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Hispanic Heritage Month Viewing List

 September 29, 2023 at 3:52 PM PDT

EPISODE 233: Hispanic Heritage Month viewing list

TRT 35:53


It is Hispanic Heritage Month and Cinema Junkie has some viewing recommendations for you but of course it is not a conventional list …


MOISES ESPARZA I really enjoy confrontation as a viewer. I don't like being lulled into a sense of complacency while I'm watching a film. And I think some of the films that I've kind of earmarked start with these kind of confrontational, cinematic kind of provocations.


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BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back to listener supported KPBS Cinema Junkie, I'm Beth Accomando.


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BETH ACCOMANDO Today I am speaking with one of my favorite film programmers, Media Art Center’s Moises Esparza. For the past decade he has been programming daring and diverse films at the San Diego Latino Film Festival and Digital Gym Cinema. I asked him to curate a list of films to watch during Hispanic Heritage Month and he did not disappoint. This is not a list of the most popular or biggest box office hits or most familiar names. Instead, Moises serves up a very personal list of films culled from the thousands of movies he has programmed over the last ten years, and the film reflect the diversity of Latin, Latinx and Hispanic cinema from across the US and around the globe.(:38)


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BETH ACCOMANDO Asking someone to pick just a handful of films to reflect a decade of filmmaking from around the globe is no easy task. So I have allowed Moises to offer a slightly longer list of film recommendations online at KPBS dot org slash cinema junkie. You can find a title list with his comments for more films to seek out. But right now, I need to take one quick break and then I will be back with a truly diverse and provocative list of films to watch during Hispanic Heritage Month .


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BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back to Cinema Junkie. For the past ten years, Moises Esparza has been curating films from around the world for both the annual San Diego Latino Film Festival as well as the micro cinema of Digital Gym. I knew Moises would have surprising choices so to begin our conversation I asked him to give us some insight into how he chose the films for this list.



So Moises, we are going to put together a list of films to suggest to people to watch. So give us a little sense of what you were looking for in this list. And I know this is kind of like picking your favorite child, so I understand the difficulty, but give us a little sense of what elements were important to include.


When you brought on this proposal of me highlighting some key films from my years as a curator, I really had no idea how this list would take form, to be honest. So I opened up my old documents of programming from 2015 and 2014 and so on and I just started picking titles that really stuck out to me first like oh, that was an amazing film. Oh, that was an amazing film. And then what I did was I tried to once I had my initial list, I tried to diversify, have a couple of documentaries, have films that talk about the indigenous experience, talk films that talk about the Afro Latinx experience, some crowd pleasers and then some honest to goodness provocations. So that's kind of how I landed on the films that I'm presenting with you today. Not to say that there aren't thousands and thousands of other amazing films, I mean I could have picked them all to be honest and it would have been a great list. But on this theme of Latinx Heritage Month, I really wanted to create a list that not only showed what it's like to be Latinx identifying in the United States, but what it might mean to be Latino in Mexico. In Central America in South America and to maybe think of ourselves less as one single entity and to start recognizing that there are so many latitudes and versimilitudes between know we are so different from region to region to region. And the sooner we start opening our eyes to those experiences, I think the sooner we'll create some sort of interconnectedness. So what I'm offering is a pretty broad perspective of the films that I've programmed but I also do think that it's a pretty honest sampling of where the Latinx film industry was ten years ago and where it is today. I feel like I always say the same thing but if you are looking at my list, I encourage you to look for other titles that might pique your interest. And then if you are watching films from this list, I really encourage you to watch as many and of course to pass along the word to increase the viewership of these films. Sometimes after film festivals, some of these films go immediately online and they become part of some AI algorithm that might pop up on your recommended list once every five years. So I encourage you to keep recommending films that you like not only from this list but from many, many other lists. I do think curation is important as a profession, obviously, but also there's such a thing as, like, personal curation between friends and family. And running the message about a lot or spreading the message about a lot of these films is so reliant on personal recommendations and, yeah, happy viewing.


