October 27, 2007
Exploring "Cine Latino" (1 of 2)

The Boston Latino International Film Festival (BLIFF) wrapped up its 6th edition last week. During the festival, I had a chance to attend the panel called "Challenges for Latinas in the Media and Cross-Cultural Filmmaking".

I have worked for the past five years with Central American film but only arrived in the United States two months ago, so this was a very interesting opportunity for me to start understanding the issues that surround Latino and independent film production here in this country.

Panel participants included: Angelica Allende Brisk (Editor/producer, Cartoneros); Diane Lake (Emerson professor and scriptwriter of Frida); Lisa Mattei (Interactive media designer and film festival producer for the Plymouth Film Festival); and Monika Navarro (Emerging filmmaker and ITVS grant recipient, Animas Perdidas). The panel was moderated by Mary Ann Dougherty, professor of film at Boston University.

Taking the panel as a starting point, my primary goal with these two posts is to begin exploring some of the questions I have surrounding Latino filmmaking, and hopefully initiate conversations on the subject. The main question in my mind as I went to the panel was: What is Latino filmmaking?

As of now, I'm still not quite sure, but I do have the sense that the way we define it affects production, marketing, and distribution aspects, as well as creative ones.

The BLIFF's program gives us a wide spectrum of what could be considered Latino films: those which are made by Latino filmmakers in the U.S.; those made by Latin American filmmakers outside the U.S.; or films with Latino "themes" made by U.S. filmmakers.

Most of the panelists agreed upon the fact that making films is hard, no matter where you're from or what your gender is, so doors aren't specifically closed for Latina filmmakers; in a sense, it's quite similar to the experience of any indie filmmaker.

A more specific "challenge" that is still quite common, though, is what is expected of them. Just as in Latin America, or at least in Central America, where we are expected to work with "our issues" (guerrillas, wars, dictatorships, poverty, exclusion), Latin filmmakers here seem to be expected to constantly address their Latin identity or their womanhood.

Overcoming these stereotypes is crucial to the growth of a truly creative industry and to the development of authentic authors that can approach their subjects in novel and engaging ways.

In my second post on this panel from the Boston Latino International Film Festival, I will look at the challenges of working in a cross-cultural environment, the pressures particularly facing documentary filmmaking among Latin-American filmmakers, and some questions that I have as a newcomer to the Latin-American filmmaking scene.

I look forward to some feedback from some others who were at the festival, or others who are interested in Latin-American filmmaking.