Detail of the 2016 CineFestival poster. Image courtesy of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
Detail of the 2016 CineFestival poster. Image courtesy of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center will host its 38th annual CineFestival from Friday, Feb. 19 through Saturday, Feb. 27. The week-long event, one of the nation’s largest and longest-running Latino film festivals, showcases the work of various Latino filmmakers and actors in feature-length, short, and documentary films.

This year’s opening night event, “‘Mi Familia’ Family Reunion” on Friday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m., will feature the screening of “Mi Familia,” a 1995 indie film by Gregory Nava. A Q&A session with three of the film’s actors Esai Morales, Jacob Vargas, and Elpidia Carrillo will follow.

Set in East Los Angeles, the film depicts the lives and trials of three generations of a Mexican-American family who emigrated from Mexico to the U.S.

Jim Mendiola, CineFestival director, said “Mi Familia” was chosen “out of the vault” as the festival’s kick-off film because it showcases Latino’s long-time presence in the U.S. and its film industry.

“(Mi Familia) is an ensemble picture so it’s got a lot of Latino actors that are recognizable today,” he said, including Morales, Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Jimmy Smits and more.

The event is expected to sell out, Mendiola added.

Esai Morales plays "Chucho" in the movie "Mi Familia" or "My Family" (1995).
Esai Morales plays “Chucho” in the movie “Mi Familia” or “My Family” (1995).

Click here to check out the full film and event lineup and to purchase tickets. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center is located in the city’s Westside at 723 S. Brazos St.

The festival programming will continue through the following week with screenings of critically-acclaimed films like”Los Punks: We Are All We Have,” “Washington Heights,” and “600 Miles,” Mexico’s official submission for 2016 Academy Award consideration.

“Los Punks,” a documentary depicting the underground Los Angeles punk scene in Latino neighborhoods, had its world premiere at the 2016 Slamdance Festival. The showing at CineFestival on Friday, Feb. 26 at 9 p.m. will be the film’s second public screening.

“(The film) is really energetic and vibrant and showcases a subculture that also exists in San Antonio,” said Mendiola.

“Washington Heights,” a drama set in a Latino neighborhood in New York City, was the winner of the Narrative Audience Award at the 2002 Los Angeles Film Festival and the Feature Film Award at the 2002 Austin Film Festival. It’s CineFestival screening will be on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 8:30 p.m. and the film’s director Alfredo de Villa will be in attendance.

Tim Roth and Kristyan Ferrer star in "600 Miles" (2015). Directed by Gabriel Ripstein.
Tim Roth and Kristyan Ferrer star in “600 Miles” (2015). Directed by Gabriel Ripstein.

“600 Miles,” a thriller about a kidnapped U.S. alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives agent’s 600-mile journey with a member of a Mexican cartel, stars British actor Tim Roth alongside Mexican actor Kristyan Ferrer and won Best First Film at the 2015 Berlin Film Festival. It will be screened on Friday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Family Day

Sunday, Feb. 21 is Family Day at the festival, and will include two documentaries. “Maracaná,” about the 1950 Uruguay-Brazil World Cup soccer game, will be screened at 1 p.m. The documentary “Las Tesoros de San Antonio – a Westside Story” showcases the work of four bicultural, female San Antonio singers and will be shown at 5 p.m. A brief concert by Las Tesoros will follow the screening.

Youth Day

CineFestival will also showcase the work of local, young filmmakers in the community. This year’s programming includes a free event on Monday, Feb. 22 called “Youth Day” where San Antonio-area high school youth will have the opportunity to present their work to the public, with an award session to follow.

Free Classes/Panel Discussions

In addition to film screenings, the Festival will offer free panel discussions led by film industry professionals, including one featuring members of the Sundance Institute on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 11 a.m., and a master class on film editing by award-winning documentary film editor Carla Gutierrez on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m.

“(CineFestival) is really trying to develop talent,” Mendiola said. “We want to give these free opportunities for filmmakers from all across the country to help the local film scene.”

Amidst the recent #OscarsSoWhite debate about the lack of non-white actors in the group of 2016 Oscar nominees, one of the main focuses of this year’s festival is to highlight and celebrate “the Latino actor,” he said.

The festival will be promoting the hashtag #CineSoBrown in order to do so.

“(CineFestival) wants to assert that Latino talent exists,” Mendiola said. “This is a necessary discussion of diversity, in the Oscars and more broadly in Hollywood in general; absent in that discussion are Latinos since it’s usually a black or white discussion.”

CineFestival was founded in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Mendiola said, and actually predates the founding of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts center. The festival-goers, then just a group of Latino filmmakers and enthusiasts, would meet at the Oblate School of Theology, hang up a white sheet on the lawn, and screen the Latino-made films that were not being shown in mainstream media.

*Top image: Detail of the 2016 CineFestival poster. Image courtesy of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. 

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Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is