One thing I want to prepare people for is this is not a list of necessarily the big box office Latino films, the biggest names behind the camera. This is a very kind of personal list to highlight some really amazing films.


Absolutely. It's very personal. But sometimes you have to reach into the bag of films that you've seen and pick out the ten that just stand out to you on that day. And this film might look different in a week or in two weeks, but as of today, these are the films I'm proposing. I mean, it's all subjective. Also, I'm not saying these are the best films. These are films that have stood out to me that I've shared with audiences here in San Diego. And I just hope that people just take away from the list that there is such a rich diversity of Lennox Cinema available. And I guarantee you that a lot of these films are available on some sort of streaming platform that you can easily access. So I encourage all of you to watch these movies.


But before we start talking about these films, you kind of have an announcement for us.


Yes. So after ten years working in the programming department here at the Media Art Center, San Diego, through the San Diego Latino Film Festival and the Digital Gym Cinema, I'm currently transitioning into a new role. The new role is focused on development and fundraising. I am excited to embark on this new adventure. I'm excited to usher in new curatorial voices for both of these programs. I'm really excited to be focused on long term planning for both the San Diego Latino Film Festival and the Digital Gym Cinema.


I wish you the best and wherever you are working, you are going to make great things happen. But I am going to miss your curation because I have always found you to be an amazingly thoughtful programmer who picks some amazing films every year. But we are going to benefit right now from the fact that you are going to look back on this ten years and painfully choose just a few titles to share with us. And I'm not sure where you might want to start, but a lot of your films kind of feel like road trips and journeys. So maybe pick a journey, a road trip to start with.


Yes. Thank you, Beth. That's such an interesting point. I do think that during my tenure here as programming manager, I have seen a lot of films that recontextualize the road movie or the adventure movie. And I think a great place to start and to situate ourselves within sort of my programming philosophy is with Tatiana Hueso’s documentary Tempestad, which means Storm. It's not a typical road movie in the sense that you have two sidekicks embarking on a fantastic adventure. It's actually a portrait of Mexico at a crossroads as that internal reckoning with all of the cartel violence that has been so prevalent for so many years. Now, the film itself focuses on two stories. One of them is focused on a woman who is wrongfully convicted of human trafficking and she's sent to a prison where her family is forced to pay for her safety every week. And the second story that we learn about through this documentary is about a circus performer who fights against all ODS to find out what happened to her missing daughter. Now, as I describe the movie, you might be wondering, like, how is this a road film? And where that comes in is through the visuals of the film.


What you see as you hear the narration of these women telling their stories is footage of empty Mexican high countrysides, security checkpoints, circus scenes. So what you get is kind of this idea that the camera's traveling from north to south and south to north of Mexico and capturing what it's like to live in this almost abyss, in a sense. So the camera travels extensively as you're learning about the lives of these women. And what does this emptiness convey to the viewer? To me, it conveys horror and terror. And in a way, I think we've been conditioned to look at these genres as blood and guts and jump scares. But what this film proposes is that maybe what's more terrifying is the emptiness and what happens when we become so acclimated to hearing about these stories of violence and torture and we become numb to it. So what we're presenting as we're watching the movie is kind of this landscape that we're able to project kind of our own emotions onto as we're receiving kind of this narration from these two survivors. It's one of the films that I think about extensively whenever I look back at my years programming here at the San Diego Latino Film Festival in the Digital Gym Cinema. And whenever someone asks me to point out, like, one of my favorite films or best documentary or whatever, that West's Tempest Die is one that I always return to, and I'm so happy to have been able to program it.


And in looking at these films over the past ten years, what kind of elements stand out for you that make a film something that you do return to like this?


