I can still remember with more detail than I can evoke a lot of important moments of my life, the first time I attended a Film Festival. It was 1997 and I had just moved from Argentina to Spain with my family, we relocated in San Sebastian and my new friends mentioned that a film festival took place in the city. As months passed you could feel the excitement in the streets, and when September came, the entire city got ready to receive the thousands of people coming to enjoy some of the best cinema in the world.
I was already a film buff, but this was a completely different experience; there were actors and directors walking around the city; people scratching their heads trying to figure out what film they were going to pick, I spent hours working out my schedule trying to fit as many films as possible in one day; but most of all, the excitement of the unexpected was palpable all over town. It was a celebration. That was the year when Claude Chabrol won the Golden Shell for The Swindle, and Jeremy Irons received the Donostia Award falling in love with him and dreaming I was his Lolita. But the one thing I remember the most was the day I was having a coffee and a guy with British accent approached me, halfway through our conversation he mentioned he was one of the creators of Wallace & Gromit. I was in shock. Really? I couldn't believe it. I was talking to a Director! A Director! Those people whom you only see in TV, newspapers and sometimes they walk by on the street. It was then when I knew Film Festivals were magical and that I had just started a life long relationship with them.
Film festivals are unique in so many ways, every festival, every edition brings something new to the table; from the selected films to all sorts of technological advances filling up the ever-expanding cloud, or even the criteria under which films are being screened and curated along the way. However, there's one true aspect that rarely ever changes and it's the festival's core goal: Playing films that otherwise would have had very little chance of getting to the big screen while connecting the audience to the people who made them. It is a great experience to attend a film screening and be able to ask questions afterwards. We are used to receiving information with so many filters and biased opinions that is refreshing to know that Festivals are a space where all those barriers break to be face to face with film directors and receive the information first hand.
Panels and roundtables are other spaces for dialogue offered by Film Festivals, where up and coming filmmakers, producers and folks interested in film connect and interact with experts in the field, in this case the film industry. Producers, writers, actors, distributors, and sales agents among others, come together to discuss current issues and the state of cinema today. So how is that film festivals choose what subjects are going to be discussed? The same effort put on selecting the films for a festival, is put on curating the panels to create a balance mix of subjects that is relevant not only to the film industry but the general audience interested in knowing a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes, or should we say the screen.
For that purpose the New York International Latino Film Festival (NYILFF) has put together a series of panels that tackle on diverse issues: The Changing Face of Latinas in the Media, exploring the evolution of Latinas roles in media in general; From the Streets to the Screen, a discussion on how the Hip Hop culture is portrayed in the silver screen; Marketing and Distribution for your Latino Film, where a group of renown industry professionals will shed some light on how to go about promoting a film once is completed; and a Conversations between HBO, Tribeca Film Institute and the winner of the HBO/NYILFF Short Film Competition, Carmen Pelaez.
My relationship with festival continues and it is a very happy one I must say, the only difference now is that I work for them trying to create spaces for dialogue where other people can feel the same way I felt in San Sebastian 1997.
NYILFF takes place from August 13th to 19th. For more information on times, venues and events visit www.nylatinofilm.com