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writing for godot

2017 San Diego Latino Film Festival Comes to Town at Fashion Valley

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Written by Mukul Khurana   
Saturday, 18 March 2017 09:19

When the political landscape changes as drastically as it has in the past few months, it is time to reassess how we do things.  I have been covering the art and culture scene in San Diego for over a decade.  I have been told that art and culture are not as important as politics and economics—not worthy of as much coverage... I, however, disagree with that notion.  I have always felt that art and culture cannot be divorced from a political context.

In keeping with this shift in general consciousness, I have decided not to post solely on my regular venues.  I thought it best to not limit myself to film, film festival, and theater coverage to art sections on various venues but to expand to the more politically oriented ones.  Since art and culture are political in nature, why ignore the aspects that might need to be emphasized?  For instance, the 2017 San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF), which runs from March 16 – March 26.

SDLFF is one of the oldest running Latino film festivals in the U.S.  With its proximity to the border, it affects and is affected by anything that calls itself “border culture.”  This year, it raises questions that weren’t as compelling just a few months ago.  Our new president has maligned the Latino community.  He has stated that Hispanics are, among other things, rapists and murderers.  But festivals such as the San Diego Latino Film Festival present a different version (and have done so continuously over a period of over two decades) of reality.  They paint a portrait of vibrant diversity.  People come together at such events to celebrate their community—however they define it.

Another difference this year—it didn’t rain at the start of the festival days.  It is a known fact that 2016 was one of the hottest years on record. That lends credence to the idea that global warming might be a valid concept regardless of what the new regime wants to believe. But festivals serve another important function. In times of great change, communities need traditions that they can rely on.  Like seasons mark the passage of time, festivals too help us track time.  So, let the festivities begin!

As usual, SDLFF kicked off on a Thursday (the 16th).  Entonces Nosotros (Costa Rica, 97 min.), directed by Hernan Jimenez is a romantic comedy that’s definitely on the light side.  In it, a cute couple tries to save their relationship from going stale and thus ending.  The guy suggests a vacation. Unfortunately, they find out that they didn’t know as much about one another as they thought.

Un Cuento de Circo and A Love Song (Mexico, 114 min.) is Damian Bichir’s directorial debut.  No stranger to San Diego, Damian did not make an appearance this time.  Instead, his brother Bruno Bichir (Producer) attended along with another member of the family, Jose Angel Bichir.  The female roles were performed by Eva Longoria, Stefanie Sherk, and Arcelia Ramirez.  It is the story of Refugio who grows up and comes of age in a circus in Mexico.  Eventually, he travels to America to pursue a love relationship.

In this movie that doesn’t shy away from heavy doses of sex and romance, Refugio ends up as a prisoner in a shed.  The twist is that his father is given the job of killing him—they just don’t know who the other is…  The story is the interesting part in between.  Both films don’t go into exceptional territory, but they point to a new reality.  The production values are uniformly higher than in years past.  And, after a lull of a few years, Mexican movies are dealing with multiple themes and successfully mining comedy.

Did Ethan van Thillo, founder of the San Diego Latino Film Festival, know that he was creating a unifying community event 24 years ago?  How will enhanced border barriers change the way we relate to the Americas to the South of our country?  Do the words of politicians affect culture?  Does culture change the way people think?  Find out at the 2017 SDLFF (the second day saw a substantial increase in the caliber of the movies--many from Mexico…).

Mukul Khurana has been writing about the art and culture scene in San Diego for over a decade.  He specializes in film and theater reviews as well as film festival coverage in general.

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