LatinoBuzz: Elizabeth Gardner, Co-Director of NYILFF Responds to News of the Festival’s Closure

LatinoBuzz: Elizabeth Gardner, Co-Director of NYILFF Responds to News of the Festival's Closure

Just a few days ago a story ran on Cinema Tropical’s blog, TropicalFRONT regarding the murky status of the New York International Latino Film Festival (NYILFF). Speculations and rumors had been swirling for months. There was never an official announcement that the festival was not happening this year but August came and went and there was no news. Then Cinema Tropical ran its story, “NY Latino Film Fest Closes Shop After 13 Years.”

The story cites several reasons for its closure. Calixto Chinchilla, co-executive director of the festival, was interviewed for the piece. He says the organization was in the midst of a “crippling financial crisis” and that, “the festival was simply no longer economically viable.”

I have been on staff of the New York International Latino Film Festival in various capacities for the last seven years. To say the announcement was a surprise is an understatement. I knew the festival was not going to happen this year but I had no idea it would possibly never happen again. But, even worse, the story was an even bigger surprise for Elizabeth Gardner co-executive director of the NYILFF. She was not contacted nor advised of the fact that the article was being written nor that this information would be made public.

LatinoBuzz has given her the space to respond directly and tell her side of the story.

Personal Statement Regarding the New York International Latino Film Festival

By Elizabeth Gardner

I am enormously disappointed in Cinema Tropical’s, specifically Andrew Vargas’, article regarding the NYILFF, particularly because he did not bother to contact me, nor anyone else affiliated with NYILFF. It was especially shocking since we planned to release a joint, public statement.

Yes, it is true, Calixto Chinchilla and I together, as co-owners and co-executive directors, have decided it is time to dissolve the company and embrace exciting, new chapters in our lives. After 11 years of dedication to the organization and community, I chose to leave the NYILFF, and Calixto opted not to continue without me. To be clear, although the economy has been a challenge for all companies including NYILFF, this was not a decision based on economy, nor the company’s financial status, which, in fact, is healthy; we end with neither debts, nor liabilities. We consistently worked with our dedicated team to find creative ways to remain efficient in leaner times, enabling us to make this decision. Nor is there a “dearth of Latinos in publicity and marketing”. For the past 6 years, we have worked with the team at Reyes Entertainment, who secured festival coverage in The New York Times, The Today Show, The Los Angeles Times, and Time Out NY, among many other mainstream media outlets, and also have had the great fortune of partnering with such major media organizations as NBC, Telemundo, NY Daily News, Clear Channel, El Diario and The combined efforts resulted in hundreds of millions of media impressions in both English and Spanish.

The article also fails to thank or mention anyone associated with NYILFF. There are literally hundreds of people who worked tirelessly through the years to produce the best possible event. Therefore, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank from my heart all of our cherished corporate partners, particularly our outstanding friends at HBO, gifted filmmakers, staff, volunteers and film fans who learned of our mutual decision in this unfortunate manner. After the many years of your priceless commitment and support, you deserve better.

Moreover, I’d like to thank my many, dear festival friends, who continue to enrich my life each and every day. You are all brilliantly talented, passionate and compassionate artists, dreamers and doers, and are the true gifts of my experience.

The past 11 years have taught me much, most importantly always to remain honest and open, free of judgment, receptive to disparate viewpoints, generous of spirit and calm under pressure, for even the most challenging of circumstances serves a purpose and offers a lesson. I thank you all for allowing me to learn from, work with and honor you for 11 years. Let’s keep inspiring each other to be the best versions of ourselves we can be.

Written by Vanessa Erazo. LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature on SydneysBuzz that highlights Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow @LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook.

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Larry Silva

So finally someone says something! I guess the shit hit the fan!
Shame on Elizabeth and Calixto for not letting it known before the
date that the festival usually takes place. What ever the reason for the shut down,
the press, the public and the filmmakers should have been notified some how months ago not after the fact. As the writer of this article Vanessa Erazo wrote: " Speculations and rumors had been swirling for months. There was never an official announcement that the festival was not happening this year but August came and went and there was no news. Then Cinema Tropical ran its story", Did Calixto and Elizabeth think no one would notice? It is a unfortunate display of pure arrogance, and a lack of professionalism. HBO has mud on its face too…..Some one's got some ssssss-plaining to do!!!!! Kudos to Mr. Vargas at Cinema Tropical. You made them address a very serious situation. LS

Emanuel Diaz

Blah, NYILFF was one of the most transparently corrupt Film Festivals in New York. Good riddance.

Andrew S. Vargas

It's unfortunate, Ms. Gardner, that you felt the need to address this article directly to me; and furthermore I believe it flirts dangerously with bounds of professionalism. My assignment was simply to "break the news" regarding NYILFF's dissolution, accompanied by an interview with Calixto Chinchilla. The article was not intended to be an in-depth, investigative report.

There was an error upon the article's initial publication, crediting Mr. Chinchilla as 'Founding Director' that has since been rectified. As to your other point, I think it goes without saying that a short article intending to break news about a festival's closure is in no position to 'thank' the many people that without a doubt worked tirelessly to make the festival a success.

Your problems with the other points raised in the article are evidently differences in perspective between you and Mr. Chinchilla, as the article is based directly upon an interview I carried out with him a little more than a week ago. It's clearly not appropriate to air those differences in this context as though they were somehow related to flaws in journalistic integrity.

Please feel free to contact me if you wish to continue this discussion.

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