New York Latino Film Festival Opens Tonight

NY Film Festival BELatina

Tonight is the official opening night of the New York Latino Film Festival, encompassing four days of features, documentaries, short films, digital series, panels, and even a stand-up competition that highlights Latinx creators and narratives. The festival’s programming is split between AMC 25 theaters in Times Square and the Julia De Burgos Performance & Arts Center in East Harlem. This year marks the NYLFF’s 20th anniversary.

NYLFF opens with the New York City premiere of the feature Princess of the Row by Mexican-American director Max Carlson. The feature-length film tells the tale of a daughter and her estranged father — both of whom wave been forgotten by their communities — as they reconnect and try to carve out their own lives together as a family unit. The NYLFF comes hot on the heels of other major Latinx film events, including the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival as well as the National Association of Latino Independent Producers Media Summit. 

Speaking to one of the directors of the film The Infiltrators earlier this month at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival — the hybrid-documentary was the opener to that festival, which focused this year on U.S.-Latinx filmmakers — we got a glimpse at why it’s so ridiculously important for Latinx storytellers to have access to broad forums through which they can tell their tales. Alex Rivera, who directed The Infiltrators alongside his partner and wife Cristina Ibarra, declined to characterize himself as an activist, but emphasized the unique role he and his co-director play as artists. “I’m a filmmaker or storyteller. And I think that’s [our] strength … we tried to have some of the creative spirit in the way it was made that the activists had with their relationship to the world,” he explained.

Asked about what it’s been like to have their film open the LALIFF, Rivera expressed humility and disbelief, characterizing it as both a dream and a responsibility. “We were here at [LALIFF] last year watching the film The Sentence, in this theater on this night, and the whole thing was so extraordinary because the film was fantastic, the audience was deeply Latino; it’s in Los Angeles which is a Latino city in every sense of the word, and yet a city that produces the film industry and always seems to lack in representations of our community.”

The Infiltrators follows the true story of young immigrant activists who conjure up a plot to “self-deport” into a detention center in 2012 — hence, they become the infiltrators — in search of Claudio Rojas, an undocumented immigrant. Rojas is actually in detention at the moment; at the LALIFF, Rivera and several of his team were wearing pins with Rojas’s image to honor the detainee.

Actor Fernando Martinez spoke of how moving it was to be a part of this film. “Being on set with Claudio — who has been deported since the film has come out — it’s an honor to be able to tell a true story, an important story, and a story that a lot of people are fighting right now to get through their personal lives,” he said. “As individuals, we have an opportunity every day to make a difference; when you get together with a bunch of people to make a movie that hopefully, millions will see, that allows you to magnify the difference you’re going to make.”

If you’re in the NYC area, you can buy an all-access pass to the New York Latino Film Festival or attend screenings a la carte, including a screening of The Infiltrators on Saturday afternoon.