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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, event organizer of the New York Latino Film Festival will march on, albeit in a different format. The organizers have had to reinvent the wheel when it comes to serving up a film festival.  For this year’s event, festival founder and creator Calixto Chinchilla and his team have put together an event that’s sure to have film lovers racing to New York City for the week-long festival.  The event kicks off on September 14th. ‘LLERO linked up with Chinchilla to get the deets on this year’s edition of the famed Latino indie film fest.


The Format

“[We] were just looking at what other people were doing and what was feasible. Then, seeing how we could calibrate that to New York City safety guidelines, and trying to figure out a dynamic way of presenting the festival,” Chinchilla told ‘LLERO about the thought process behind this year’s event.

What Chinchilla and his NYLFF team came up with was a series of multifaceted movie night experiences consisting of digital streams and a Latino-themed drive-in theater experience in New York City.

“It’s a hybrid way where all the streams are live. When you buy a ticket to see a stream, it’ll be as if you’re watching network TV—it will be live. Then, it goes into Q&As,” the festival runner said of one facet of the festival, adding, “Then, at the same time, we thought about doing a drive-in. One that was intimate and interactive and an experience that hosts not only the cars that are parked, but we’re also going to sell a limited number of VIP tickets, which gives you a physical seat. The VIP lounge that we have is very much like an outdoor restaurant style format. It’s a marriage of the two different worlds. We also have a stage in front of the big screen for Q&A sessions.”

The location for this spectacular drive-in? None other than the Boogie Down Bronx!

“It’s going to be at the 100 East 151st Street lot, which is a parking lot that’s right across the street from Bronx Terminal Market. We found a perfect spot where you can take the train or drive your car. We were thinking about people who didn’t have cars and how we can accommodate those people. That’s when it became a hybrid drive-in and VIP outdoor restaurant-like experience,” Chinchilla explained.


The Films

The three films that will premiere solely during NYLFF 2020’s drive-in nights include John Leguizamo’s docu-film, Critical Thinking. The film follows a chess team of Latino and Black students from one of the roughest neighborhoods in Miami. Led by an inspirational teacher to the National Chess Championship.

Charm City Kings, directed by Angel Manuel Soto and written by Sherman Payne. Executive producers include Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith among others.  The film follows the journey of 14-year-old Mouse, who desperately wants to join the Midnight Clique, an infamous group of Baltimore dirt-bike riders.


Habla Now, will also premiere by HBO. It is  the latest installment of the prominent Habla series. Habla Now, features testimonials from singer-actress-activist, Amara La Negra, environmental activist, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Olympian, Laurie Hernandez, and actress-author-activist, Diane Guerrero, among others.

As for NYLFF’s virtual screenings, the festival’s featuring films from the United States as well as from countries across Latin America, like The Last Rafter (USA), Mis 500 Locos (Dominican Republic), Ni Héroe Ni Traidor (Argentina), and In Other Words (U.S. and Mexico), among many others.

This Mission Continues…

Despite the obstacles brought on by the pandemic, Chinchilla’s goal was to continue the tradition of showcasing the versatility of the Latino narrative. This wide-ranging diversity, he points out, is evident in NYLFF’s eclectic choice of art for their official festival poster and promo video.

“We worked with four different creatives to do the promo. We had this director out of L.A., Anthony Sylvester, who directed and edited the video. It’s very different. It’s kind of like a poetry piece, and it’s about everything that’s happening. Black Lives Matter is in the commercial. We showed the march with Dominicans and Haitians on Dyckman. We really wanted to be topical to what’s happening in the moment and yet be celebratory in the fact that the culture is not cancelled,” the festival organizer explained. “I think [the promo video] is reflective of what you see in the poster. We wanted to address it all: the culture, New York City, Latino and Black lives—all of it. We as creatives get control of our narrative. What we tell in our narratives is up to us. We’re the storytellers.”

For more information on the New York Latino Film Festival or to snag some tickets, visit nylatinofilmfestival.com/2020/.

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