I was excited to attend these viewings after the first Short Program at the Los Angeles International Film Festival. Seeing different projects and experiences was amazing, mainly because Latinos from various countries work on these submissions and are all unique with their messages.
I want to go ahead and discuss some of the shorts that stood out to me:
Consuelo, directed by JL Ruiz, is a 16-minute film focused on a female protagonist; she is a bathroom attendant, wife, and mother. Most scenes occur in the restroom, where Consuelo works, and where she appears to feel the most comfortable as she happily sings while cleaning and sitting there as she waits and hopes for tips. Later, we learn about her troubles at home, where she fails to connect with her family, mostly with her husband, who drinks and doesn’t seem to care about her. One day while working, Consuelo was assaulted by a man, visibly causing her much stress as she stopped singing and enjoying her job. There was also a scene that shed light on the issues that workers like Consuelo face. The bathroom attendant had a doctor’s appointment, and it sounded like she had tried to ask for paid time off. However, her boss said she could have the day off but won’t pay her. Even at her doctor’s visit, the character faces even more stress because of her costly diagnosis. How will she pay for treatment? When will she get treated? With what health insurance? I believe the actress in the film, Patricia Alcay did a great job of displaying Consuelo’s emotions. I was able to notice when she felt at her lowest in the film, while at her doctor’s visit as her concerns multiplied, and when all her worries faded once she met her idol, Manuel Bravo.
Hot Latin Nights at the Granada!
A short directed by Franco Vidal was entertaining, including animations and salsa music. It tells the story of Carlos, an American-born teenager who learns to dance to conquer a girl. His proud Latin uncle, Tony “El Tío,” who owns the Granda, a nightclub, helps his nephew learn salsa because his crush will attend an event there. It appears that “El Tío” wants to teach his nephew more than just how to dance but to help him become proud of his background. This short had a well-structured plot that was easy to follow, and it helped that the main character was relatable. Carlos, a 200 percenter as he’s Cuban and American, is taught to dance by his uncle. He becomes frustrated because he can’t get the movements right, so out of anger, he says he’s not Cuban and doesn’t understand the obsession with his heritage. Carlos ends his speech with, “I’m too brown for America, and I’m too white for my own body.” Most of us 200%ers have probably felt this way sometime in our lives, where we don’t feel like we belong or fit into our cultures. After being so sure, he wouldn’t try dancing or attend the closing night at the Granda, where his crush would go. Carlos then goes to work, and his boss, Mr. Hernandez, tells him how he met his wife at the Granda. While everyone was dancing and sharing the same floor, Ms. Hernandez caught his eye, and although he had no idea how to dance, he danced all night with Ms. Hernandez. Seeing how a slight crush helped push him toward confidentially dancing and becoming educated about his culture was sweet!
Last but not least, Monarcas. A documentary portraying the story of two Guatemalan day laborers in Homestead, Florida, who faced wage theft, which later motivated them to continue the fight for justice and become protectors of their community. It also addresses Florida’s growing wage theft issue and the state’s legislation which appears to cause even more obstacles for such undocumented workers. I truly enjoyed watching this film because these workers are typically silenced by fear, confusion, or lack of information. But this film shows us a different story, where Pedro, Alejandro, and their community speak up. What I found even more moving was their repeated statements that all they want is for people to practice justice and that even undocumented workers have a right to a good life. While watching this, I felt so proud of all the advocates featured in the film, including the non-profit organization, WeCount!, which helped Alejandro and Pedro through their lawsuit against their former boss for more than $33,000 in unpaid wages. It was inspiring to see these diligent workers go through a hard time due to their lawsuit to come out even stronger and more informed after such a situation. I hope to hear more about Alejandro and Pedro’s journey of activism in the future.
Overall, all the films for Short Program 1 were great and creative. Other great films I was able to watch and recommend looking into are Before Madrid, Dead Enders, and Flores del Otro Patio.