By Mukul Khurana
It seems hard to believe that the San Diego Latino Film Festival has been around for 22 years, but it’s true! But with full adult status, come some growing changes. In the background since last year, a transition has been achieved from the Hazard Center to the Fashion Valley Center. But those are not the only changes to be felt.
Phillip (Phil) Lorenzo has returned to SDLFF as Exhibition Director after a seven year absence during which he worked with SDAFF. One other thing that was different this year—it didn’t rain to mark the beginning of the festival. Instead, we were in the throes of a heat wave courtesy of our Santa Ana winds (in keeping with climate change predictions).
The people who braved the heat were rewarded by the usual excellent shorts on the first day in the form of DOCU-SHORTS. The unusual mix included a short about the decline of marriage and partnership over time, a maternity home for pregnant women in Cuba, and a photographer’s story (a man in Castro’s rebel army), among others.
But the most hard-hitting one of all was LA PARKA, directed by Gabriel Serra from Mexico, was a meditative piece on a slaughterhouse and the man who identified with the job. Normally, a brutal and graphic short of this nature might be revolting. However, if people are o.k. with eating meat on a regular basis, seeing what goes into the process (including a lot of philosophy on killing and death and the relationship of man and animals) might not be such a bad idea. The visuals, though very graphic, were well shot. Efrain (who did the killing) was an interesting character study. Parka stands for “Reaper.”
Continuing in that dark vein, VISITANTES (Mexico 2014) was shown twice on opening night in anticipation of two more screenings during the festival run (from March the 11th thru March the 22nd). Directed by Acan Coen, this horror/thriller stars Kate del Castillo. Her husband, Daniel (Raul Mendez), and her son, Sebastian (Andre Collin) play a happy family until something goes wrong. There are stories about women who have killed their families in similar circumstances. This is a good example of Hollywood production values not being a preserve of Hollywood alone.
Luckily, though the heat wave continued, the dark images gave way to other topics. On the second day of the festival, BEAUTIFUL SIN (Costa Rica/USA 2014) went into a different documentary direction. It seems that Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that has problems with in vitro fertilization (IVF). But some couples believe that having children (regardless of means) is a “beautiful sin” worth committing.
Also on the sunny side, BEHAVIOR (Cuba 2014) directed by Ernesto Daranas Serrano, the charming story of 11-year old Chala, who has been thrust into the role of an adult early on. There is only one problem—he is a mischievous rebel. He has a knack for getting in trouble, but a teacher knows that he has a good heart. This was Cuba’s entry for the Oscars.
CLIMAS (Peru/Colombia 2014), directed by Enrica Perez, shows the lives of three unrelated women in the form of vignettes. The first one is about a girl on the verge of womanhood—she can’t get there fast enough. But, as in all things in life, getting what you want is not necessarily what was expected. The second vignette is about an older woman—a woman who is trying to forget a painful past. The third vignette shows the role of women as mothers—an older woman deals with the return of a troubled son. CLIMAS has excellent visuals and a narrative style that goes beyond the obvious.
Mukul Khurana is a local writer who has resided in various San Diego neighborhoods for over 25 years. During that time, he has studied at San Diego State University, taught writing, and has done a lot of writing. He has covered film festivals and been involved with local art and culture scene for at least that long. He has lived in Germany, Mexico, and India. He speaks the languages of the countries he has lived in and has an abiding respect for their cultures.