Diario Judío México - I think one can learn a lot by being exposed to other cultures and ideas. It is good to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We need bridges of understanding, not walls. The San Diego Latino Film Festival, now in its 26th year, offers a wide variety of films from Mexico, Spain, Central and South America as well as the United States. These include educational films as well as comedies, dramas, and documentaries, etc.

Latin American culture is much more diverse than many realize, and can change from country to country. This is one of the reasons why the festival is important. Besides entertainment, it also provides a window into the differences and the richness of Latin culture and its people.

The San Diego Latin Film Festival was established 26 years ago by the Media Arts Center, a nonprofit that not only brings films to San Diego, but also provides various workshops and youth/ media tech day camps.

The festival and the Media Arts Center have been helmed from the beginning by Ethan Van Thillo, who had a vision that has grown and blossomed. Since its inception, over 3,380 films and videos have been shown. Today Van Thillo is ably supported by his right hand man, Moises Esparza, along with a dedicated staff and group of volunteers.

With over 160 films to choose from, there is something for everyone. Jewish voices are heard in the festival. One of the movies I want to see is “The Mamboniks” about how “bagels meet bongos”.  I remember when I was very young, my parents listening to both Mambo and Cuban music from the 1950’s, although apparently, the Jewish love affair with Latin music began in the 1920’s. This movie has a great soundtrack with the music of Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and Perez Prado.


There are romantic comedies. “La boda de mi mejor amigo” about a food blogger named Julia who wants to prevent her best friend, Manuel, from getting married. I I find it interesting that her name is Julia, as Julia Roberts starred in the movie, “My best friend’s wedding”, which had the same premise. Another romantic comedy is “Si yo fuera tu” about a couple whose marriage has taken a toll on them. After some cosmic magic, they wake up in each other’s body and by walking in each other’s shoes, find their way back.

Another movie is “Dos veces tu” directed by Salomon Askenazi. This drama is about two women who exchange husbands for fun and how a fatal accident changes their lives and creates new and strange relationships.

The two romantic comedies mentioned above, “La boda de mi mejor amigo” and Si yo fuera tu” can also fall into the Mexican-Jewish category as the former is produced by Daniel Berman Ripstein and the latter is directed by Alejandro Lubezki. Both come from Jewish cinema family dynasties in Mexico.

Ripstein, grandson of Alfredo Ripstein, continues the family legacy and will be honored at the Latino Film Festival this year on March 23rd. Alejandro Lubezki is the younger brother of the Oscar award winning cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, and son of actor/producer, Muni Lubezki.

Another movie that I want to see is “Yo no me llamo Ruben Blades”. This documentary is directed by Panamanian Jewish director, Abner Benaim. Ruben Blades has been one of my favorite musicians and actors for many years. This film explores the former lawyer’s life and legacy of one of Latin America’s most important singer/songwriters and an important figure in the world of salsa and activist music. Check out his famous song, “Pedro Navaja” among other songs with a social message.

Speaking of social messages, another important highlight of the festival will be the finalists of the “Migrant Voices” challenge. There are 15 finalists and their three minute documentaries will be shown and a grand prize winner will be chosen.

On the website, there are different categories listed, including highlighted films. For example, if you are a sports fan, check out the film, “Chivas”, which is about Mexico’s most popular soccer team. There is “Campeones”, which is about an assistant coach in Spain’s top basketball league and “Bayoneta”, about a retired boxer from Tijuana who goes to live in Finland. Talk about cross cultural differences!

The movies will be shown at both the Fashion Valley AMC movie theaters as well as the Digital Gym movie theater on El Cajon Blvd. Besides the movies, there will be the Sonido Latino 2019 Daily Concerts and a Sabor Latino, Food, Beer and Wine Festival.  Flamenco with Roots will be dancing on March 17th and 24th, led by the well-known Sephardic dancer and teacher, Sonny Burton or Sonia La Judea.

The San Diego Latino Film Festival will be held from March 14th to March 24th.


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