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

Arts & Culture

A Film Lovers To Do List For SD Latino Film Festival

A Film Lovers To Do List For SD Latino Film Festival
The San Diego Latino Film Festival is screening 185 films this year and close to 140 actors and directors will be in town. How does one even begin to decide what to see and do? Our KPBS film critic has some strategy tips and recommendations for you.

San Diego Latino Film Festival

The 18th annual San Diego Latino Film Festival begins today and runs through the 20th at the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center. You can see a full schedle of films at

The San Diego Latino Film Festival is screening 185 films this year and close to 140 actors and directors will be in town. How does one even begin to decide what to see and do? Our KPBS film critic has some strategy tips and recommendations for you.



Beth Accomando is the KPBS film critic. Her blog is called Cinema Junkie.

Read Transcript

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.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. So many films, so little time. The eighteenth annual San Diego Latino film festival begins today, screening more than 180 movies. In addition, dozens of actors and directors will also be in town for workshops and interview sessions. So how does a poor film lover figure out how to get the most out of a big film festival like that? Luckily, KPBS film critic, Beth Accomando is here with a how to guide. Beth, good morning.

ACCOMANDO: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Lots of films in the Latino film festival. But I know that you have a couple of strategies for people to adopt. First is a kind of random approach:

ACCOMANDO: And part of what will determine what strategy you take is what you want to get out of the festival. But one time I had a really busy schedule, and what I decided to do was whenever I got off of working I would leave, drive straight down there, and whatever film was about to start, that's what I would go see. So there was no planning involved in terms of reading through the schedule and picking out which films I might want to see. So it was this random approach, and what ended up happening was I saw a couple of films I didn't like, but I also saw a couple of films that I probably never would have picked out of the catalog to go see, and I liked them. So that's one way, and it's especially if you're busy but you want to support the festival and you want to make sure you see something because the thing about festivals, a lot of the films, this will be your only chance to see them, especially shorts or some documentaries and independent film of so if you want to go out and support the festival and see something you might never get a chance to see again, this is kind of a fun, wild approach of it's an adventurous one where you go, I'm gonna put myself in their hands AND HOPE that they've made good selections, and gamble on what I'm gonna see.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's the random no one dare call it lazy approach.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now the next strategy takes a little bit more research.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But you think the festival groups their films in a way that's useful for audiences.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah. If you have a particular interest in films, let's say you want to see gay themed movies or you have a real passion for documentary, the festival does have these showcases. There's also a focus on Jewish-Latino films, and you can go through the program and they're highlighted out. So you can go and look. That's also a showcase for women film makers or film by and for women. So if you have a particular interest and an agenda, or an activism or something that you're interested in, you can look through here and say, hey, I wanna target Cinegay and see all those shorts and those features. Or I want to see the best in the documentaries. This year they have a focus called Documania. So if you have something very specific you want to do, that will help you to kind of group them and find out films that are highlight indeed groups like that. And then of course there's just the program you can sit and read through.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know, you make a good point here because there are lots of countries that are offering films in the Latino film festival. So is there a particular country that's really doing very, very interesting work right now that maybe you would like to target films coming from that country?

ACCOMANDO: I don't know if there's one country that's particularly strong right now. There's just a lot of good stuff. So again, maybe you're interested in Brazilian cinema or you're interested in cinema from Cuba, so you can again, go through the guide and look for film bias country and pick them out. But there's not one country -- it's not with Asian films sometimes where, like, Korea was really strong for a period, and Hong Kong was really strong for a period, and there was this sense of kind of new wave cinema going on there. This particular year, I didn't find that there was one country that was particularly strong. But you can look through and kind of pick them out by country as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And I guess there's also the way of going about this, of just going to the films that you've heard good things about. And I know that you have some films to recommend to listeners. You've seen how many do you think of the 180 something movies?

