Philly Latino Film Festival spotlights Puerto Rico
The event showcased Latino filmmakers from all over Latin America and the U.S. But at the festival’s opening night, a special emphasis was placed on Puerto Rico and the island’s rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
On Friday, Philly’s seventh annual Latino Film Festival kicked off with a mood both celebratory and sobering, as attendees proclaimed the significance of Latinos telling stories that are important to the community, while also reminding the audience members of the immense devastation Puerto Rico continues to face in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Aris Mejias, an actress and filmmaker from Puerto Rico, introduced the short documentary, “La Perla After Maria,” a documentary directed by Clari del Pilar Lewis about how the historic neighborhood just outside of San Juan struggled after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and the ways in which they are continuing to confront major obstacles in their rebuilding efforts. The program of short films also included a series of video self-portraits created by young Puerto Ricans in Loiza after the hurricane with the support of the Boys and Girls Club, a short trailer for an upcoming video from Casa de Venezuela about the Venezuelan exodus, and previews of several of the award-winning films which were shown later in the weekend.
“This terrible event occurred and it took the persistence of many filmmakers and artists to request this information and bring it to the world and see it in stages like this so that it’s not obscured by a Roseanne tweet [in] the middle of the night, or by Trump throwing paper towels at us or by having people affirm that it was only 16 deaths. It is 4,645 deaths. Please remember this,” said Mejias.
“We’re making films so that we can say these things out loud and honor our dead, honor our living, and honor the ones who stayed,” she added.
The winner of the LOLA Award, which recognizes and honors cinematic achievements in filmmaking, was also focused on Puerto Rico. Director Karen Rossi's Ser Grande follows the lives of three Puerto Rican teenagers who are on a journey of self-discovery after participating in a vocational workshop. Upon receiving the award at the festival’s opening, Rossi echoed the call for increased recognition of the challenges facing the island and the work that Puerto Ricans are doing (trailer below).
The opening night of the film festival held this past weekend also marked the start of Immigrant Heritage Month in Philadelphia. Mayor Jim Kenney spoke at the event, remarking on the significance of the Latino Film Festival in the context of celebrating immigrant
“It’s important to be proud, it’s important to hold on to your culture, it’s important to make sure your children and their children hold on to their culture, and these events and these months are ways of doing that,” Kenney said.