OLA’s Annual Latino Film Festival Returns for Its 20th Year - 27 East

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OLA’s Annual Latino Film Festival Returns for Its 20th Year

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A scene from “Ana and Bruno

A scene from “Ana and Bruno" (“Ana y Bruno”) . COURTESY OLA

A scene from “The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future” (“La Vaca Que Cantó una Canción Hacia el Future”). COURTESY OLA

A scene from “The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future” (“La Vaca Que Cantó una Canción Hacia el Future”). COURTESY OLA

A scene from “The Sense of the Chords” (“El Sentido de las Cuerdas”). COURTESY OLA

A scene from “The Sense of the Chords” (“El Sentido de las Cuerdas”). COURTESY OLA

Leah Chiappino on Sep 11, 2023

Returning for its 20th year, Organización Latino Americana of Eastern Long Island’s annual Latino film festival will feature films from Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Canada, that focus on adventure, strength and inspiration. This year’s festival also marks the greatest number of films OLA has ever shown, and includes two U.S. premieres and one New York premiere. The tradition provides a welcome reprieve from the challenges the local Latino community faces and the issues OLA consistently has to fight for, explained the organization’s executive director Minerva Perez.

“The film festival sometimes can feel luxurious or too peripheral to some of the crises that we’ve had to contend with, and it started because of some real concerns,” she said. “But the film festival has continued and felt like a shining light through it all. No matter what is going on around us, we can break out time to celebrate the stories, films and art from different countries. So I’m happy that we’ve gotten to 20 years, and these films are just fantastic.”

The festival, which will run from September 14 through September 17, with screenings in Sag Harbor, Water Mill and Westhampton Beach, includes feature-length films and one animated short, each of which will run in Spanish with English subtitles. It kicks off on Thursday, September 14, with an 8:30 p.m. screening of Carlos Carrera’s Ariel Award-winning animated short “Ana and Bruno (“Ana y Bruno)” at the Sag Harbor Cinema, which is about a girl who escapes from a mental institution in order to search for her father in order to save her mother.

“[We were] looking for a teen-focused evening, so that’s what Thursday night is for us,” Perez explained. “It’s kind of like we’re trying to carve that spot out and encourage teens to want to be in the theater.”

The film “The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future” (“La Vaca Que Cantó una Canción Hacia el Future”) will screen at the Parrish Art Museum on September 15, at 7 p.m. The Chilean drama centers on the “destruction humans have wrought upon the planet and the hope that remains.” A bilingual museum tour and reception will take place before the screening, and a Zoom interview with the film’s director Francisca Alegría will follow. Ana Kestler, OLA’s president, hopes the film will open the conversation about protecting the local environment.

“I mean, we live in a beautiful place,” she said. “We’re surrounded by water. We have beautiful nature but we also have to take care of it. So we are excited about that.”

On September 16, at 7 p.m., the festival heads back to Sag Harbor Cinema with the documentary “The Sense of the Chords” (“El Sentido de las Cuerdas”), directed by Marcela Zamora Chamorro. The film stars three resilient adolescent girls who are among a group of young women who have been incarcerated for their association with two of the main Salvadoran gangs. They find a way to cope with the violence they have experienced in their lives through participation in a string ensemble as they perform for the public on violin and cello.

“It was stunning,” Zamora Chamorro said of the time she first heard the girls play.

Zamora Chamorro, who connected with OLA through Kestler (also a native of El Salvador), will be flown in for a panel discussion about the film in conjunction with the screening. Zamora Chamorro has been making documentaries about her home country for 20 years. In a recent interview, she said El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, has been silencing the “voices of artists, documentary filmmakers, and people that don’t agree with his policies.”

She began making “The Sense of the Chords” before Bukele’s rule and is now living in exile in Mexico. The subjects of her documentary were jailed and had previously lived in places ruled by the gangs. Zamora Chamorro said the incarceration of the teen girls is an example of how the government of El Salvador criminalizes social problems rather than humanizing them.

While working on the documentary, she saw a spark in the girls she interviewed, and she began to understand that their crimes were the result of a series of traumas that they had experienced throughout their lives.

