Updated: May 1, 2022
By Nancy Kane
The OLA Latino Film Festival turns up the heat in its 13th year of providing cultural diversity awareness through films on the East End. The Organización Latino-Americano of Eastern Long Island presents an engaging two-night celebration of Latino/Hispanic movies as well as a Q&A with filmmakers, bilingual docent-led tours at the Parrish Art Museum, a mezcal tasting and more.
A beloved annual tradition, which is, by design, an all-inclusive affair hosting film fans of all ethnicities, will be held on Friday, November 11, at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill and on Saturday, November 12, at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
This year marks the first time that independent films are highlighted, in addition to a big-budget one. Films from Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela and one from an American-Mexican director will all be screened this weekend.
While Minerva Perez has been curating the film festival since 2007, this is her first year in her new role as OLA’s executive director. Ms. Perez became the first paid executive director for OLA in March. She said she believes the festival is both exciting and important, and her enthusiasm was contagious as she talked about this year’s films, the event in general and the challenges facing OLA.
“Our mission at OLA is arts, education and advocacy,” she said from her home in Sag Harbor. “The film festival is one way to bridge the cultural divide within the Latino communities and more importantly, among all our communities.”
Ms. Perez is quick to point out the attendees are not all Hispanic.
“We strive to be very inclusive,” she said. “We want everyone to come and see these amazing films and to get to know this community. Wouldn’t it be great if people were not talking about a great Latino film, but rather just a great film?”
Ms. Perez, who took over from OLA founder and president Isabel Sepulveda de Scanlon, strives to get the right lineup of films—both features and shorts. “We want to get a well-known motion picture to anchor the festival and draw crowds, but we wanted to balance that and introduce independent, emerging artists,” she said.
With a reputation for being edgy, the OLA Film Festival has found a partner in the Parrish Art Museum for the first night, which has hosted the fest for the last 10 years.
“We are thrilled to partner once again with OLA, and delighted to make the film program as well as the current exhibition accessible to the Spanish-speaking community of the East End,” said Corinne Erni, the Parrish’s curator of special projects. “As a center for cultural engagement, the Parrish is committed to outreach efforts and programming that support and reflect the region’s diverse cultural heritage.”
Opening night will include a screening of the award-winning 2015 Argentinian independent film “Un Tango Más (Our Last Tango),” written and directed by German Kral, and executive produced by Wim Wenders.
“Un Tango Más” tells the story of the most famous tango dancers in Argentina—María Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes— in a creative documentary format that spans from the couple’s initial meeting in the ’40s as teenagers through present day. The couple relate their unique experiences to a group of young dancers who are moved to interpret the story into tango dances of their own.
The film, which screens at 7 p.m. on Friday, is preceded by a bilingual tour of the exhibition “Artists Choose Artists” with Parrish Art Museum docent Grisel Baltazar at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception featuring a Doña Sarita Mezcal tasting. Doña Sarita Mezcal is imported by a local family, the Kiembocks, who have lived in East Hampton for 40 years and run the hardware store there.
“I love that we can bring different cultural nuances to the weekend with things like this,” Ms. Perez said of the tasting.
Ms. Perez is quick to point out that the festival is only one event in a series of year-round programming that makes up part of OLA’s mission. The organization is known for its advocacy on behalf of Latino and Hispanic residents.
“My role is to learn from the on-the-ground scenarios that I am involved with on behalf of the communities,” she said. “Then I need to take what I learn and create the dialogues that need to take place for change to occur. I’m looking at systems to see if they are healthy, or if better communication is needed in certain areas.”
Emphasizing the three-pronged approach of arts, advocacy and education, Ms. Perez said she feels the festival embraces all three.
“It’s so important to continue to focus on the arts. We have all these cultural riches around us, many represented by the Latino community,” she explained. “The festival is just one of the pathways to celebrate our culture and invite everybody in. It’s great for Latinos to learn about other Latinos and celebrate one another’s cultures, traditions and nuances. And it’s great for everyone to celebrate storytelling and art and beauty.”
While Ms. Perez loves “Un Tango Más”—“It’s a gorgeous film,” she said—she is also very excited about Saturday night’s feature film, which will debut at Guild Hall.
“Vengo Volviendo (Here There)” is a film from the directing and producing team of Isabel Rodas and Gabriel Páez, who will be on hand to introduce the Long Island premiere and lead a Q&A with the audience afterward. The film has won accolades from New York to Ecuador, and tells the story of a 22-year-old man who dreams of coming to America, but faces many challenges and sacrifices.
“Vengo Volviendo” is the second film made by Filmarte, which runs Encounters With Cinema, the first self-sustainable organized program of training, producing and distributing alternative cinema in Ecuador.
“Twenty-one talented men and women from rural communities live in an artistic residency together with 11 instructors, where they learn acting, camera, sound, production design and scriptwriting. They write their first feature-length film, based on the oral history of their communities,” Ms. Rodas said. “Vengo Volviendo” is the result of that.
“As a curator of the festival, I hope that audiences are entertained and drawn into the worlds of each of these films,” Ms. Perez said. “As a community that includes many Ecuadorians, I would love for this film to be an invitation to those not familiar with the beauty and traditions of Ecuador and a reason to engage with their Ecuadorian neighbors. This is a film perfect for 10 year olds and up.”
Ms. Rodas said, “Film opens a gateway to portraying and sharing cultural identity and values in an open dialogue. As Latinos we have a lot to offer and the need to be listened to. Film is a tool to get in touch with our concerns and beliefs and put them out to the world.”
Ms. Rodas and Mr. Páez will travel from Ecuador and stay with a local family for the weekend to take part in the festival.
“We know there is a big community people from Gualaceo, a small town in the Azuay southern province of Ecuador, where the film was shot,” Ms. Rodas said. “It would be amazing to see a mixture of Gualacean/Ecuadorian/Latinos and Americans sharing a night with us to see and discuss film and storytelling.”
In addition to the feature films, the short films include the edgy and provocative “Tereza,” by Mexican/American filmmaker Natalie Camou, and “Normal” by Venezuelan filmmaker Vadim Lasca.
“Tereza” tells the story of a mother and daughter battling mental illness and “Normal” is about a man and woman brought together by violent political protests.
“These films may make you laugh or cry but at the end of the day they are really a window into a humanity which we all share,” Ms. Perez said. “And that’s the goal. To transcend boundaries. This festival has passion, joy and a little bit of magic.”
Tickets are $10 for each evening. To attend the festival at the Parrish Art Museum on Friday, November 11, visit parrishart.org. To attend at Guild Hall on Saturday, November 12, visit olalatinofilmfestival.eventbrite.com. Or call OLA at 631-899-3441.