I really enjoy confrontation as a viewer. I don't like being lulled into a sense of complacency while I'm watching a film. And I think some of the films that I've kind of earmarked start with these kind of confrontational, cinematic kind of provocations. Why do I value this as a viewer is because I do think that viewing films is an act. I don't think it's a passive activity. I think my mind is always kind of racing as I'm watching films trying to understand, trying to contextualize, trying to project. And I really want to think as film, as an interrogation, a self interrogation. You're in a dark room presented with an image that's larger than life. So I don't ever want to just be inactive, I guess. So I try to pick films that kind of push viewers to engage with films. One thing I hear so often, and it really annoys me, is people don't even want to watch films with subtitles. But to me, it's like, what you're missing out on so much cinema if you're being too lazy to read what's on screen. But anyways, that's maybe a digression.


Well, and one of the things I've also noticed about a lot of your choices is you don't necessarily like films that are strictly linear in narrative or that are very conventional in their structure. And when you talk about the sense of provocation that comes in some of the films, just stylistically in kind of how they present themselves to the audience. And one that was really fascinating is Zama. So talk about that.


Yes, you're completely correct. I don't really love a conventional narrative structure. I like films that feel elliptical. I like films that are more about a sensory experience, a poetic experience. Plot points, to me, aren't that exciting. I even like it when a film kind of seems to start over in the middle, and you're like, okay, where am I trying to situate you're trying to situate yourself as a viewer. And that, to me, presents a lot of excitement. So Lucrese Martel Zama is a wonderful example of this. It's a film that interrogates colonialism in South America. It's a film that's provocative from the first sequence, very briefly, the protagonist on Diego Zama is spying on naked women bathing, and they call him a voyeur. And what are we doing as viewers? Also? We're voyeurs ourselves. We're looking. So, what transpires is after he's caught watching these women bathe, one of them grasps his ankle. It's almost a physical provocation. They have a tussle. So that, to me, draws me in as a viewer. From the get go, it says, this film is asking you to engage. And then what follows this? It's a very elliptical narrative that as you're watching the film, you feel like, okay, where is this film going?


What is the point? But the point of the film is to describe visually, cinematically how this man, who is an employee of the Spanish Crown in the 18th century, feels stuck on the Parawaan coast, and he's waiting for these transfer papers that never come. And as he waits, madness creeps in. So as you're watching the film, the film's pace is very leisurely. It's very passive that you yourself feel the sense of being captive, in a sense. And you want him to get out of these circumstances. You want him to escape. But that's not really the point. Of the narrative. The point of the narrative is to describe the hellish conditions that were brought upon by colonialism. So, in a way, by this provocation that I recalled earlier as voyeurs, we're also maybe being asked to question, have we been complicit in this colonialist tradition? The film is rewarding in that this weight that you have really pays off in the third act, which really ramps up the violence and the thrills. And it feels like a much more conventional adventure film. But even as it applies more conventional sensibilities, the filmmaker Lucrese Martel, who has described as being a horror fanatic herself, she says she has learned from that tradition. She finds ways to pull the rug under our feet just as we're thinking we're figuring out where the film is going. She does some really fascinating kind of twists towards the end of the film. So Zama is a film that plays with time provocations. It's also very critical of a colonialist tradition. And the film itself is a labor of love. I mean, I think there were, like 20 producers on the film. It took four years to get the funding together. And even I remember when I was watching the film for the first time, when you're watching an international film, you see all the funders at the beginning. And it was a very long kind of funders. Only I thought, wow, it's amazing that for Lucas Martel, who is an established know, she had to really fight to get the funding together for this film. And again, I'm really glad to have been able to program that during my tenure here.


And over the years, you've also returned to some directors that you've liked. Gabrielle Mascaro has directed a couple you've liked, including one that was a science fiction film, Divine Love. But what is the film that you want to most kind of recall from this past ten years? From him?


