San Diego Latino Film Festival

Dave Schwab

Tue February 28, 2017 2:52pm

The 24th annual 11-day San Diego Latino Film Festival, March 16-26 at Fashion Valley mall and North Park, is more than just a movie exhibition — it’s a multi-faceted celebration of worldwide Latin culture.
“In addition to the 165 films shown in five auditoriums inside AMC Fashion Valley, every one of the 11 days there will be music and dance with more than 30 live acts on three performance stages,” said Ethan van Thillo, executive director/founder of SDLFF, which originated in 1993 as a student film festival now-turned international exposition.
The SDLFF is a juried film/video exhibition of work by/about Latino artists and Latino genre. It hosts guest filmmaker appearances, workshops, live music, art exhibitions and gala celebrations.
Thillo promised 2017’s SDLFF will be extraordinary.
“We’ll have 20 chefs from Baja California at a beer and food festival featuring mainly Latin cuisine on March 18,” he said. “We’ll also be having close to 75 different actors and filmmakers coming to town.”
Of the films on display, some of which debuted at Cannes and Sundance in the United States, Thillo noted noted SDLFF’s offerings will be “mainly international films spanning Mexico, Spain and Latin America. They are really unique in that they celebrate the diversity of the Latino community. Of course we’ll have U.S. Latino and Chicano films as well.”
Some of the festival’s films will be screened in the Digital Gym Cinema at Media Art Center San Diego. Under Thillo’s tutelage, MACSD grew out of SDLFF’s expansion. Incorporated in 1999, MACSD moved into its new space at 2921 El Cajon Blvd. in North Park two years ago.
Thillo discussed other objectives of the annual film fest.
“When we started out 24 years ago in San Diego, there were no film festivals representing the huge Latino population on both sides of the border,” he said. “There was no way for them to see their own selections on the (silver) screen.”
SDLFF was created to fill that void.
“We’re also trying to combat negative stereotypes traditionally seen in the mainstream media and on screen which depict Latinos as gang bangers or someone violent,” Thillo said. “We’re trying to have more positive mentors on the big screen, portraying the Latino community and its experience more accurately.”
Thillo pointed out Latinos are gaining greater recognition on the world stage as actors, directors and in other capacities. He pointed out Latinos have also won several recent Hollywood Oscars.
The film “Lowriders” will be a centerpiece of this year’s SDLFF. Directed by Ricardo de Montreuil, the 98-minute film is about a talented graffiti artist who gets caught in the middle of the rift between his recovering alcoholic father and his recently incarcerated brother as they prepare a prestigious car show. “Lowriders” is a celebration of family, community and lowrider culture starring Oscar nominee Demián Bichir, Eva Longoria, Theo Rossi and Gabriel Chavarria.
Other films showcased at this year’s SDLFF include “Beyond The Crossfire,” “Ovarian Psycos,” “Que Pena Tu Vida,” “Que Culpa Tiene El Nino,” “Un Cuento De Circo And A Love Song,” “Ruta Madre,” “Y Los Tamales?” and “Mextasy.”
This year’s array of 160 films was chosen by a selection committee from a field of more than 600 applicants.
Selected SDLFF films are subtitled in English and cost from $8.50 to $11.50 to view, with discounts for students and seniors.
Thillo said exact dates and times for SDLFF movies will be revealed on the festival website,, after March 1.