What to watch at this week’s Latino Film Festival

‘In Other Words,’ ‘Chicuarotes’ among the more than 175 films that will be screened


San Diego and Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe play two of the stars in “In Other Words,” a romantic comedy written and directed by wife-husband duo Cristina Nava and Patrick Perez Viaduri, respectively.

The film details a man, Bryan McClure’s True Andrews, who debuts a new dating app that claims it can find a match for anyone. Though it starts off in San Diego, it soon migrates south of the border, where high jinks, hilarity and, naturally, a bilingual romantic dalliance ensue.

The film also stars former “Saturday Night Live” star Chris Kattan, who returns to the silver screen after several years of doing smaller television projects. He plays the quirky tech billionaire Maximillian Woods, who ends up being the buyer for Andrews’ app. Kattan came recommended to Nava and Perez from former “SNL” writer Andrew Steele, who had also previously linked the couple up with Will Ferrell for another project of theirs.

“In Other Words” was scheduled to be shown at the 27th San Diego Latino Film Festival, but the event -- which was set to begin Thursday -- has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

Though “In Other Words” is intended to be universal and lighthearted, Nava and Perez also shed some light on some of the deeper themes highlighted in the film.

“Our film is a comment on stereotypes in the sense that nobody in the film is what you expect a Mexican to be,” Perez says.

“If you’re judging by other movies or the way that Mexicans in the last 3½ years have been talked about and portrayed, or any of the conversations that have been happening in the last 3½ years about Mexicans, in particular, the stereotypes narrow down to one, two or three words. What is it, rapists? Drug dealers? Murderers?” Nava expands while laughing and making her larger point.

“When he first meets the girl who turns out to be Mexican (Angelica Beltran, played by Natasha Esca), she’s blond and doesn’t speak English, and that surprises (McClure’s character). So that defies his expectations,” Perez explains. “And then when they get to the Valle de Guadalupe? It’s not at all what he expects Mexico to look like. When they meet these incredible chefs and vintners, for example. It also defies the audience’s expectation of how we’ve seen Mexico portrayed mostly in narco movies and drug dealers and danger and violence. This is a love letter to Valle de Guadalupe and a love letter to Mexico. It defies the character’s expectations and the audience’s expectations, we believe, and shows the side of Mexico that most people don’t see.”

Apart from portraying the unique charm and magic of the Valle de Guadalupe, which is something many San Diegans can easily understand, the film also touches on issues of deportation, migrant work and family separation. Perez says this was intentional -- both he and Nava want to explore these issues against the beauty and pain that all world issues happen against.

Overall, though, it’s a love story -- a universal narrative that will hopefully bring in a wider audience outside of the Chicano, Mexican and Latino community and take advantage of what Nava feels is a bright time for attention paid to Latinos in show business, be it actors, writers, directors or producers. She points to the recent success of Netflix’s “Gentefied” as an example.

“We’re trying to just normalize, you know, our participation,” Nava explains. “All the characters are just people. They don’t have Mexican issues. They have human issues.”

Other Highlights

The San Diego Latino Film Festival boasts over 175 films featuring top names, including Salma Hayek Pinault, Javier Bardem, Joaquín Cosío, Gael García Bernal, Ricardo Darín, and Diego Maradona. The showings will take place between AMC Fashion Valley and Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

“Birth Wars,” a gripping documentary directed by Janet Jarman, chronicles a power struggle between doctors and midwives in Mexico about whose vision of childbirth should prevail. “Border South” is another documentary, directed by Raúl O. Paz-Pastrana, who spent four years following migrant routes from southern Mexico to the Mexico-U.S. border. The result of those travels, the documentary is an up-close and personal view of the human rights crisis gripping the United States’ southern border and points south.

As for feature narratives, the festival showcases Gael García Bernal’s second feature-length narrative film, “Chicuarotes.” The actor-turned-director delivers a harsh look at the lives of two teenagers engaging in petty crimes in their attempts to escape their impoverished neighborhood.

Bryant is a freelance writer.

San Diego Latino Film Festival

When: Canceled (was scheduled for March 12-22)

Where: AMC Fashion Valley and Digital Gym Cinema in North Park

Tickets: $300 VIP pass; $225 Festival Pass; $120 11-film pass; $50 five-film pass



10:13 a.m. March 12, 2020: This story has been updated to reflect the cancellation of the San Diego Latino Film Festival.