August 15th kicked off the 12th annual New York International Latino Film Festival, which, according to the flyers is the number one fest of its kind in the nation. According to a fest summary: “NYILFF will present over 100 features, documentaries and short films and English and Spanish, which reflect America’s cultural diversity as well as the global urban experience.” In the Big Manzana that enjoys flashing its global street cred to everyone all the time, a number of cultures exist but aren’t always necessarily shared, and this festival is like a buffet of a hundred birthday cakes.

When a person sits down to watch a movie, the idea is that he kind of has to sit there and watch and listen kind of in solidarity with the filmmaker whether he knows it or not. It is interesting that even though the filmmakers and perhaps much of the audience are ostensibly Latino (or at least would be considered so by the normative U.S categories of people), there are still a number of different cultures and stories that are being expressed because they all exist within a giant conglomerate grouping of people.

However, that means that the burden of representation might be lurking in the shadows.  As the above description indicates, there are presumably no other languages present besides English and Spanish, which is potentially problematic considering the number of languages that are spoken by Latinos in the U.S.A as well as by people all across Latin America — but perhaps the embracing arm of diversity can only reach so far.

Though most of the film screenings do cost about the average price of a movie ticket, there are a number of free screenings throughout the duration of the festival as well as afterparties(!), receptions and free panels, such as one on Thursday the 18th that features a conversation with Andy Garcia, who is getting an achievement award this year from the collaborators of the festival. At the end of the festival, there will also be a short awards ceremony to recognize the favorites – as is custom at these things.

So if you’re in the New York area and are deciding whether seeing that movie that’s like Freaky Friday but for guys or that other one about the guy who did that thing or whatever, you should consider checking out this festival because a lot of these films look truly excellent. After all, their motto is: “Films and movies. Come see the difference.”  This festival is advertised on the subways and is sponsored by the likes of Heineken, Sprint and HBO (and, no, they didn’t pay me to say that…unfortunately…), but there is still a relatively intimate feel to the fest, and many participants are relatively unknown yet upcoming filmmakers. Even so, many have partaken in a number of other film festivals around the country and the world, and have since then gained some recognition. For example, the short film by Jeremy Engle, Mosquito, was an official selection of eight other festivals before this one and has won two awards so far. Other films might not have as much to brag on their promotional cards or ads, but hopefully those films will speak for themselves.

El Edificio De Los Chilenos

Maria My Love

Blacktino

The Return (El regreso)

Magic City Memoirs

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