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The Triumphant Return of LALIFF

October 3, 2019
2 min read time

Last year, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) returned after a five-year hiatus. Back again this past summer, LALIFF “doubled in audience, sponsors and excitement,” says Rafael Agustín, LALIFF’s Executive Director. “We weren’t prepared for the rapid growth.”

Two of this year’s most popular films, The Infiltrators, and Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage, even demanded second screenings. Agustín says it was a proud moment, since both films were made by American Latinx filmmakers Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra, and Ben DeJesus, respectively.

Another highlight was the shorts program, which featured 16 different shorts. As Agustín puts it, “For film festivals like ours, the shorts programs are always the most inspiring, since they are the next generation of storytellers.”

This year, the festival also launched a new episodics program. Stories ranged from six to 36 minutes and featured everything from a behind-the-scenes look at Miss Congeniality from RuPaul’s Drag Race, to the story of a jaded Latina news producer reconnecting with her activist roots after an anti-immigrant candidate wins the U.S. presidency.

Another new addition to the festival was Latinx in Animation: A Masterclass. LXiA was founded in 2018 by Magdiela Hermida Duhamel and Bryan Dimas with the goal of creating a network of Latinx professionals to empower “diversity in animation from page to post.” As part of LALIFF, LXiA presented the animation master class, which also included a Q&A session and a special screening of Amazon’s new adult animated series, Undone, created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy and starring Rosa Salazar.

2019 also marked the second year of LALIFF Legacy, the festival’s student film festival powered by the films of the Youth Cinema Project (YCP). The YCP, which started in 2013, revolves around project-based learning. According to its website, the YCP is an initiative that bridges gaps in both opportunity and achievement, and one that creates “lifelong learners and the entertainment industry’s multicultural future.”

It’s basically a “push-in program” that teaches children from underprivileged neighborhoods between fourth grade and high school how to make films, says Sergio Monserrate, the festival’s director of programming.

According to Agustín, attendance for LALIFF Legacy doubled. “Part of that was word of mouth from last year by people that attended,” he says. “Industry professionals could not believe the level of professionalism by our elementary, middle school and high school students—especially when they conducted their own Q&As!”

Ultimately, this year’s LALIFF was a success. Agustín attributes it to “our incredible LALIFF staff and our inspiring LALIFF volunteers,” which also doubled in size from last year. “The volunteers and the audience that attended the festival reinvigorated our mission to support authentic stories from the U.S. Latinx community,” he says.

As for next year, Agustín has big plans. “[We plan] to grow every aspect of the festival: LALIFF Film, LALIFF Music, LALIFF Art, and LALIFF Legacy. We truly hope to make LALIFF the home of Latinx content—and that includes TV and podcasts.”

Interested in learning more or becoming a part of the LALIFF movement? Agustín says, “Everyone is welcome to be a part of our LALIFF family.” He advises people visit latinofilm.org to sign up for LALIFF’s newsletter, or to follow them on social media for news and updates, including monthly screenings, volunteer opportunities, and submission deadlines.

“And if you’re a filmmaker, you should consider becoming part of the Youth Cinema Project. It truly does take a village to raise a child. Filmmakers of all backgrounds should consider becoming part of our village.” 

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