Yeah. So Gabriel Mascaro made a Sci-Fi film a couple of years ago called Divine Love that was, in a way, a response to Bolsonaro's right wing politics. And his earlier film is such kind of a departure stylistically and in terms of esthetics, but in terms of its exploration of sexuality and gender roles, they seem kind of like very interesting companion piece. And the film I'm referring to is Neon Bull. The film itself is about a cowboy who works at rodeos. He leads a very nomadic life with this chosen family, and they travel from rodeos to rodeos together. And again, when you first watch the film, you think, I recognize this cowboy archetype. I recognize this cowboy persona. I know what this person is about. But about a quarter into the film, you'll learn that this cowboy also has aspirations of being a fashion designer. So he scribbles down. He's always scribbling sketches of very provocative stageware, which he creates for his friend. So when you learn that kind of, like, nugget of information, you start thinking about the film in different terms. It's not just an exploration of cowboy culture, it's also an exploration on sexual fluidity and the fluidity of maybe stereotypes that we bring into viewing experience. We think a film is going to be personified a specific way, but it's totally different. And then the film also is very unabashedly sexy and sensual. There's a sex scene towards the end of the film that is so natural and provocative and in a way, seems a bit out of line with what came before it. But by its conclusion, you realize that it's all part of this way of articulating life in a very raw sensory and emotional way. So Neon Bull also stands out to me as one of the films that really bucks conventions and asks the viewer to put aside their own prejudices and stereotypes and be really involved in a new world that Gabriel Moscado creates. But, yeah, again, really thrilled to have been able to program Neon Bull while I've been here.


Now, a lot of these films are a bit provocative in terms of content and structure, but sometimes you also have liked some that are a little more of the crowd pleaser kind of genre. And one of those involves young children looking for treasure.


Yes. So a question I get constantly asked by patrons of Latino Film Festival and the Digital Gym cinema is why are there no family movies? And I tell them there are family movies. They just don't look like what Hollywood is pushing. They have a different tonality, they have a different rhythm. There's films at every one of our additions that are probate for ages zero to 100 or whatever. And the Sodos is a movie I want to point out as being so accessible to everyone and so crowd pleasing, but also has its own provocative messaging. Like you said, the film is about a group of students, young students who live in the Mexican Pacific Coast, who decide that one of their maps that has an X on it, accessible through an electronic device, looks very similar to their town, to where they live. And they notice an X. So they become convinced that there's a treasure in this X. What's so amazing about this movie and thrilling is that it pushes forward this narrative that both adults and young kids can participate in adventures together. I think when we watch a lot of conventional family films, there's the adult world and the kids world.

And what this movie does is that it merges the two of them and emphasizes that with collaboration and more importantly, community building, you can achieve great things and you can embark on amazing adventures that will come to define your young existence. So DeSoto's. When I first saw it, I'll be a bit corny. It did make me feel, in a sense, that I was watching something like The Goonies or Et or one of these films that really captured my imagination. When I was very young, and to see it as an adult and to be charmed and to be disarmed and to just be kind of washed over with euphoria, really about seeing a film that really emphasizes the importance of community, I thought was almost radical, in a sense. So I encourage families to watch Thesotos, directed by Maria Novado, who in her own right, is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in Mexico, and Thesotos is just kind of a gift of a movie.


Some of the directors that have been showcased here have become very well known to the mainstream public, people like Alfonso Coron and Guillermo del Toro. But another one of these directors who maybe hasn't quite crossed over quite that far. But Pablo Lorraine has directed some films that you have really liked, and recently you screened one. I think this was one of the pandemic screening films. So tell us a little bit about the whole adventure of running a film during the pandemic and the message that it had.