“When I started the documentary, I started to feel these girls with a lot of light,” she said. “I was beginning to get in the jails with these girls and talk, and I saw almost all of these girls have something in common — abuse.

“Almost all these girls suffered some kind of violence, gender violence or violations,” added Zamora Chamorro, who said that though the process of filming was taxing, she is extremely proud of the story. While she feels it’s an important story to tell, she admits that in the process of creating the film, she lost some of the “light” inside of her, after being so closely exposed to the cruelty that plagues the lives of her subjects.

Understanding it was an important film to share, Zamora Chamorro chose to bring her work to the East End because she knew members of OLA and was previously impressed with the festival.

“They showcase good material, but not the material that is common to be shown in the United States,” she said. “I can see a lot of people in the United States don’t understand what happened [in El Salvador]. You don’t know what happened in my country, and it was horrible.

“And it’s frustrating,” Zamora Chamorro continued. “I worked in El Salvador for 22 years. I spent almost all my life making documentaries about Central America, Salvador and Mexico. And I had to leave. I left my country, and it hurt me. I’m happy, and I’m very grateful to the Mexican people, but it hurts.”

The film festival concludes on Sunday, September 17, with a family-centered day at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center and the New York premiere of the full-feature Mexican film “The Pink Lagoon” (“La Laguna Rosada”), which will follow the U.S. premiere of “Frida in the Sky” (“Frida en el Cielo”), an animated short by director Dani Sadun from Ecuador and Canada. “The Pink Lagoon’s” director, Juan Arce, along with Monica Arce, Juan’s sister, and the film’s main actress, will also take part in a live Q&A session following the film.

Each of the films chosen for the festival shares the Spanish language, but they differ greatly in terms of storyline, themes and cultural aspects, said Perez.

OLA has a committee that selects the films, but sources them broadly. The committee used the website FilmFreeway, where filmmakers from around the world can directly submit their films for review in an accessible and affordable way.

“I will often waive the fee,” Perez said. “We do get some films, and we have in the past from, let’s say, Venezuela, countries that are having a hard time like a major crisis where the folks just can’t get the money through, or they don’t have the money, and then we’ll review the films anyways.”

They brought in other films, like “Ana y Bruno,” through other film festivals and filmmakers. That film was hard to come by, said Perez who used a connection at the Sag Harbor Cinema to get in touch with the director.

OLA remains open to different film topics, rather than narrowing in on a specific theme for the festival. Despite the fact the festival puts out an international call for films, Perez said each is selected through an “OLA lens,” meaning the films chosen should leave audiences with an understanding of why the films matter on the East End.

“We don’t put a theme out ahead of time,” Perez said. “We don’t want to make it too tight. We kind of just want to see what’s out there. And see what’s being developed. And in this case, really, some of the hard-won hope and inspiration coming from these films. We figured going into 2024, it would be nice to have these kinds of films to resonate with us.”

She adds that each venue has been extremely supportive throughout the process, bringing new audiences to the festival and keeping the cost of tickets down to make it accessible to all.

The Schedule:


“Ana and Bruno” (“Ana y Bruno”) — Thursday, September 14, 8:30 p.m. Sag Harbor Cinema, 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor. $10 at sagharborcinema.org/ola.

“The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future” (“La Vaca Que Cantó una Canción Hacia el Future”) — Friday, September 15, 7 p.m. Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill. $16 ($10 Parrish members and students, $5 for children )at parrishart.org/programs.

“The Sense of the Chords” (“El Sentido de las Cuerdas”) — Saturday, September 16, at 7 p.m., with a discussion with Zamora Chamorro. Sag Harbor Cinema, 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor. $10 at sagharborcinema.org/ola.

“The Pink Lagoon” (“La Laguna Rosada”) — Sunday, September 17, 2 p.m. with the animated short “Frida in the Sky” (“Frida en el Cielo”). Includes a live Q&A with director Juan Arce and his sister, the film’s lead actress, Monica Arce. Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. $5 at olawhbpacfilmfest2023.eventbrite.com.

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