponsor of the festival.

Festival founder and executive director Ethan Van Thillo is excited about the mall's support and willingness to let the festival take over the entire space.

He said that for one of the festival's events, the Sabor Latino Beer and Food Festival on March 19, organizers will be bringing in chefs from Baja California and San Diego. There will be two concert stages, one in front of Macy's and another in front of AMC Fashion Valley 18.

"So it’s really a celebration of Latino culture, cinema, and arts and music and food. It’s kind of exciting. We really want people to come in and experience more than just films. Meet the filmmakers, actors, hear great music and enjoy the food and really experience the Latino Film Festival for 11 days," Van Thillo said.

Preview: 23rd Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival

The festival will showcase 165 feature films, documentaries and shorts from around the globe and also close to home. The full schedule is on the festival's website: here.

One of the locally made films is "Club Frontera."

"The incredible documentary called 'Club Frontera,' the Cholos soccer team, the whole soccer team will be here at the film festival, the coach is going to be there on Monday, March 14," Van Thillo said. "So lots of fun, lots of opportunity to celebrate local Latino filmmakers and not just feature films but a collection of short films as well. We’re always about supporting the emerging filmmaker, local students and from around the world because we want to see the next [Alejandro Gonzalez] Iñárritu, the next [Guillermo] del Toro, so it’s really important for the film festival to support local filmmakers and emerging filmmakers."

The San Diego Latino Film Festival comes on the heels of another year of all-white acting nominees at the Oscars (although Mexico's Iñárritu won a best directing Oscar for "The Revenant," a non-Latino film about an American mountain man). This makes Van Thillo think about the importance of the festival and the reason he founded it.

"We talk about the celebrities coming and the different events happening at the film festival, but why did we really start this film festival?" Van Thillo posed. "We started it because we needed more Latino actors in front of the screen, more Latino producers behind the camera. We need a more positive portrayal of Latinos on TV and film. So yes, we want everyone to have a great time, see great international films but at the base of everything it’s really about education and getting more Latino voices in front of the screen and behind the camera."

Hector Medina stars as a young man who longs to be a drag performer in Havana in the Irish-Cuban co-production, "Viva."
Magnolia Pictures
Hector Medina stars as a young man who longs to be a drag performer in Havana in the Irish-Cuban co-production, "Viva."

Here's a quick preview of the films screening:

Opening night serves up not one, but three films, including Luis Guzman in "Puerto Ricans in Paris."

This year Colombia is the country of focus with six films including "Que Viva la musica" being showcased.

The Cine Gay sidebar includes features such as "Viva," an Irish-Cuban co-production about drag performers in Havana. Also screening as part of Cine Gay is Peter Greenaway’s "Eisenstein in Guanajuato" — a multinational production with a British director about a Jewish Russian filmmaker visiting Mexico. The film is a daring selection that challenges viewers to think about how they define Latino cinema.

Another challenging film from a veteran world-class filmmaker is Arturo Ripstein’s "La Calle de la Amargura" ("Bleak Street"), a black and white film inspired by a real-life crime story. The film reflects Ripstein's deeply humane perspective on people living on the fringes of society. The festival also includes two dozen documentaries such as "La Buena Vida," set deep in the jungles of Colombia where mining is making an impact on people's lives.

The 23rd annual San Diego Latino Film Festival runs March 10 through 20 at the AMC Fashion Valley 18 and Digital Gym Cinema.

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