Franek, professor by day, film curator by night

Film professor Lisa Franek has been leading a double life as San Diego City College professor by day and as curator for the San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) by night.

The SDLFF has been introducing Latino-themed films to the San Diego community for the past 18 years. Franek’s journey with the film festival began as a volunteer for the Media Arts Center San Diego (MACSD).

By now, Franek said she has viewed over 600 films as the curator for the festival.

“Film is the only art form that really has the opportunity to combine all the rest, such as painting, dance and music,” she said.

Franek puts the films that are considered for the festival through a lengthy selection process, during which she considers the storyline, acting and mise en scene.

“The objective is to bless the audience with a film experience that offers fresh perspective away from the drone of Hollywood movies in addition to bring[ing] the best diversity,” Franek said.

Ethan van Thillo, creator and executive director of SDLFF and MACSD, said Franek’s many talents are appreciated.

“The organization is fortunate to have someone with Lisa’s talents and passion in filmmaking, teaching and curating film screenings,” van Thillo said in an e-mail.

The Latino film festival is a non-profit organization funded by sponsorships and grants as well as ticket sales. Some proceeds are donated to educational programs such as the Teen Production Project which teaches youth from Tijuana and San Diego how to produce a community-centered documentary.

The teen project is focused on teaching young filmmakers “how to become an active part of the community,” MACSD coordinator Melissa Johnson said.

Although the films selected for the festival – “Celda 211” and “Cinco Dias Sin Nora” – are the works of Mexican and Spanish directors, the SDLFF makes sure to also exhibit local films.

Franek said participating in a film festival can give exposure to a filmmaker’s work.

“You never know if you’re going to see a director or star (in the theater),” she said.

Although Franek may not have much time on her hands to work on her own films due to a lengthy schedule at the MACSD, she said she has met “career-altering contacts.”

Franek’s advice to student filmmakers is, “Be a part of a film crew, attend workshops and film festivals.” Franek said that by participating in different areas in filmmaking, the novice will not only learn about filmmaking but also to network with others in the field.

The two films will be shown Sept. 10 through 16 at the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center. Adult tickets are $10. Students’ and seniors’ tickets are $8. Visit for showtimes.

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Franek, professor by day, film curator by night