“Coming to our festival, you get that badge and it's like a passport,” says Houston Latino Film Festival Director Dave Cebrero. “This year we got over 400 submissions from 30 different countries because the thing you'll learn, there's Latinos everywhere.”
Houston’s Latino Film Festival will kick off its sixth year with five days of movie screenings and special events starting on Wednesday, March 23 with over 80 films showing for the first time at the MATCH Theater.
Throughout the five-day event there will be special Q&As with many of the film's directors and a writing workshop with Ligiah Villalobos. Villalobos who will be teaching the basic structure for a one-hour pilot, is most known for her work on the 2007 film Under The Same Moon (La Misma Luna), Coco and the Nick Jr. show Go, Diego! Go!
“She’s all about promoting inclusion of Latinos in film and filmmaking so she'll be a good one even if you're not a writer. She’s very knowledgeable.”
“That’s part of the film festival experience, to go and see these amazing films that you wouldn't normally see but you also get to interact with the directors of the film, listen to them talk and ask them questions. It’s all part of this big experience.”
There will be a special celebration for all participants and attendees on Thursday, March 24 at Houston Event Venue with live music by Austin based Columbian band Nemegata and beverages provided by St. Arnold's.
“We like to throw a party to celebrate our festival, our filmmakers and our culture. It’s a night for us,” says Cebrero.
“We like to throw a party to celebrate our festival, our filmmakers and our culture. It’s a night for us.”
The festival will kick off with the screening of Parsley, a historical drama set in Haiti in 1937 that tells the story of Marie, a young expectant mother running for her life and the life of her unborn child. The film, directed by José María Cabral who will be in attendance for a Q&A, has already been awarded an HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Award.
“Some of the films you'll see are really refreshing, eye opening and culturally enlightening for a lot of people,” assures Cebrero who began the non-profit festival along with David Cortez and Pedro Rivas after sharing their love for film and experiences as University of Houston alumni.
“My experience of putting my work in the LA Latino Film Festival and other festivals kind of sparked the idea and we saw a need for something like this here in Houston. The idea is basically bringing films that you normally wouldn't be able to see anywhere else to Houston.”
Starting a film festival, let alone a Latino focused film festival, is not something that is easy to do and Cebrero and his partners quickly learned that they had to reach out to others and figure out how to make their dream of providing a place for up-and-coming filmmakers while spotlighting Latinos a reality.
“The main thing is giving filmmakers a platform and giving film aficionados, cinephiles or people that just like something different from your AMC program something different, international cinema and a way to diversify film exhibition in general.”
Another objective of the festival is to shine a light on the city’s in house talent, something Cebrero says the Short Films Program taking place on Saturday, March 26 really focuses on doing.
“One thing that we do every year is we allocate some space to highlight Houston and Texas filmmakers. Sometimes those filmmakers don't have the budget for equipment and stuff like that but the stories, the acting, the performances are there. They’re well done so we want to give those filmmakers a chance for them to be seen in a proper film making setting and it’s something we've been doing since year one.”
There are many stories from Texas to be told at the Houston Latino Film Festival ranging from the story of a small boxing gym in Conroe documented in Fearless and You’ve Succeeded: The Life & Times of Dimas Garza lead singer of The Jesters one of San Antonio's most popular Chicano Soul bands from the ‘60s.
For a group that makes up more in ticket sales than in representation on screen, the Houston Latino Film Festival is an important step in the right direction for Latino’s in the arts.
“Especially right now, I think it's super important to promote diversity in these films and I think at the end of the day, we just want to see more of us and our culture. We just don't see enough of ourselves. We are not represented in a way that equals the population.”
The Latino Film Festival will take place from Wednesday, March 23 to Sunday, March 26 at MATCH Theater, 3400 Main, see schedule for details of screenings, $12-45.