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The 19th Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival

Arturo Ripstein's "Las razones del corazón" closes out the Festival on March 18. The filmmaker will be in attendance for the screening.
Arturo Ripstein's "Las razones del corazón" closes out the Festival on March 18. The filmmaker will be in attendance for the screening.

Celebrating Films By, For, And About Latinos

The 19th Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival
GUESTS: Lisa Franek, San Diego Latino Film Festival's Artistic Director Michael DeLorenzo, Actor

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. The San Diego Latino film festival is one of the most anticipated and popular film festivals in town, and it begins today. Now in its 19th year, the festival has grown to attract film makers from all of north and South America from Spain and elsewhere around the globe. My guests, Lisa Franek is artistic director at the San Diego Latino film festival and a film maker herself. Welcome to the show. FRANEK: Thank you, Maureen. CAVANAUGH: Actor Michael CARVER is appearing as part of the festival's tribute to Latinos in TV, he was in New York undercover. And welcome. DELORENZO: Thank you. Pleasure to be here. CAVANAUGH: It's a pleasure to have you both. Now, the festival, as I, is in the 19th year. Is it still growing and changing? FRANEK: It's always growing and changing. It's kind of like an organism. Every year, it's a little bit different. We tweak it a little bit. Some things we shrink, some things we grow. So it's constantly evolving. CAVANAUGH: One of the things that you do each year, you highlight a country. You focus on one country especially. And this is the first time that the U.S. is the country of focus. So what is the festival doing to highlight Latino-American films? FRANEK: Well, we selected some feature films that were made in the USA or Puerto Rico. And we added a second showing of short films. So we have two. And then we also have the Latinos on TV section that's highlighting all of the great work that Latinos are doing on American television. CAVANAUGH: Let's first hear a clip from one of the films in the show, Mamitas, about an unlikely friendship between two teenagers who start by antagonizing one another. NEW SPEAKER: You're a coward. And a liar! NEW SPEAKER: Yeah. NEW SPEAKER: Not telling me that you hooked up with my cousin is the same as lying! NEW SPEAKER: Is it really? Then why don't want you tell me the truth? Where's your mother at? NEW SPEAKER: You don't know what you're talking about right now. NEW SPEAKER: Oh, all right. You know where she is? She's in jail. You continue to try to fix my life, you can't even fix your own, you know that! CAVANAUGH: That's a good clip. That was from Mamitas, and it's a film that's going to be shown at the San Diego Latino film festival. What is the status of Latino American films now? Are there many of them? Is the quality changing? Are they getting more exposure? FRANEK: I think there are -- it is kind of growing. There are films that we didn't get for our festival. CAVANAUGH: Because they're being seen elsewhere? FRANEK: Yeah, exactly. And -- so it seems like the demand is growing and the quality is getting better. And so that's justice a really great thing to be seeing from these films. And also, a variety of viewpoints. It's not the drug kingpins, and the gang member, and the immigrants crossing illegally so much as just regular people living in the United States who just happen to be Latino. CAVANAUGH: Michael, let me bring you into the conversation. You're part of the panel on Latinos in TV. And from an actor's perspective, are there more opportunities for Latinos in television now? DELORENZO: You know, it goes in waves. I think there are opportunities. That's a lot of wonderful Latinos on TV right now. We constantly are hearing about the -- oh, this is going to be a great year. I've heard that every year. So it gets better in increments. But I still think we haven't reached that point of like in the African American community where you have a Tyler Perry and his movies can open at No. 1. I think there's even a bigger population of Latinos with buying power that they have not yet tapped into. CAVANAUGH: Right. Is there still -- is it still a question of if the title character is not named a certain ethnicity, that ethnicity is just assumed to be white? DELORENZO: Many times it's true, yes. Absolutely. CAVANAUGH: Yeah? That's still the case. And you're still looked upon as an ethnic actor? DELORENZO: Absolutely, absolutely. I think -- Chris rock said something amazing at the academy awards. A big person, a big white lady can play a princess, a guy can play a prince, but an African American can play a donkey or a zebra. [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: Each in animation. DELORENZO: Even in animation. So we have yet to come to that place. But I think there's progress every day, there's some amazing talents, talented directors, talented actor, talented writers. I'm working on a project that I'm writing and producing and directing that I'm going to probably set forth this summer. But it's all toward something because we need an audience. That's the biggest thing. Like this festival here is a wonderful outlet for Latinos to be showcased and made aware of. CAVANAUGH: So things are changing behind the camera too. DELORENZO: I think that's the key. The we that we don't have is the -- the missing piece, there's a lot of talented actors and actresses, and there are many, many directors. But we need more of the behind the scenes. What the people in the studios are, when you think about something, when we all think about something, we envision ourselves in those roles. So if you don't have ourselves behind the scenes, nobody envisions us. CAVANAUGH: Right. Now, you are on the panel, as I said, in the San Diego Latino film festival, Latinos in TV. But you work in both TV and films. DELORENZO: Yes. CAVANAUGH: Where do you think is the most opportunity for Latinos now? Film or TV? DELORENZO: I think there's an amazing opportunity in film. And TV. CAVANAUGH: Ah. DELORENZO: The biggest issue is the quality of roles. There's always a gang banger role, always a gangster now. Now it's trying to break these other characters. You have Sophia Vergara on modern family doing amazing work. There's a lot of things here. But it's yet still not somebody carrying their own show, and created specifically for them. So it depends on the year. CAVANAUGH: So we're waiting for the Latino Tyler Perry is that it? DELORENZO: Absolutely. [ LAUGHTER ] DELORENZO: I hope he's not exactly like Tyler Perry. And there's nothing against him because I think he does -- he has his market. And he knows how to feed that market. Where it's the self-made prophecy, and it keeps him going. CAVANAUGH: