Today, Sept. 16, is Mexican Independence Day and marks what is the official start of Latino Heritage Month.
The month long celebration — held at various locations in schools and at public events across the country and throughout Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley — showcases the accomplishments, artistry, history and the diverse cultures among Latinos.
This annual celebration, however, was challenged last year due to COVID-19 restrictions and orders to “stay-at-home.” Many events, including the traditional El Grito ceremony at LA City Hall, couldn’t be held in a public setting and became “virtual” events.
It has been very challenging for community organizations and others holding annual events to figure out how to have continuity, and encourage the public’s participation via Zoom and other online platforms.
However, in-person public events that require following Covid-19 protocols are now starting to resume in time for Latino Heritage Month.
Among the major events kicking off this week, Sept. 17-25, is the 13th Annual Hola Mexico Film Festival, held in Los Angeles. It’s the largest Mexican film festival outside of Mexico.
“Although the Hola México Film Festival continued in 2020 in a virtual format, we deeply missed the irreplaceable communal experience of being with each other to showcase the strength and diversity of Mexican cinema,” said Founder and Director Samuel Douek.
“Through the enduring power of the cinematic arts community, we are absolutely thrilled to welcome back film lovers, and finally be able to gather and embrace in-person during the 2021 Hola México Film Festival,” Douek said.
The director believes bringing a Mexican film festival to Los Angeles has been significant, and maintains a deep rooted connection.
“Los Angeles not only is the second biggest Mexican city in the world, but it’s also the film capital of the world,” Douek said. “This gives us the opportunity to celebrate our culture in the most extraordinary way possible — through film and fiesta.”
He sees the large benefit of showcasing Mexican talent, and knows that the success of Mexican filmmakers in Hollywood didn’t come overnight.
Mexico has a long cinematic history, with its own “Golden Age” in the 1930s to 1950s that included Maria Felix, Dolores del Rio and Pedro Infante. It’s no small feat that over more recent years, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro have held the Academy Award golden statue.
“Mexico has a deep connection to Hollywood that runs for almost 100 years. In recent years, with Academy Awards going to Mexicans, the talent of Mexico is well-rewarded in Hollywood and the world,” Douek said.
Festival Includes Many Genres
The festival will feature 21 films, kicking off opening night with “Perdida” from revered Mexican director Jorge Michel Grau and will be shown in the large outdoor space at La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes in downtown Los Angeles.
“Perdida” is described by festival officials as a love triangle that has a nontraditional structure, “stylishly produced and superbly acted by a cast of emerging faces and established stars — it is a riveting exploration of the clash between passion and revenge set in a house where the walls themselves hold many dark secrets. The only certainty is that nothing is what is seems.” (A trailer of Perdida can be found at: https://youtu.be/hUSWtsiNnnQ.)
The Hola México Film Festival includes various genres — comedies, dramas, offbeat and horror films — and documentaries with specific sections: México Ahora, Documental, El Otro México, and Nocturno. México Ahora features the best of Mexican films released in recent years.
Documental includes notable nonfiction films made by Mexican filmmakers. El Otro Mexico highlights experiences of Mexicans rarely portrayed on screen that challenge the status quo.
Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today
A much needed component of this film festival is the mentorship program, “Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today” — which brings 20 emerging US-based filmmakers with Latin American roots for an immersive nine days of sessions designed to help them connect with prominent members of the film industry.
With too few opportunities for Latinos in Hollywood, the goal is to increase Latino representation in the film and television industry and grow Latino content.
The short film “El Triste,” written and directed by Manuel Del Valle, an alumnus of the program, is being featured at this year’s festival.
Del Valle’s film is described as “a drama that takes place on the backstage of a marionette show. ‘El Triste’ a poorly crafted marionette, is going through an existential crisis and decides to do all it takes to prove to himself and his fellow puppets that he is valuable and worthy of attention.”
Moreover, this short film is beautifully shot without dialogue, yet tells the story of a clown marionette, longing and struggling to find success in a local club.
With a mission to recognize the best filmmaking happening today in Mexico, Douek said the festival celebrates the filmmakers and brings together a community of like minded individuals who appreciate Mexican cinema.
“We look forward to helping ensure that Mexican film making continues to grow and prospers for years to come,” he said.
The 13th annual Hola Mexico Film Festival, presented by DishLATINO, will take place at Regal L.A. LIVE, located at 1000 W. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Opening & Closing ceremonies will take place at LA Plaza de Cultura Y Artes (an open-air venue). Opening Night Tickets & Festival Passes are available now on www.holamexicoff.com. For more information about TFT, visit https://www.holamexicoff.com/tomorrows-filmmakers/.