ACCOMANDO: This year I feel kind of bad, I've only seen about a half dozen or so, beforehand, before going in to actually review. So it's been a small number this year. So I'm gonna have to catch up at the festival.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, of this small number, leave to you, Beth, dare I say it, to find a movie about cannibalism.

ACCOMANDO: Yes, it's called We Are What We Are. And it's a film that has been stirring a lot of buzz of it's a feature debut. But it's not -- the cannibalism is really not the subject of the film.


ACCOMANDO: It's more about family dynamics and a dysfunctional family, and also about the growing gap between the haves and the have notes. So it's a film that's got a savvy sense of social commentary, and it also has a very dark sense of humor. But it's very good. And again, I really feel that festivals are a place where you can push your limits a little built and experiment and be a little adventurous. So if this film maybe doesn't sound quite up your alley, but you're willing to be challenged a little bit, I think this is a great one to go see. It's incredibly well-made.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What's its name again?

ACCOMANDO: It's called we are what we are.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We are what we are. You also really liked a film from Spain called flamenco.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, Flamenco, Flamenco. It's Carlos Zara who's used some flamenco before in some of his films. He's done a film version of Carmen that was a flamenco ballet. And this is a film that defies categories because it's sort of a documentary, because it documents the history and tradition of flamenco, but it's also a gorgeous work of art. And it's very simple. It proves less is more of it's basically dancers and musicians on a barren -- a fairly barren stage, but what elements he does put in are some absolutely sumptuous lighting and gorgeous set design elements. And it just lets the beauty and the power of flamenco come to the center stage. And it's just a breathtakingly beautiful film to watch.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So Flamenco, Flamenco from Spain, and it's part of the San Diego Latino film festival. As you mention, there's a block of documentaries in the festival. And there's a local low made one called la mamma. What's this film about?

ACCOMANDO: It's about Mother Antonia, who's an American woman, a nun, who's been working in the infamous Tijuana prison for the past 30 years of so it's a portrait of her, it's a short film, and it's a very engaging portrait of her, and the work that she does, and how she's been managed to earn the respect of both the prisoners and the prison officials, and she's a lot of the changes going on and is concerned what's gonna happen after she leaves, and the fact that the violence has been increasing in this prison, come is heavily over crowded.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is it a grim documentary?

ACCOMANDO: No, it's not. It's grim in the sense that there's a lot of grim things going on in the prison. But it's hopeful that here one person who's really making a big difference in lives.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, in addition to all of the movies, what other kind of events go on in a big film festival like this?

ACCOMANDO: Well, one of the things I really love about the Latino Film Festival is when you come into the lobby, there's this real sense of energy 'cause there's a lot of artists booths, so you can see artwork or music playing or interviews being conducted in the lobby too. So it's a very busy kind of neighborhood feeling in the lobby. So you feel an immediate energy when you come in, there's also -- I don't tend to go to parties at film festivals. I am very focused on movies of so there are opening and closing night even events issue and I think a couple of other parties going on during the festival, which, if that's your kind of thing do, they throw a really good party and have fun. But like I said, there's so many movies out there, and if I go to a party, and I miss maybe one or two, and maybe that's not good.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, so you can either take the movies that you hear good things about, you can go to and pick various genres of movies, or you can just show up and go if a movie.

ACCOMANDO: Yep. Or you can research out that thing and maybe a whole strategy where you go through and you look for actors you like or films you've heard about and map it out, and they have a very nice double page program where you can actually see all the films and their times all on one page, and you can kind of go through and mark them up and see, like, how much overlap you have, and how much of a life you can have outside of the festival.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you for the advice, Beth, thank you so much.

ACCOMANDO: Thank you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with KPBS film critic, Beth Accomando, the eighteenth annual Latino film festival begins today, it runs through the 20th at the ultra star mission valley cinemas at Hazard center. You can see a full schedule of films at Now, coming up, music and narrative at the next UCSD Camera Lucida concert, a preview next right here on These Days on KPBS.