Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Laura Paredes stars in "Trenque Lauquen, Part One" from Argentina. (2022)
The Cinema Guild
Laura Paredes stars in "Trenque Lauquen, Part One" from Argentina. (2022)

San Diego Latino Film Festival welcomes new artistic director

Tonight, the 31st Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) kicks off a 10-day celebration of Latino cinema, arts and culture.

The festival will present more than 100 shorts and features from Latin America and the United States. It will also offer discussions with visiting filmmakers, free student screenings, a closing night party, and the delicious Sabor Latino: Food, Beer and Wine Festival.

San Diego Latino Film Festival
Media Arts Center San Diego
Media Arts Center San Diego
San Diego Latino Film Festival


Festival history

I have been covering SDLFF since its inception as a student film festival founded by Ethan Van Thillo. In 1995, Van Thillo transformed Cine Estudiantil into the San Diego Latino Film Festival. Four years later, he established the nonprofit Media Arts Center San Diego (MACSD) to oversee the festival, educational programs, and more recently Digital Gym Cinema.

Van Thillo is the only festival founder/executive director who has had the vision to bring a physical cinema to San Diego to provide a space for truly independent and international films to play all year long. For full disclosure, I do volunteer programming at Digital Gym Cinema, so my appreciation is very deep and personal. Without Digital Gym Cinema, there are so many films that we would have never had the chance to see on the big screen in San Diego. Van Thillo understands the role movies can play in our daily lives and he has made a tangible difference in San Diego in terms of showcasing diverse voices.

Welcoming a new Artistic Director

I have always been impressed by the programming of the festival, first by Van Thillo, then later I was enamored by the films selected by Moises Esparza, who is one of the most thoughtful programmers I have ever met. So when Esparza decided to take on another job with the MACSD, I was worried about what this year's festival would be like.


But María Paula Lorgia, SDLFF's new artistic director, put all my concerns to rest with the first film she recommended to me to watch, "Trenque Lauquen - Part I." Within a few minutes this film had me riveted, and I knew the festival was in good hands.

"It's a film that I really recommend," Lorgia said. "What it's interesting about this film is not just a gender perspective, but also travel, mystery, drama, comedy. And you want to stay in the film all the time. I really invite you to watch the film that is really unique in Latin American cinema."

Lorgia studied history and documentary film and initially wanted to be a filmmaker. But then she got pulled into the world of film festivals and has not left.

"Life put me in the curator path," Lorgia said. "I became more a curator rather than a director as I wanted to be. What I like is to create programs about films that I like, or independent film I like. It is a creative job. It's not just like administration job. But also it's to create dialogs between films, which I think it's really important and also challenging."

Festival programming

"Trenque Lauquen" (a film screening in two parts) reflects one of Lorgia's personal programming focuses: women.

"We have 50% of directors that are woman and really a lot of films that talk about our stories, our points of view, not only in Latin American cinema but also in Frontera filmmakers section," Lorgia said. "So I think there are a lot of interesting films that work from the point of view of woman. Also, we have more indigenous filmmakers, also we have more African descent filmmakers. So there's more diversity in the selection."

Another new addition is a sidebar on animation. Being able to showcase a collection of films is a sign that there are now enough films being made by Latin and LatinX filmmakers to merit a sidebar like this and that is exciting. SDLFF has shown individual animated films before, but Lorgia felt this year deserved a special program. The program also includes the 20214 feature "The Book of Life."

The 2014 animated film "The Book of Life" screens at the 31st Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival. (2014)
Twentieth Centory Fox
The 2014 animated film "The Book of Life" screens at the 31st Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival. (2014)

Other sidebars include a comedy block ¡Hay que Reírse! programmed by Luis Martinez; Frontera Filmmakers curated by Adriana Trujillo; and ¡Somos! Cine LGBTQ+ overseen by Yakira Delgadillo.

Lorgia is also taking advantage of the Digital Gym Cinema in East Village as an additional venue to the home base of AMC Mission Valley.

"We have three daily screenings at the Digital Gym," Lorgia said. "We will have also directors coming to present the films. We have also a conversation with Adriana Barraza. She is a really important actress in Mexico because she was Oscar nominated for the film 'Babel.' So she's coming to present her new short film here, and she's going to do a conversation here at Digital Gym."

In Mission Valley, the festival will also have an artisan market on the weekends as well as the delicious Sabor Latino: Food, Beer and Spirits Festival on March 23.

"What I like about this festival is it's really interdisciplinary," Lorgia said. "You can go to the AMC Mission Valley, watch a film, talk with the director, and then go to Sabor Latino. Every day we have DJs also in the festival. So it's a celebration not just of film, but also of Latin American arts, culture, and gastronomy."

Plan your film festival schedule by checking out all the amazing films screening over the next ten days. A full SDLFF program is available here


Meet Maria Paula Lorgia

María Paula Lorgia will act as the new lead film curator for Media Art Center San Diego's acclaimed and long running San Diego Latino Film Festival. María is a researcher and curator of film and visual arts with a Master of Arts in Media Studies with an emphasis in Documentary Studies from The New School University in New York City. She currently works as Creative Director at the Tulpa audiovisual platform. She is also a film professor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the Universidad de los Andes and works as a programming advisor for the Sheffield Doc Festival in England and Anibia-Animation Film Festival in Colombia. She worked for nine years at the Cinemateca de Bogotá, Colombia, as head programmer where she programmed retrospectives of filmmakers such as Barbara Hammer, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Roberto Minervini, Sarah Maldoror, Monika Treut, Luis Ospina among others. She has been part of the jury for the Teddy Award at the Berlinale-Berlin International Film Festival, the Dortmund Women’s Film Festival in Germany, the Ceará de Fortaleza Ibero-American Film Festival and Festival Internacional de Cinema de João Pessoa in Brasil, Proimagenes Colombia and the Audiovisual Ministry of Culture in Colombia, among others. (Bio provided by SDLFF)


KPBS Midday Edition LatinxFilmPop Culture
I cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.
What do you wonder about that you’d like us to investigate?