I’m going to start off with Latinegras accolades first because I need you to understand just how great this film is before I dig deeper into it. Latinegras has recently been chosen as an official selection of the Miami Film Festival. This is not the only recognition Omilani Alarcón’s, Latinegras film director and founder, creation acquired. She’s also been awarded Best Director (Documentary) in Newark International Film Festival, winner of the Afrolatino Heritage Award, and a finalist in the Knight Made in MIA Award. As you can tell, this is no ordinary film.
Latinegras is a documentary that tackles the identity of Afro-latinas and what such identity entails. However, it is important to note that the film director and founder, Omilani Alarcón, is not the first person to coin the term latinegra. She claims that this word has continuously been used since about the 1970’s, but she felt she needed to shine some light on the word and its significance on identity for latinas. Especially since she was personally struggling to define her identity while filming this documentary.
A few days ago, I had the pleasure to attend the film screening of Latinegras in Miami, Florida. But this was more than just a film screening, it was a much needed cultural experience.
The event took place in a well-known Dominican spot in Miami named Club Tipico Dominicano. I went through it’s tropical decor, passed by the dance floor where bachata steps glide freely on a weekly base, and made it to the outside. Once I made it outside, I was greeted with the most colorful set-up and large white screen that waited to aid us in our viewing pleasure.
Before we got to watch the documentary, we were directed into a series of very interesting social activities. The crowd was asked to partner up in groups of multiple people and interact with your group about the topics that were given to us. I was even able to partner up with the Omilani Alarcón herself in some of these events, so that was really cool to me. This was a wonderful ice-breaker and we all learned something in the process.
Among some of the topics that were given out that night was the topic of the immigration crisis the nation is currently enduring and how we view women. These subjects definitely pulled on some heart strings, but it reminded us that there’s still a lot to do in regards of American social justice.
Once the first leg of the event was over, I knew the most anticipated part of the night was upon us — watching Latinegras.
Latinegras started with a melodic song that seduced me to watch the images unfolding. A song that was composed by Omilani Alarcón, who’s also a singer and songwriter too. The film predominantly takes place in Miami and Puerto Rico, which are some of the places where pieces of my heart resides.
The documentary started out with a thought-provoking voice over narrated by Omilani, which continued on for the rest of the film. It immediately touched base upon the history of people of color in our community. As the film progressed, Omilani reminded us of the pain that once swept the beautiful waters of Puerto Rico. She revived the stories of the many people who died during their voyage to the island because somebody had unjustly mandated them to be slaves and how that’s also part of many afro-latinas identity. In this film, Omilani exposes the challenges afro-latinas have to endure living both in the Caribbean and in the United States.
The film director placed enough emphasis on Latinegras to raise awareness on the importance of all identities within the latinx community. She didn’t expect Latinegras to just be inclusive to the afro-latina community. Instead, she hoped everyone would be able to understand the significance of identities, that way everyone could be educated accordingly.
This documentary also can be used to help anyone who’s ever struggled with their identity. Regardless of race. Her goal was to represent the misrepresented and to uplift everyone’s identities, despite the discriminatory stories we may have grown up with.
Omilani Alarcón was able to capture the history of Afro-latinas and their identity through a series of mini-interviews with multi-generational latinas she knew. The Cuban cigar entrepreneurs, Yvette and Yvonne Rodriguez, were among the cast members featured in the film. They spoke about how they felt beautiful in their skin, regardless of whatever anyone might think of them.
In fact, this was one of the recurring themes of the film — to feel beautiful in your skin. Omilani made it clear that it was necessary for everyone to understand.
“Accept yourselves and love the skin you’re in,” this was something Omilani Alarcón told me once I asked her about the theme of the film.
Latinegras is currently on the Film Festival circuit and will be screened in other events. Omilani also said that the film will be touring the United States, so stay vigilant for a screening near your town.
I know I’m not Rotten Tomatoes, but I can give her some Sweet Mangos. I feel like that would be the latinx equivalent of Rotten Tomatoes. In any case, this film is 100% Sweet Mangos, meaning completely recommendable! I promise you that it is an experience you need. You will probably be on an emotional rollercoaster, but that’s okay. Seriously, my heart broke to pieces in some moments of the film, while I laughed during other scenes. You won’t regret watching it.
By the way, she is probably one of the kindest individuals I’ve ever met. I just thought I should mention that. It is really refreshing to see people doing things for the greater good of the world. That to me is what our time on this planet should be all about. With that said, here are some final words she left you:
“Everyone should learn to embrace themselves and to love each other, after all, we are all so beautiful and capable of many things.”
Go follow her. Support her. Watch Latinegras if you ever get the chance.
Watch the trailer to Latinegras here.