The North Carolina Latin American Film Festival

Friday, Oct. 9–Sunday, Oct. 18

All events online

COVID-19 has reshaped the moviegoing experience. Under Phase 3 restrictions, movie theaters can open, but only at a 30 percent capacity. Gone, for now, are the worry-free days of overpriced popcorn, candy, and sodas. 

Beginning on Friday, though, the 35th anniversary of the North Carolina Latin American Film Festival will offer the camaraderie of watching movies with others while learning more about Latin American culture. While this virtual experience won’t include the concession stand, it will bring a collection of great film experiences for viewers to discover together. 

The virtual NCLAFF is free and it will showcase popular Latin American films from over the years, alongside niche offerings. This year, 17 films from eight different countries will be showcased.

Starting out with bang is La Historia Oficial, directed by Luis Puenzo. This drama won an Academy Award for Best International Feature Film and a Golden Globe in 1986. A more recent feature, NO, directed by Pablo Larrain and starring Gael García Bernal, will screen on Saturday at 7 p.m. 

Sharon Mujica, the former educational outreach program director for the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at UNC and Duke, began the NCLAFF in 1986. The festival is hosted by the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. 

Miguel Rojas-Sotelo has been directing the NCLAFF since 2008. He has many favorite memories from the festivals, but one year at The Carolina Theatre stands out. A film about Latin American migrants was playing, the director was in the audience, and the theater was packed with people who Rojas-Sotelo says were able to glimpse themselves in the narrative.

“When you’re able to see yourself—and your story—up on the big screen, there is a sense of being accounted for,” Rojas-Sotelo says. 

This is what the festival aims to do: Give a voice to the Latinx stories that American films often fail to present.

“Even though this is virtual, we can connect as a community who wants to share stories of people close by or faraway to understand that our humanity and ways of life are common,” Rojas-Sotelo told The INDY.

Along with the films, there will also be a series of NCLAFF Conversations. Leading these discussions are filmmakers and film scholars such as UNC-Chapel Hill Associate Professor Emil’ Keme, who recently won the Casa de las Américas Literary Criticism Prize. These scholars will come together to share their research and scholarship to the public.

“The conversations are open and [we] encourage the public to engage with some of these important scholars about gender issues—talking about masculinity issues in films, talking about aesthetics of labor, or Indigenous films or Afro films in the global stage,” Rojas-Sotelo says. 

The conversations will kick off on Friday at 3 p.m. with, “Aesthetics of Labor in Latin American Film,” with Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky, an Assistant Professor Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago.

The festival will continue through Sunday October 18. 

Most importantly, “everybody is welcome,” Rojas-Sotelo says. Just remember to bring your own popcorn.

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