Yeah. So Emma, directed by Paolo Lorraine, stands out as the film of the pandemic. In my mind. Our festival actually got canceled on the day of its launch, back when the initial shutdown happened. So my team and I were left reeling and unsure if the festival would ever come back. There was so much uncertainty back then. Thankfully, we were able to pivot a couple of months after the closure and offer a virtual cinema, a virtual edition. So if everyone remembers, a couple of years ago, we were all on Zoom trying to connect with each other. So what was that experience like? That experience was, in a sense, more connected than I've ever felt. In a way, I was able to engage with filmmakers from all over the world who were really committed to connecting with audiences. One of them was in Europe during our interview time, so they had to wake up at three in the morning to do the interview with me, and they were super excited. So in a way, the pandemic brought on a lot of tragedy and a lot of turmoil, but it also made me feel so much more connected to a lot of these filmmakers who were participating in the talent of the films, because we were all so excited just to connect with each know via zoom or whatever platform it was. All of that to say is that Emma is the film that defines the pandemic, in my sense, because of this really iconic image that I have of the film in my mind, which is of the protagonist carrying a flamethrower and setting things ablaze. In a way, that's kind of how I felt my internal mental state felt during the pandemic. A lot of frustration. I needed a release. And Emma is a catharsis on so many levels. Again, a provocation, a film that focuses on redefining a nuclear family structure. It focuses on a couple, two dance choreographers. They adopt a child, and then the child does something truly heinous, and they're forced to give the child back. The woman in the relationship, Emma, becomes a social pariah. And the line know, there's a line in the film that I think about a lot where it's like, mala Mujere Malamadre, bad woman, bad mother. So this film really investigates what it really means to be a woman and what it really means to be a mother. And it offers alternatives to motherhood that I've never seen on screen. It blends it with dance and this flamethrowing that I just described to become a really sensory experience. I think usually I like slow, methodic films, but this is the complete antithesis to that. It is an angry film, a film that has a lot to say about sexual fluidity and family structures and a film that really wants revolution to happen so that women feel less confined to these very specific gender norms. So in my mind, Emma will always be representative of the pandemic. And like you mentioned, it's directed by Paola Reign, who is such a wonderful, wonderful filmmaker and has a new film on Netflix that imagines Ghost of Pinocchio as a vampire called Elconde. So he is a filmmaker that's constantly pushing themselves to create new, exciting works.


Well, the interesting thing about that film, too, is that screened at the very beginning of the pandemic, but it seemed to be kind of a harbinger of the unrest and anger that was going to come fairly soon after the pandemic started with Black Lives Matters and a number of other things like that.


Oh, absolutely. Out of the films that I've chosen, it is probably one of the few true protest films, a film that not only relies on the dialog to show a state of unrest, but actually shows active unrest. It shows this protest through dancing, through this flamethrowing, through this destruction, all to achieve a revolution. So in a way, it is very tied into all of the unrest that arose after and during the pandemic. So it's an interesting thought to think of Emma as a political film or a political essay film, but it makes sense to contextualize it as that or for viewers to use it as such because some of the messaging of the film might make more traditional thinkers uncomfortable. But if you think of it as an act of political resilience, political liberation, I think it might make a bit more sense.


So far, the films you have chosen have all been foreign, but there are some films that reflect that reflect a Latino American or an experience from an American perspective on this. So what is your final pick here?


My final pick is a documentary called Beba directed by Rebecca Hunt. The filmmaker is the focus of the documentary. In fact, she says, welcome to my universe. You're now in my world. This is my lens. So you're immediately engulfed in the world of BEVA. That's the nickname of the filmmaker as she grapples and reckons with generational curses, generational trauma brought upon by her family's lineage. Her dad was from a plantation in the Dominican Republic, her mom from Venezuela. She identifies as Afro Latina. So she tries to grapple with the racism, the injustices, the microaggressions that she and her family have dealt with on a daily basis since being residents of New York City. And she does it in such a raw and unfiltered way that, again, is a provocation, but also, I think, truly lets viewers gain a lot of insight into the Afro Latina experience. There's not enough Afro Latina perspectives on screen, in my opinion. I think we should be doing everything we can to amplify their voices and their stories and to continue giving them platforms to express themselves. So that's why Beba really stands out in my mind as a US specific Afro Latina experience. And Beba is not just talking about these generational curses, kind of in a macro way. It also turns the camera on the subject. The filmmaker turns the camera on themselves and allows us to see flaws and allows us to see anger and allows us to see reckonings between her and her family. And she's very honest about what the documentary might do to her family as she kind of explores this generational trauma. And in that honesty, I think we as viewers walk away with a more authentic and connected experience. So Beba is a film that I think is a must watch. It was released a couple years ago by Neon, so I commend them for distributing a film like this. It played at the Digital Gym Cinema, not at the Latino Film Festival. Again, I'm cheating. But I really do think that Beba is a film that might have gone under the radar a bit, but I do think deserves to gain a huge.


