María López had worked with the Chicago Latino Film Festival for the last 10 years, but her recent move to North Carolina meant she could no longer be part of the festival — or so she thought.
Through a network of friends, López connected with Miguel Rojas-Sotelo, director of the North Carolina Latin American Film Festival, and built a bridge between the two events. The Nelson Mandela Auditorium at UNC’s FedEx Global Education Center will be hosting a free screening of a selection of short films from the Chicago Latino Film Festival on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m.
“I’m really excited about sharing this collection with the North Carolina community,” López said. “I feel they are the ones that really spoke to me or that I saw really impacted the audience at this past year’s festival.”
The short films will cover several topics through a variety of genres, all highlighting and contextualizing the many narratives of the Latinx and Latin American experience.
“Since the explosion of media back in the 1990s, we have seen exponential realities represented through multiple media,” Rojas-Sotelo said. “What we try to do is organize that explosion of perspectives and realities.”
Through comedy, drama, fiction and even animated film, Rojas-Sotelo said the independent short films will act as time machines that can capture audiences and transport them to different times and places in Latin American culture.
“We are trying to bridge many communities and bring them together in front of the screen,” Rojas-Sotelo said.
Rather than having people watch films at home alone through a streaming service or on their phone, Rojas-Sotelo said the screening provides audiences with the opportunity to share the experience of exploring a culture in front of a big screen together.
Pepe Vargas is the producer of the Chicago Latino Film Festival, where this selection of films was originally screened.
“Film has given us the opportunity to really share our culture,” Vargas said. “We use our culture as a tool to establish ourselves as a community that is vibrant, different and is contributing to the economy and therefore is a contributing part of society.”
Vargas said the wealth of their culture is found through the emphasis of each Latin American country’s unique qualities. He said these films can help unite the various communities of Latin Americans across nationalities, races and languages.
“My goal of this screening is to find a piece for everybody,” López said. “A little sampling of what Latin American film is and what Latin American film is capable of, and the kinds of stories that Latin American filmmakers can tell.”
Some short films are made by indigenous filmmakers and tell an indigenous community’s story. Others discuss the transition of immigrants from Latin America to the U.S., and some are even made by Latin Americans who live in North Carolina.
This screening will immerse the audience in eight different stories in the same amount of time as a regular feature length film would immerse them in one.
“In this digital age of social media, people have shorter attention spans,” López said.
With this in mind, López said her favorite way to introduce people to Latin American culture, and especially Latin American film, is through the use of short films.
Since the films are meant to raise awareness of cultural values and stories, it is often difficult for them to find distributors outside of a festival such as this.
“I would recommend people not miss this,” López said. “It’s a rare chance to be able to have the opportunity to view these films, especially somewhere close to campus.”
The festival will also feature introductions before each film and Q&A sessions with filmmakers, UNC professors and graduate students following each film. The screening is free and open to the public.
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