This weekend, OLA of Eastern Long Island. will hold its 14th annual Latino Film Festival in the Hamptons. OLA stands for Organizacion Latino Americana. This year the festival will feature five films, including a Chilean crime drama where poet Pablo Neruda is pursued by an inspector after he joins the Communist Party and a Mexican comedy about an 8-year-old boy who discovers he’s a genius.
Minerva Perez, OLA’s executive director, recently sat down with All Things Considered Host Bill Buchner to discuss the festival. Below is a transcript of their conversation.
Thank you so much. Happy to be here.
Now how did these films come to play here? How did you come to decide to feature these films?
Early on in the festival, we pretty much stayed with award-winning, rather large budget films as a way to highlight films that were in the Spanish language with English subtitles, both as a way to allow the Spanish-speaking population up on our area here on the East End to be able to enjoy, in a native language, these films, and then also, with the English subtitles, to act as an artistic and creative way to bring people together. So we would choose films that really wouldn’t see much time out here.
But along the way, just starting last year, was the first year that we did it, we reached out and put the word out to filmmakers across the globe for Spanish language films. So last year we brought in a film from Ecuador that had not made its way out here ever before. So we really found that part of what our role is with this film festival is to start bringing in more of these independent films that really can speak to our community both English speaking and non-English speaking.
There are five films that are being featured in this year’s festival. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
We have the film Translucido, which is an Ecuadorian and American film. And the theme of that film is a bit heavy, is a bit strong. And we have Los Nadie, which is a film that we’re targeting more for a younger set, 16 years and older. And it does highlight the lives of five teenagers in Medellin, Colombia, in and around a punk rock music scene. And then after the film we’re going to be featuring live music from Mila Tina and also a band from Brooklyn called Junicko. So this is entirely put together to really appeal to a younger audience that understands that it’s really fun to stay up late on a Sunday night.
You mentioned that you are targeting one of your films towards a younger audience. Why are you trying to reach that audience?
That audience in Spanish, in English, in any language is an audience that doesn’t really get their due. Typically out here there’s really not a lot of outlet for that age. So you know either folks are heading much further west on the island or they’re heading into the city. But in terms of what exists out here that’s not simply a bar, not simply a nightclub but sort of a cultural outlet, whether it’s live music, cinema, dance, there’s really nothing like that out here. So in order to want to give more to that age set you have to offer more.
WSHU’s Ann Lopez spoke with two of the filmmakers who will have their work featured at the festival. The first is Leonard Zelig of Venezuela.
His name is not a coincidence. Leonard Zelig’s legal name is Leonard Gutierrez. He chose Zelig as his stage name after the Woody Allen film. He says when he came to New York to work as an actor he wanted to be a human chameleon. But before he took the name, he went to the Carlisle Hotel where Allen was performing with his band to ask for permission.
I just say, like, ‘Hey I’m an actor, my name is Leonard. I want to be chameleon, do you mind if I take the Zelig do you mind, Woody?’
Zelig’s film is Tranclucido. He examines the final day of a man who has decided to end his life.
All the melodrama about how he got there, we miss it. And we just have his last day. Which is a totally different approach to this kind of movie.
Zelig says he’s been surprised by how people have responded to his work. He says one man approached him after seeing his film.
He get up in your face and he say, ‘I just wanted to tell you because of your movie, I’m buying a ticket tonight to see my father in Italy.’ So that kind of reaction. That’s why you do these films. Because you want to provoke that in people.
The festival will also feature the first work by Miguel J. Soliman. It’s called Desde el Principio or from the top. It’s an intense 10-minute short that features two voice actors dubbing a film.
It reveals itself to you throughout the film. And you find that they actually share a relationship in their real lives and not just as the on-screen characters that they’re dubbing. The script kinda starts saying things they’ve been wanting to say to each other for a long time. And then they suddenly stop working and start having a real conversation.
He got into short films during a masters program at the School of Visual Arts. He researched a lot of short films and found he didn’t relate to a lot of the topics they covered.
It seems like a lot of our ancestors can relate to immigrant stories or would like material that’s closer to like a soap opera or Sabado Gigante which we all grew up on. I think there’s a new wave. A new type of story that’s gonna start getting told and I wanted my story to be a part of that wave.
Soliman grew up in New Jersey. His family comes from Honduras, Ecuador, and Palestine. He wants to use film to change how people perceive the Latino community in the U.S.
So rather than doing the same story over and over and giving audiences the wrong impression of us, that we’re all immigrants, or we’re all stuck in the struggle, that we all hate white people, rather than doing that, and creating a sense of cinema as a battleground, we should look at it as a playing field and how we can share it.
Soliman’s film will be screened on the first day of the festival, Friday night.
The 14th annual Latino Film Festival of the Hamptons will be held Friday, November 17 – Sunday, November 19, at three venues on eastern Long Island. Visit OLA's website to get tickets.