Annual Latino Film Festival ready for the screen

Celebrating the best in Latino cinema from around the world, the 16th annual Latino Film Festival runs March 12-22 at the UltraStar theater in the Hazard Center in Mission Valley.

“It started as a student film and video festival, primarily focusing on Chicano and Latino student work from the U.S., Latin America and Spain,” said Ethan van Thillo, the founder and executive director.

“We started at UCSD, San Diego State University and at the border at the University of Baja California. We also expanded to Mesa College, so we had multiple venues.

“In ’98, we moved everything under one roof at the Horton Plaza. That’s when we changed from being just a student festival to inviting actors and directors, and started screening more feature films. We had about 30 films on one screen,” van Thillo said.

The festival has grown to four screens and 161 films. It not only has student work, but documentaries, features, animation and shorts from all over Latin America, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Central America, Spain and the United States.

The budget has grown along with the offerings, van Thillo noted.

“The first festival probably cost about $4,000 when it was at UCSD,” he recalled. “We pieced together funding from various departments. We went to the history department to get $100, the women’s department to get $50.

“Now the budget is about $250,000. Honestly, half of that budget comes from ticket sales. The key is attendees. Tickets cost $9.50 general admission and $7.50 for students, seniors and military,” he said.

Van Thillo noted that the festival can be particularly valuable for college students.

“For any college student, there are multiple ways to connect to the Latino Film Festival,” he explained. “Clearly, for anyone interested in the media, film, and video production, the festival is a must.

“If you’re studying Spanish, what better way to learn the language than to go hear Spanish on the big screen. All the films have English subtitles,” he said.

College students are also working on the festival staff.

“I handle a lot of the administrative stuff, and today have been updating our Web site,” said Belinda Rojas, 26, a senior in communications at Cal State San Marcos.

“College students should come to the festival because it’s really like a fun atmosphere. Students interested in art, culture and what’s going on in the world around us can benefit,” Rojas added.
Go to call (619) 230-1938 for the schedule.

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Annual Latino Film Festival ready for the screen