Raising the 3 percent

Film festival highlights Latinos in the industry

Ikedra King, Arts Editor

For the second time this month, San Diego is at the forefront of film celebrations in Southern California.This year marks the 25th anniversary showcasing Latino filmmakers, directors, and actors to celebrate the history, culture, and Latino excellence within the realm of film.

25th Annual Latino Film Festival Logo

The San Diego Latino Film Festival is set to be one of the biggest celebrations of Latino filmmakers yet, with an opening and closing ceremony, and more than 150 films from across the globe. Ethan van Thillo, Executive Director and Founder of the San Diego Latino Film Festival added “This 2018 edition of our film festival is sure to be the best-ever and we’re excited to celebrate our history; but at the same time spotlight the new and innovative films and artists of today. Currently there’s only a 3 percent presence of Latinos working in the film industry, either behind or in front of the camera.”

(Left to Right) Leading Actors from Sundance Film Festival entry “Time Share”, Andrés Almeida and Miguel Rodarte, on stage during 25th Annual Latino Film Festival Press Conference in Bloomingdale’s department store on 3-15-2018. Photo by Ikedra King

Among the films featured are Sundance film festival winners, and closer to home, a film featuring the late Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez. Sanchez was a San Diego City College alumni and political activist, who died in October 2016 at the age of 64. Sanchez’s life is highlighted from early upbringings in California to his attributions during the San Diego Civil Rights movement as a young Chicano, in the documentary “Singing Our Way to Freedom.” Viewers will have their pick of movie genres from animations, political thrillers, romantic comedies, drama and more. “Singing Our Way To Freedom” will be one of many films available for viewers without English subtitles. Other highly anticipated screenings during the festival include “Septiembre,” “Flavor of Life,”  and “Donaire Y Esplendor.”

In previous Latino Film Festival history, attendance rates have surged to more than 15,000 viewers and has expanded from only 20 independent short films produced by students to over 100 featured and independent films. Celebrities, new, young, and old, within the Latino community, like 2 time recent Oscar winner, Guillermo Del Toro, and Pepe Serna from “Scarface,” have shown their support by making an appearances and attending the festival over the years.

Actors and directors walk the red carpet in front of fans and press during 24th Annual Latino Film Festival hosted at AMC Theatres Fashion Valley Mall, 2017. Courtesy of San Diego Latino Film Festival

“Flavor of Life” prompts Serna’s’ first return to the festival in 25 years as the leading actor in the film directed and written by Rajesh Golla. Golla, who is Indian, said, “I feel the Mexican and Mexican American culture are similar to my own. The family life, family structure, the way we take cake of our elder, the people are warm and emotional and we tend to wear our hearts on the sleeve.” These similarities helped Golla to direct an all Latino cast for the highly anticipated film.

(Left to right) Actor Erick Lopez, Director Rajesh Golla, somebody, and veteran actor, Pepe Serna as they pose for photo during opening night of 25th Annual Latino Film Festival after film premiere of “Flavor of Life” at AMC Theatre Fashion Valley. Photo by Yakira Delgadillo

The sold out premiere told a story of an elderly chef, Serna, who decides to take in his estranged grandson, Erick Lopez, amidst parole visits and restaurant turmoil. “I hope the community takes away a message of support from family, friends, and neighbors by coming out to support a film that was filmed here in San Diego and Los Angeles and tells a wholehearted story,” Serna said. Following a roaring round of applause during the end credits, fans of Serna’s can expect to see a documentary later this year on the legendary Latino actor’s career and battle with cancer.

City College students with ID are able to purchase advance tickets for discount solely for the film festival at AMC Fashion Valley 18, 7037 Friars Rd., San Diego, CA 92108. Various ticket packages are available for purchase online that include live film talks with the casts, VIP tickets to the awards ceremony gala, and the food, beer and wine festival. Individual tickets may also be purchased on the festivals websit