By Michelle Poveda
Latino culture returns to the silver screen March 8 to 18, as the 19th annual San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) arrives at Ultra Star Cinemas in Hazard Center.
During the nearly two decades since its inception, SDLFF (presented by Media Arts Center San Diego in North Park , mediaartscenter.org) has screened more than 3,000 films and videos, drawing more than 200,000 total attendees.
Artists from across Latin America and the U.S. submitted 550 works for this year's SDLFF. Whittling the list to 160 films was the responsibility of festival artistic director, Lisa Franek-who dreads the rejection process.
"I'm a filmmaker and I hate doing it," says Franek. "I don't want to discourage anyone, but it's a necessary evil."
SDLFF 2012 highlights include America, a drama starring Edward James Olmos ; El Sueño de Ivan (Ivan's Dream), a comedy starring Demian Bichir ; and La Otra Familia (The Other Family), a drama starring Jorge Salinas and Carmen Salinas.
Don't speak Spanish? No problemo. Many of the festival's films are in English. Most of the ones that aren't include subtitles, furthering Media Arts Center San Diego's mission of promoting community through film.
"The festival is the embodiment of the sentiment, 'mi casa es su casa,'" Franek says.
In addition to film screenings, audience members are also invited to attend discussion panels with the films' actors and directors. And the after-parties promise to be biggies.
"I went to Sundance, and our parties are better," Franek says.
Tickets cost $10 per film; $90 for a Film Pass, granting access to 11 films with VIP seating and no lines; or $180 for a Festival Pass, good for VIP admission to all films and galas.