New York City has seen glimmers of a return to normalcy, albeit in the safest manner possible. Folks are returning to their workplaces. Most kids are back in school. Eateries are reopening their doors to indoor diners, and even festivals have made a comeback. One such fest is the New York Latino Film Festival. That’s right! NYLFF is hitting off NYC with another installment from September 14 – 19 live from The BX (100 East 151st Street, The Bronx, NY) with exciting events centered around 100+ films coming out of 12 different countries.
Now brought to attendees in a number of formats. From the customary in-theater showings to virtual screenings and even a nostalgic drive-in movie experience. For over two decades, NYLFF has served as a powerful force behind the Latino film industry. Providing a platform for filmmakers from all walks of life and across a whole host of countries to showcase their art.
One such filmmaker is Manny Perez, whose highly anticipated sequel to 2009’s La Soga, will be making its U.S. premiere during this year’s NYLFF. La Soga 2, written, directed, produced and starred by Perez himself, will premiere during the festival’s closing night. The new chapter of this action-packed story follows former cop-turned-vigilante-turned-hitman, Luis Andres Valerio a.k.a. La Soga. He is in the fight of his life to rescue the love of his life.
Another film making its U.S. debut at NYLFF is Dark Blood. Directed by Harold Trompetero and starring John Leguizamo. In the Spanish-language film, Leguizamo plays Misael. A man imprisoned after being convicted of killing the man who killed his son. His days in prison are filled with abuse and humiliation brought on by both the inmates and prison guards. That is until Misael’s nerves reach a boiling point. What happens next is something Misael himself couldn’t have even imagined.
Opening night will feature the 2002 indie hit, Raising Victor Vargas. Directed by Peter Sollet and starring Victor Rasuk. The film tells the coming-of-age story of Victor, a Dominican teen from NY’s Lower East Side. A wannabe playboy, Victor’s actual female conquests actually amount to nada. After a failed attempt at building up his rep by sleeping with a less than attractive schoolmate. Victor sets his eyes on Judy Ramirez (played by Judy Marte), who is way out of his league. The film’s presentation will wrap up with a 20-year reunion of the full cast.
Another film to look out for at this year’s NYLFF is All The World Is Sleeping, starring Melissa Barrera and Jackie Cruz. The film tells the story of a Chicana mother in New Mexico strung out from her addiction and only sinking deeper as time goes by. But is fighting to beat the illness for the sake of her daughter. Directed by Ryan Lacen, the story was created around the experiences of seven mothers who battled with addictions. These ladies were not only the inspiration behind the story but Barrera and Cruz also worked with them to provide an authentic representation of their stories.
NYLFF will also showcase some thought-provoking long- and short-form documentaries, such as Eagles / Águilas. Directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Maite Zubiaurre. The film documents a search and rescue crew of mostly Latinos out of Arizona known as Las Águilas del Desierto, who dedicate themselves to finding and rescuing missing migrants in the Arizona deserts. Another documentary being showcased, which comes out of Brazil, is titled In My Skin / Dentro Da Minha Pele. Directed by Toni Venturi and Val Gomes, follows daily lives of nine individuals with different shades of black skin as they tell the stories of life in São Paulo. They encounter racism almost on a daily basis, some of it overt while others hidden behind minor actions and sly words.
The event culminates with a free block party hosted by HBO Max. Featuring live music from local artists and DJs, food trucks and a surprise performance by one of the artists appearing on the HBO Max Pa’lante concert series. The block party will celebrate the art, culture and diversity of the Latino community.
NYLFF continues to bring their audience an eventful festival no matter the odds. As the event’s jefe, Calixto Chinchilla, explained, the pandemic had to make them work twice as hard and strategize on different ways to deliver for their audience. “While we built the festival for , we actually already started plotting out what 2021 was going to look like. We already had to forecast how we were going to function. We had no choice. That forced us to think out the box,” Chinchilla told ‘LLERO, adding, “I think it’s also making sure that you’re on the pulse and that you can pivot quick and early so that way you are able to protect everything.”