It was incredible to participate in this year’s 21st edition of LALIFF’s Opening Night. To be in the same space as some of the most outstanding — both emerging and already established — filmmakers in the Latine community is an inspirational recharge, to say the least.
This year, LALIFF (Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival) opened its film showcases by celebrating the intimate documentary “Mija.” “Mija” is a film that follows two Latinas that connect through the themes of resilience and the necessity to “make it.”
The film explores in detail the personal life of protagonist Doris Anahi who, on top of going through her career rollercoaster, has to also deal with her family’s immigration issues.
To celebrate the courage of this documentary, we were part of the night’s coverage, where we left feeling encouraged by all the Latine talent we were able to speak to.
Here are five highlights from LALIFF’s opening night – and yes, we included our quick catch-ups with some of our favorite Latine stars.
Spotted on the red carpet: LALIFF’s legendary co-founder, Edward James Olmos
BELatina News, had the opportunity to ask Mr. Olmos about the continuous expansion of LALIFF in the Latine film community. “[It’s because of] the quality of the filmmaking. Filmmaking is getting better. So the quality of the film festival is getting better. We’ve traveled all over the world, getting films from all over the world. But now we’re starting to really encompass the fact that we have filmmakers here in the United States who deserve to be here. This year, over 50 percent of the films we’re showing were directed by women – Latinas.”
Spotted on the red carpet: Actress Cinthya Carmona
A red carpet guest star was the “Pretty Smart” Venezuelan actress Cinthya Carmona. We asked her what advice she would give Latinas who want to get involved in the film industry. She answered: “Definitely embrace adversity and realize that what you have is so special and so unique, especially in Hollywood. Even though it may not look like it, we are in a really great time right now. We need your stories and your voices – and we need our fierceness, so do it!”
At the Opening Night screening: ‘Mija,’ a way to collectively heal
One of our highlights in LALIFF’s opening night this year includes how the “Mija”’s star Doris Anahi introduced the film. “I just want to thank her [Isabel Castro], the team, every single person who was so vulnerable in sharing their life for this film. We’re just a few of millions of stories in this country, and I hope you can find your connection to this film, regardless of the journey that you’re on. So, I hope you brought some tissues. Get ready for some collective healing.”
‘Mija’’s message of resilience
We won’t ruin the film with detailed spoilers. Still, as we know, the documentary involves immigration issues and the hardships that come with excelling in your chosen career. One of the recurring themes in both of those subjects is resilience. During the film, Doris Anahi is seen picking herself up from depression and allowing herself to create a new path to keep growing in the music industry. Now, we won’t get into specifics, but she demonstrates by making the best out of any given situation – which we think is an important message in this already impacting documentary.
Jacks Haupt’s electrifying performance
One of the stars from the “Mija” film is Texan native Jacks Haupt, who shares the start of her career and her family’s raw, hesitant perspective. We could catch up with her about her highly-anticipated music on the red carpet. “It’s a different genre, it’s something that I’ve never really touched based on, but I’m very excited. It’s kind of touching on alternative music.” At the gala that followed the documentary screening, we were happy to catch the four-song set that included her known track “3 AM” and a cover of Amy Winehouse. We can’t wait for what’s to come with her.