Audience in terms of giving voices to people who don't always get heard. I noticed on your list, too, that although women don't necessarily represent the majority of filmmakers whose films are showcased, you really have heavy leaning towards female filmmakers on this list.


Yes, well, it's always been a mission of her festivals to sorry, let me start. Yes, it's been a mission of the Latino Film Festival and the Digital Drum Cinema to reach gender parity. Obviously, we believe that women filmmakers and their voices should be amplified and celebrated. So I think whenever I see surveys and studies, they always write it to make it seem that there are no women filmmakers. But it's like, I could send you a list of 100 women filmmakers working today who you can hire only if you gave them, but you have to give them the opportunity. So as I was looking through this list, I realized, yes, a lot of the films were made by women, but it might just be that they're making amazing films that need to be recognized and celebrated. And that's a mission of the festival in the digital drum cinemas, and one that I was happy to promote and to amplify. And I know that whoever takes over, that's going to be part of their mission as well. Sometimes I feel like we can't lose sight on the inequality and the unfairness. So I've received feedback that having a showcase like Viva Mujeres is or that's a showcase celebrating women filmmakers, sometimes I for, oh, why are you isolating women to this showcase? We're not. There's women filmmakers in all of our showcases, but the showcase is dedicated to women who are redefining what it's like to be a woman with a political lens, with a more radical approach to filmmaking, more experimental. So I feel like until women have an equal place at the table as men filmmakers in terms of the access to films and budgets and distribution deals, et cetera, it's important for film festivals to continue advocating for the inclusion of women.


And one of the things I've noticed over the decades of the San Diego Latino Film Festival, when the festival started, there was a lot of focus by the filmmakers on identity, and that was very much in the forefront of the stories of defining who they are. And what I really enjoy about your picks and about more recent films and more recent programming is that the filmmaking and the styles and the themes have become more diverse, and identity is still key, but it's no longer in the forefront. And I feel like these films are taking much more interesting and provocative ways of dealing with that.


Yes, you're absolutely right. And there's a certain sense of novelty whenever I start previewing films for the upcoming edition of the festival, where I'm consistently impressed by how identity is placed against different genres and sensibilities. So the stories don't read the same or similar. They seem varied and different. So that's what makes my job so exciting year after year. That's what's made it so exciting, is to be almost at the forefront on the vanguard of discovering these new, talented voices that are addressing themes like identity and culture and race in new and innovative ways. And I was looking through ten years of programming, and I was really surprised, even myself, even though every year we have this challenge to create a diverse slate, I was looking back and I was like, wow, we've really achieved something here. And we've been achieving something for the past 30 years. I mean, this is not a new festival. We celebrated 30 years last year. So collectively, we've given a platform to so many exciting voices. When I talk to my therapist and I have a thought that's not substantial by evidence, I'm like, what is the evidence? What is the evidence? So sometimes I walk away from a festival edition thinking like, oh, we didn't do. This, or we didn't do that, or we could have done this better. And yes, it's great to be self critical, but it's also important to look at the evidence. And what has a San Diego Latino Film Festival done and the Digital Gym Cinema done to amplify Latinx voices over the past 30 years? And the answer is a lot.


All right, I want to thank you very much for going over ten years of your work here.


Thank you so much. Beth. Bye.



That was Moises Esparza. After ten years of curating films for San Diego Latino Film Festival and Digital Gym Cinema he is moving on to a new position at Media Arts Center San Diego to insure the future of both the festival and the micro cinema.


