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'Huella' will be one of the short films to be presented in-person and online at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF). Photo: LALIFF
'Huella' will be one of the short films to be presented in-person and online at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF). Photo: LALIFF

The Los Angeles Latino Film Festival is back and better than ever

From June 1 to 5, Los Angeles hosts its celebrated Latino International Film Festival, an event that amplifies the voices the world needs to hear.

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The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) is hoping to make a strong impact for its 21st edition. After adapting to the health and safety protocols imposed by COVID and going virtual in 2021, 2022's edition will meet again with an audience eager to see the work of Latino filmmakers, actors and actresses, producers and other audiovisual professionals who make the film industry a diverse, multicultural and daring space.

This year’s program includes narrative, documentary, feature and short films produced in Latin America, Puerto Rico, United States and Canada. Fifty percent of the films to be screened at LALIFF are also directed by women.

One of these productions is Huella, by Dominican actress, writer and director Gabriela Ortega. The 14-minute short film explores the stages of grief of a flamenco dancer named Daniela. With skill, talent and living the art as the only way to transcend pain and a kind of generational curse, the main character seeks a cure for all her traumas in this spectacular and powerful Spanish genre.

“I knew I wanted to direct fiction. Up to this point I had co-directed, written, acted and made a documentary as director, and I realized that I fell in love with directing, because my background comes from theater and acting. That is why during the pandemic I saw the opportunity to reinvent myself, because I was reflecting a lot on grief, migration and my place in the world. I connected a lot being far away, because I am from Dominican Republic, and I began to connect with that spirituality, that family heritage,” said the 26-year-old filmmaker in conversation with AL DÍA from Los Angeles. “I had a dream and I saw that chain of women, like they were all connecting and dancing together and that image inspired me to write Huella because we were and still are in a time with a lot of grief and a lot of loss. Even after making the film, I lost my grandmother, so it was all very crazy to live the short film to a certain extent.” 

Ortega has wanted to place the figure of women and the tradition that is passed down from generation to generation as a central axis. To do so, she called upon stories told in her family environment, and knitted cycles lived by her ancestors under an oppressive military dictatorship that shed blood and violated women’s rights for more than three decades in her native country.

“The issue of child marriage had always caught my attention, the link with the Catholic Church, the hypocrisy, the duality, how we idolize certain figures while we don’t take care of the people next to us. These were things I wanted to explore subtly, but the story is about this girl [Daniela]. When I touch on political or social issues in my work, I don’t like to do it in a literal way, I like to approach them from a character, or from a specific story or a very intimate bond,” she added. “With my work, I hope to be able to say something, to reflect on something that is happening in the world. For me art is that, how we can be a mirror for what is happening, what has happened and how things repeat themselves or how they can change.”

The actress chosen to play this character wrapped in allegories and symbolism is Shakira Barrera: a Latina who transpires authenticity.

“She came to collaborate with us with a lot of passion to make art. And I always remember one of the last days of shooting, when she had been dancing for hours and hours, she seemed exhausted, but she looked at us and said: ‘Guys, we are making art!’ It was a special moment because it showed how committed she was to the project,” said Brazilian Rafael Thomaseto, who, along with Helena Sardinha, is the producer of Huella.

“Shakira is one of the best people I have ever worked with, and I know I want to work with her for many years to come. Shakira Barrera: remember the name. She is a literal star,” said Ortega.

The short film was produced with aid from Lena Waithe’s Rising Voices grant and has been included in the official selection of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival , the 2022 Aspen Shortsfest, and the Milwaukee Film Festival. It will feature at Los Angeles Latino Film Festival on June 2 (in-person at the TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, California, and virtually on June 5). More information can be found at laliff.org/festival/2022/huella

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