A seductive android, New York’s most happening Saint Death party, and an Alice Walker-narrated documentary about a matriarchal culture in the last nation in the Americas to abolish slavery. This is a small sampling of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, which is going virtual for its ninth annual celebration of Latinx stories and filmmakers.
For us, by us
“The Philadelphia Latino Film Festival is the only Latino festival in the city of Philadelphia showcasing films from countries like Panama to Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and more,” said Laiza Montañez, communications director for the festival. “This festival brings together stories made by us, for us about the struggles of life, the beauty of our culture, and the cinematic brilliance of our people.”
From June 4-7, the festival is free and available online. Though it is available to moviegoers everywhere, Montañez notes that selected films will only be available to festival-goers in Philadelphia.
Fortunately, there are no limits on who can check out Ana Adore, a sci-fi drama about a recently uncoupled man who finds love with an android that becomes sentient. Hasta Domingo Soy Gringo is another short film with a futuristic bend, featuring two siblings trying to teleport their way home from a distant world before their mom discovers their misadventure.
This year’s programming features several short and full-length stories led by trans protagonists and subjects, including La Flaca (The Bony Lady). A short-form documentary, La Flaca follows Arely Vazquez, a Mexican transgender woman and leader of the Saint Death Cult in Queens, as she plans the tenth annual celebration of Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte (Saint Death, whom Arely lovingly refers to as the Bony Lady). La Flaca joins festival entries Vuelta Al Sol (Birthday Boy), a narrative short about a boy who has to choose between making his parents happy or living into his identity as a trans man during his birthday party, and full-length documentary Rainha de Lapa (Queen of Lapa), which introduces audiences to trans actress, cabaret performer, activist, and sex worker Luana Muniz. Loud and proud Muniz defends the lives and livelihoods of her community during an increasingly hostile political era in Brazil.
Philly film lovers will want to check out PHLAFF’s full slate of international feature-length documentaries for 2020, like Apátrida (Stateless), which explores the history behind the state-sanctioned racism that prompted the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court to invalidate the citizenship of 200,000 people born to Haitian parents in 2013. Then there’s Yemanjá: Wisdom From The African Heart of Brazil, a beautifully-shot film narrated by writer Alice Walker. Yemanjá looks at the Afro-Brazilian culture called Candomblé, led by women and rooted in rituals and spiritual practices that have survived social struggles and the slave trade that brought their enslaved African ancestors to Brazil’s shores.
While many Philadelphians may be eager to escape into the formulaic stories of Netflix and other streaming services this weekend, they would be better served and inspired by the films of the 2020 Philadelphia Latino Film Festival.
What, When, Where:
The Ninth Annual Philadelphia Latino Film Festival takes place June 4-7, 2020 online. Films are free to all participants (some films have limited availability to viewers in the Philadelphia area).