Now, as part of the film festival, there's another thing that you do besides highlighting different aspects of Latino film and artistic endeavor in film and TV. You create partnerships with people and countries and so forth. And right now, you have a partnership with the Centuro Cultural in Tijuana to showcase Chilean directors. FRANEK: We've been talking for years about having a portion of the festival crossing the border and reaching Tijuana because it is right now. This year, the Centuro Cultural, and the Chilean ministry of foreign affair, we put together this program of new Chilean directors. So it's going to play in Tijuana and also at the festival. And three of those directors are actually going to be in attendance. So it's very exciting. CAVANAUGH: That is. Are there any other films that you would like to highlight in this that are coming up? FRANEK: Well, they're all great of course! [ LAUGHTER ] FRANEK: But there are some really wonderful films. There's one from Peru called Las Malas Intenciones. About a young girl during the revolution, trying to deal with her family and things like that. There's one called captains of the sand from Brazil about kind of a group of orphan kids who -- they kind of have their own little society. And they live kind of in the ruins of a building near the beach. And it's really, really a nice film. Those are just two of the many that -- I mean, I would suggest that people, know -- the stars are great, or telenovela actors, and we love them, but there's so much more else out there. Off the beaten path is a great place to be. CAVANAUGH: You have a Sci-fi sidebar this year. FRANEK: We do! CAVANAUGH: With new horror and Sci-fi Latino films that I know Beth Accomando is very interested in. And she actually did a radio feature on that this morning. Why did you choose that? FRANEK: In the U.S., genre films are it right now. And the U.S. isn't the only place where genre films exist. So we have Sci-fi from Spain. CAVANAUGH: Juan of the dead. FRANEK: Oh, my gosh! That's from Cuba. A Cuban zombie flick? Who doesn't want to see that! [ LAUGHTER ] FRANEK: And I have been stocking that movie ever since I saw a poster for it, like two years ago. So it's just really fun to see and show people that these genre flicks, you know -- the captain America, the transformers, that's great. But there's other things going on in other countries as well that are in those genres. But they have their own take on it, which is really great to see. CAVANAUGH: Sounds fascinating. What's the importance, Michael, of festivals like this in your opinion? DELORENZO: I think it gets to bring light on subjects and talent that doesn't really normally get the national spotlight. Nothing against Jennifer Lopez, but I don't think we need to see another cover of Jennifer Lopez of the she's already got where she needs to get. So you need that obscure artist that needs a little push to get over the hump, and this is an amazing festival where they get that push and that exposure. Just like we're here today talking about it. And it gives them an opportunity and us an opportunity to be exposed to new artists and to new work, and it gives them an opportunity to do it again. CAVANAUGH: Right. DELORENZO: And we need that voice. CAVANAUGH: I know this started as a student film festival. Are student films still involved? FRANEK: Absolutely, absolutely. CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay. FRANEK: We accept student films from all around the world. There's also -- we have a section called 41 terra film makers, which is a short section of local film makers. And a large number of them are -- do come out of San Diego state university. And some of the other local universities. So we really enjoy nurturing this young talent because we have had several short film makers come back with feature films later on. . And that's always great to see. CAVANAUGH: Now, I know that the media arts center which sponsors the festival just moved into different offices, how has that helped you this year? FRANEK: Well, we have more room for volunteers to come in and help us out! [ LAUGHTER ] FRANEK: I think that's probably the main thing. We do want it to be a place where people can come and see move Is or take a workshop, have something for their kids to do during spring break, and teaching kids how to make movies and be engaged in their community. And also learn how powerful media is, and make them feel empowered and that they do have a voice and stories that are worth telling. CAVANAUGH: This festival is ten days long. There's a lot going on. How can people plot a course? Where can they find out the information that they need to see the films they want to see and be at the workshops and the events that they want to be? FRANEK: Our website is And there are a number of ways. We have the different showcases. If people clicked on highlights, if you want to see the U.S. ones, our Jewish-Latino showcase, our horror genre. You can -- there's a scheduling genius, where you can just pick films and it'll spit out a schedule for you, show up at these times on these days. DELORENZO: It shows how diverse the Latino community is. Our Jewish-Latino showcase! Where have you heard that before? [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: Exactly it just shows how many films you are showcasing. FRANEK: Absolutely. CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know that the San Diego Latino film festival opened if, it continues until March 18th. And the films are shown at the Ultrastar Mission Valley theatres in Hazard Center. Thank you both very much. FRANEK: Thank you. DELORENZO: Thank you.

The San Diego Latino Film Festival turns 19 this year and is still growing and changing.

Each year the festival chooses a country to shine the spotlight on and this year the country is the United States. So Latino American films will be showcased.

In addition there will be a tribute to Latinos in TV and featuring actors David Zayas ("Dexter"), Michael DeLorenzo ("New York Undercover"), and Judy Reyes ("Scrubs").


The festival is also partnering with the Centro Cultural in Tijuana to showcase Chilean directors (bringing some to both San Diego and Tijuana) and their films.

El Mundo Extrano is a new showcase focusing on horror and sci-fi. It joins the long running and successful sidebars Cine-Gay and Animation.

The festival started nearly two decades ago as a student film festival and SDLFF still devotes a good chunk of time to screening student works.

The festival runs March 8 through 18 at the UltraStar Mission Valley Theaters at Hazard Center.

Artistic director Lisa Franek cites a few films that might get lost in the shuffle to check out: "'Las Malas Intenciones' (Peru), 'La Espera' (Chile), and 'Captains of the Sand' (Brazil). All good! And of course the documentaries are very diverse this year."