That wraps up another edition of KPBS listener supported Cinema Junkie. If you enjoy the podcast then please share it with a friend because your recommendation is the best way to build an addicted audience. You can also help by leaving a review.


Till our next film fix, I’m Beth Accomando your resident Cinema Junkie.



María Novaro's "Tesoros" is one of the family-friendly films on Moises Esparza's list of recommended films for Hispanic Heritage Month.
FiGa Films
María Novaro's "Tesoros" is one of the family-friendly films on Moises Esparza's list of recommended films for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Moises Esparza looks back on ten years of programming for San Diego Latino Film Festival to curate a list of film recommendations.

It's Hispanic Heritage Month and Cinema Junkie has some viewing recommendations for you but, of course, it is not a conventional list.

For this episode, I invited one of my favorite film programmers, Media Art Center’s Moises Esparza as my guest.

For the past decade Esparza has been programming daring and diverse films at San Diego Latino Film Festival and Digital Gym Cinema. I asked him to curate a list of films to watch during Hispanic Heritage Month and he did not disappoint.

"I really enjoy confrontation as a viewer," Esparza explained about his approach to film viewing. "I don't like being lulled into a sense of complacency while I'm watching a film. And I think some of the films that I've kind of earmarked start with these kinds of confrontational, cinematic kinds, of provocations."

The result is a list that does not highlight the most popular films or biggest box office hits. Instead, it serves up a very personal list of films culled from the thousands of movies Esparza has programmed over the last ten years, and the films reflect the diversity of Latin, Latinx and Hispanic cinema from across the U.S. and around the globe.

Esparza also revealed that after ten years of curating films for San Diego Latino Film Festival and Digital Gym Cinema he is moving on to a new position at Media Arts Center San Diego that will look to making sure the future of both the festival and the micro cinema is secure.

Moises Esparza, sitting in the new Digital Gym Cinema, has been programming films for San Diego Latino Film Festival and Digital Gym Cinema for ten years. Sept. 26, 2023
Beth Accomando
Moises Esparza, sitting in the new Digital Gym Cinema, has been programming films for San Diego Latino Film Festival and Digital Gym Cinema for ten years. Sept. 26, 2023

Moises Esparza's film list (alphabetical by title)

Check out his comments below. Boldfaced titles are the ones we discuss in the podcast.

"Bad Lucky Goat" (Samir Oliveros, 2017, Colombia)
An infinitely striking and winsome comedy about two siblings trying to figure out what to do after they run over a goat with their dad’s pick-up truck.

"Beba" (Rebeca Huntt, 2021, United States)
In this unforgettable documentary, Rebeca Huntt (Beba) grapples with inherited generational trauma and the societal injustices, micro-aggressions, and racism Afro-Latinas have to face on an everyday basis.

"Cachada" (Marlén Viñayo, 2019, El Salvador)
Five Salvadoran street vendors and single mothers form a theatre company to bring their harsh life stories to the stage. During the rehearsal process of their play, they reckon with a cycle of violence that has persecuted their families for generations.

"Clara sola" (Nathalie Álvarez Mesén, 2021, Costa Rica / Sweden / Belgium)
A socially repressed woman experiences a mystical and sexual reawakening on the eve of her niece’s quinceañera.

Pablo Larrain's "Ema" was one of the films that ran virtually when the San Diego Latino Film Festival was forced to cancel its event because of COVID-19 in 2020.
Music Box Films
Pablo Larrain's "Ema" was one of the films that ran virtually when the San Diego Latino Film Festival was forced to cancel its event because of COVID-19 in 2020.

"Ema" (Pablo Larraín, 2019, Chile)
A shocking and revolutionary provocation that redefines what it means to be a family through dance, acerbic dialogue, and a flamethrower.

"En el séptimo día" (Jim McKay, 2017, United States)
An undocumented bicycle delivery worker in NYC looks forward to playing soccer every Sunday, his only day of rest. When he is scheduled to work during a big championship game, he is forced to make a difficult choice.

