New York Latino Film Festival to Open with Sundance Competition Feature "How the Garcia Girls Spent their Summer"

by Brian Brooks

A scene from Georgina Riedel's feature "How the Garcia Girls Spent their Summer," which will open the sixth annual New York International Latino Film Festival Tuesday. Image courtesy of NYILFF.

Georgina Riedel's Sundance '05 competition feature "How the Garcia Girls Spent their Summer" will open the sixth annual New York International Latino Film Festival featuring 70 domestic and international features, documentaries and short films from emerging Latino filmmakers. The festival, which is presented by HBO, will take place from July 26-31 and will include panels, educational forums and special cultural events.

"Garcia Girls" stars Elizabeth Peña, America Ferrera, Lucy Gallardo, Jorge Cevera, Jr., Steven Bauer and Rick Najera about three women in a Mexican-American family who undergo a sexual awakening. According to a festival release, "Grandmother Doña Genoveva decides to buy a car, and has her gardener help with 'driving lessons.' Her divorced daughter disapproves of the situation, but has her own desires aroused with a man at the butcher shop. In the middle of all this, the granddaughter, Blanca, engineers an awakening of her own."

NYILFF's domestic features include "Indocumentados," which exposes the impact of 9/11 on undocumented workers, while "The Latin Legends of Comedy" by Ray Ellin spotlights "struggles and joys of pioneering Latino comedians J.J. Ramirez, Angel Salazar and Joey Vega." Shane Edelman's "Love for Rent," meanwhile is the story of a Colombian college student struggling with immigration issues in LA, who accepts a $50,000 offer to rent her body and soul and become a surrogate mother to a wealthy couple.

Films from Chile, Spain, Argentina, Costa Rica, Peru, Germany, Cuba and Mexico are among this year's international line up. "Musica Cubana: The Next Generation" takes a look at new musical legends that draw on Cuban traditions and popular world music movements, while Silvio Caiozzi's comedy "Cachimba" centers on Marcos, an unremarkable bank employee who discovers a collection of paintings belonging to an exiled Chilean painter. Josue Mendez's "Days of Santiago" follows a 23 year-old trying to live a normal life after service in the army.

Docs include "Dangerous Deception: Living on the Down Low," which captures "non-gay" Latino and black men who have sex with men in addition to women and "Black Against White," which exposes the racial and social divide that exists between black Brazilians and white Brazilians. Additionally, the festival will present five recent, award-winning Spanish films, including Cannes Film Festival's FIPRESCI award-winner, "The Hours of the Day" by Jaime Rosales. The films will be presented in collaboration with Spain's Valladolid International Film Festival.

The festival will close July 31 with Victor Buhler's documentary, "Rikers High." Set in New York City's Rikers Island Prison, the film focuses on two thousand teen inmates, primarily black and Latino, who attend the prison's high school. The film exposes many angles of life there, from the dedicated teachers who try to make a difference in their lives, to families who try to put their children back on the right path, to the problems of the prison system.

"It has always been our mission to highlight the diversity of Latino film and to provide a platform for Latino filmmakers from across the world to showcase their work," said NYLIFF executive director Calixto Chinchilla in a statement. "This year's offering will take us from a favela in Brazil to the streets of downtown New York, truly capturing the broad essence of Latino culture."