By Liz Lopez
AUSTIN, Texas – Latino voices continue to seek venues in the capital of Texas for expression, including through non-profit organizations. One of the longest-running cultural events devoted to Latino and Indigenous films and filmmakers, Cine Las Americas, achieves an important benchmark this year, presenting its 20th annual Cine Las Americas International Film Festival from May 3-7, 2017. The festival is the brainchild of Lara Coger and Celeste Quesada (née Serna Williams) who together with other organizers, recognized that the Latino experience in Austin was not being seen or heard. “Latin American cinema seems to be overlooked in this country,” Coger told the Austin Chronicle in 1998. “You can see French film, British film, and even German film, but rarely films from Latin America.”
While the founders have moved on, the festival has continued, a rare feat for any non-profit. Every year, CLAIFF boasts a full complement of feature film premieres, beginning on opening night this year with a presentation of “Me Estás Matando Susana” from Mexico, starring Gael García Bernal and directed by Roberto Sneider. CLAIFF20 will be presented at partnership venues including the Blanton Museum of Art, The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, and the Santa Cruz Center for Culture. The festival will once again offer narrative and documentary feature and short films, as well as music videos and experimental and animation selections, in competitive and non-competitive sections. Eleven award winners will be announced including perennial favorites the Hecho en Tejas Awards, and the Audience Award for Best “Emergencia” Youth Film.
Film festival director Jean Anne Lauer leads the coordination of this year’s film presentations and special events. “Each year, Cine Las Americas’ program reflects the complexity of contemporary life across the hemisphere and in diaspora, from diverse points of view and through innovative stylistic choices. We feature new trends and emerging talent in film and media arts, along with showcasing work by established masters,” says Lauer. “Our commitment to diversity and excellence in programming is supported by a number of partners, including Ambulante, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and the Austin-based organizations Latinitas and Austin Music Video Festival. New this year is a co-presentation with Experimental Response Cinema of contemporary Cuban videos. These partnerships enhance Cine Las Americas’ core mission of creating spaces for cross-cultural interaction and understanding.”
Today, CLA remains committed to what its founders began, showcasing Latino independent films and filmmakers, and it has grown to highlight films from all of the Americas, including from diverse Native American and LGBTQ+ communities. In 2016, the festival screened 38 feature films, 61 short films, and 16 music videos representing over 24 countries. In its history, Cine Las Americas has presented more than 2,000 films in Austin and at various screenings across the state of Texas, becoming one of the most prestigious Latino film organizations in the country.
The line-up for the 2017 Cine Las Americas International Film Festival will be announced in April. For more information and to check for screening schedules, visit www.cinelasamericas.org
ABOUT CINE LAS AMERICAS: Cine Las Americas is a multi-cultural, 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Austin Texas, offering theatrical screenings of films made by or about Latinos or indigenous peoples of the Americas. Films from Spain and Portugal are also included, enhancing a truly Pan-American cinematic experience. The mission of Cine Las Americas is to promote cross-cultural understanding and growth by educating, entertaining and challenging the diverse Central Texas community through film and media arts.
This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.