"Las herederas" (Marcelo Martinessi, Paraguay / France / Germany / Norway / Brazil / Uruguay / Italy)
The relationship between two women is altered forever when one of them is incarcerated and the other forms a bond with a much younger acquaintance.
"Ixcanul" (Jayro Bustamante, 2015, Guatemala / France)
The brilliant debut by Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante is a mesmerizing fusion of fact and fable, a dreamlike depiction of the daily lives of Kaqchikel speaking Mayans on a coffee plantation at the base of an active volcano.

"Medusa" (Anita Rocha da Silveira, 2021, Brazil)
In this genre-bending thrill ride, a religious woman falls prey to the sanctimonious vigilante girl-gang she once belonged to.

"Negra" (Medhin Tewolde Serrano, 2020, Mexico)
In "Negra," director Medhin Tewolde Serrano explores what it means to inhabit Mexico as a black woman. It tells the story of five Afro-descendant women from southern Mexico, exposing racism, resistance and processes of self-acceptance, strategies for transcending stereotypes, and the celebration of their identity.

"Neon Bull" is one of Moises Esparza's recommended viewing for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Kino Lorber
"Neon Bull" is one of Moises Esparza's recommended viewing for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro, 2015, Brazil / Uruguay / Netherlands)
In this sensual, archetype-breaking, and poetic road movie, a cowboy dreams of becoming a celebrated fashion designer.

"Las niñas bien" (Alejandra Márquez Abella, 2018, Mexico)
A taut, unflappable, and endlessly entertaining exploration of the effects of capitalism in Mexico during the 1980’s told through the perspective of a wealthy woman whose world is on the verge of crumbling.

"La novia del desierto" (Cecilia Atán | Valeria Pivato, 2017, Argentina / Chile)
Paulina García (one of the best actresses working today) plays Teresa, a live-in maid who travels across the desert to her new job, only to be presented with an unexpected connection with a fellow traveler.

"Pecado original" (Jean E. Lee, 2018, United States / Paraguay)
A delightful and charming comedy about a sexually repressed housewife who finds herself attracted to an artist much to the chagrin of her uptight husband.

"Tarde para morir joven" (Dominga Sotomayor, 2018, Chile / Brazil / Argentina / Netherlands / Qatar)
In this ethereal and emotional drama, the inhabitants of a small commune at the foothills of the Andes try to reshape their lives after the fall of Pinochet and his military dictatorship.

"Tempestad" (Tatiana Huezo, 2016, Mexico) 
An influential documentary like no other, "Tempestad" tells the story of two women affected by Mexico’s cartel violence, impunity, and history of intimidation. Tatiana Huezo’s masterpiece is a daring protest film that bravely gives a voice to oppressed voices.

"Tengo sueños eléctricos" (Valentina Maurel, 2022, Costa Rica / France / Belgium)
Tension and emotions run high in this unforgettable coming-of-age story about a teenage girl dealing with a contentious relationship with her volatile father.

"Tesoros" (María Novaro, 2017, Mexico) 
In this spellbinding film appropriate for all ages, a group of students embark on an unforgettable adventure to find a treasure in the Mexican coast with the help of older community members. María Novaro’s film is a testament to the power of community collaboration, and a resounding reminder to appreciate life’s many wonders, no matter how small.

"Tierra quebrá" (Nina Marín, 2023, Colombia)
Superstitions, taboos, and complicated family dynamics take center stage in "Tierra quebrá," Nina Marin’s stunning portrait of a woman who returns home to rebuild family ties but is faced with tragedy and the temptation of a forbidden love.

"Zama" (Lucrecia Martel, 2017, Argentina / Brazil / Spain / Dominican Republic / France / Netherlands / Mexico / Switzerland / United States / Portugal / Lebanon)
A provocative and incisive denunciation of colonialist horrors, "Zama" finds the titular character stranded in Paraguay during the 18th century as he awaits his transfer papers from the Spanish Crown. Patience leads to madness in this landmark film from celebrated director Lucrecia Martel.