Since not long after its founding in 2002, Organización Latino-Americana of the East End’s annual Latino Film Festival has been a crucial part of its mission to highlight Latino artists and culture. But until this year, audiences from afield would have to travel to the South Fork to see the films. That’s changing this year.
This year’s festival, to be held Nov. 17 through 19, now for the first time will include a day-long series of films for all ages at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.
“I’ve been looking at what we can do to bring things to Riverhead and the North Fork,” said OLA’s Executive Director, Minerva Perez, now in her second year heading the organization.
“We love the space and the board has been wonderful to work with,” she said of the Vail-Leavitt, where on Nov. 19 the festival will screen “El Jeremîas,” a family film about a Mexican boy genius, and “Los Nadie,” a Colombian coming-of-age story, followed by a concert and reception.
The film festival, now in its 14th year, has long been headquartered at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, where opening night festivities will once again be held this year.
The opening will begin at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 17 with a bilingual tour of the exhibits in the museum, followed by a reception from 6 to 7 p.m. The feature screening of the evening will be the 2016 Chilean film “Neruda,” about the early political travails of the Nobel Prize winning poet and statesman Pablo Neruda.
Ms. Perez, whose background is in theater, said she’s working to expand the film festival, putting out a call for new films that has brought two Long Island premieres to this year’s festival, She hopes to expand that effort next year for the festival’s 15th anniversary.
The primary requirement is the films be in Spanish with English subtitles.
This year’s festival includes two Long Island premieres, along with question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers, of two films made in New York.
The first, to be screened at the Parrish Art Museum opening night, is Miguel J. Soliman’s “Desde el Principio,” an interchange between two voice actors as they’re reading a script.
“It’s only 10 minutes, but it just draws you in immediately,” said Ms. Perez. “It’s well-filmed and amazingly acted, filled with subtext between the lines of the film they’re reading.”
The Saturday night film, “Translúcido,” is also made in New York, but features and is co-written Ecuadorian telenovela star Roberto Manrique, who plays a young man who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and must decide how to handle his final days.
The screening will be held at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
Ms. Perez said the film is about a topic that “is really controversial in the Latino community, but it’s a topic that’s important to discuss, whether we’re religious or non-religious. What do we all think about when having conversations about the end of life?”
“But it’s not a drag of a film. It’s beautiful,” she added. “It’s taken the topic on and mastered it in a way that big budget Hollywood never managed to do.
The way the characters were handled, you actually felt, even more so, the value of life.”
“Translúcido” will be screened at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18, with a reception beforehand at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general seating and $20 for preferred seating.
The film will be followed by a question and answer session with the actors and director Leonard Zelig.
The Sunday films at the Vail-Leavitt begin at 1 p.m. on Nov. 19 with the screening of “El Jeremias,” a 2015 feature film set in Sonora, Mexico, where eight-year-old Jeremías finds out he is a gifted child and initiates a journey of self discovery. All tickets for this showing are $5.
The evening film, “Los Nadie,” translated “The Nobodys,” is an edgy 2016 Colombian film about a group of young outsiders who love screamo punk music, coming of age on the streets of the city of Medellin.
While searching for films to screen at the festival, Ms. Perez heard from many people who had enjoyed “Los Nadie” on its initial release, but she worried a bit when previewing the film and noticing that the characters weren’t engaging in the most exemplary behavior.
But the theater professional in her quashed those thoughts, as she thought of the bad behavior in formative American films like “Rebel without a Cause” and “The Outsiders.”
“I’m not going to say that all Latino teens go to church every day and eat cookies and milk,” she said. “This film is really well done. The characters are real. They’re not glossed up. They’re doing things that some teens do — smoking pot, doing graffiti.”
The 8 p.m. screening of “Los Nadie,” for ages 16 and up, is $10 for general admission and $20 for preferred seating.
It will be followed by live music from Mila Tina and Junicko, along with food and non-alcoholic beverages, in the downstairs black box theater at the Vail-Leavitt from 9:30 to 11 p.m.
Ms. Perez said she’s encouraging filmmakers who are working on projects that might be ready in time for next year’s festival to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She said she’s looking to add a Portuguese-language film to the next year’s mix, but other than Portuguese films, the main criteria is “a film that can be accessible to audiences that speak both Spanish and English.” They could also be films that don’t involve language. She’d also like to see work from student filmmakers throughout the East End.
“I’m going to keep pushing every year, so that every year this festival is getting bigger and has more support,” she said. “There are many different ways people can get involved.”