Latinxcellence: More Than Just A Shorts Showcase
A sold-out screening at the Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival brought together a prideful crowd of queer and trans Latine individuals who all shared a variety of kin-like commonalities, one being the love of film.
By Joey Harvey
April 10, 2023
A Latinx child with short brown hair. Wire and gemstones hang from their hair and face. A still from Beth Warrian’s Adore.
A sold-out screening at the Lupe Ontiveros Cinema Center in Downtown Los Angeles brought together a prideful crowd of queer and trans Latine individuals who all shared a variety of kin-like commonalities, one being the love of film. As a part of this year’s Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival, the Latinexcellence short film program highlighted six short films that each encapsulated and celebrated the Latine experience through a lens of creativity and honesty.
In a world of constant uncertainty, it’s moments like these where filmgoers can escape for a brief moment and immerse themselves in stories that speak to their experience. Throughout these films and the rest of the Latinxcellence program, a synergy made its way around the room, further connecting everyone from one another. For films such as This One Is for the Neighborhood, Out in Space, and Adore, the moments in these films were treasured, and the reaction from the audience…priceless.
Ben, a non-binary Latinx person, paints Donya, an older Latinx woman. A still from Miguel Melo’s This One is For The Neighborhood.
This One Is For The Neighborhood
For director and writer Miguel Melo, making this short was more than just a work of fiction, it was also a documentary. The film follows two characters who meet each other when Donya Vicky, played by Renee Victor, commissions Ben, played by ZYI, for a self-portrait painting to uplift her new home. We later learn that she moved into her new home because she sold her last house to land developers. Both characters are complex though they bare similar wounds, but ultimately they meet each other when they’re mourning their separate losses.
While building a narrative depicting the harms of gentrification and putting a face to those it affects, Melo included fragments and footage that entailed his own story back in Mexico where his grandmother’s home once stood. “That’s why I created this, because there’s so much loss, and I wanted to focus on the memories and the sentimental value of things.,” said Melo. “I just wanted to focus on what’s lost and how two very different people come together.”
What makes the film even more compelling is that, during the post-credits, the film includes raw demolition footage of the home he once grew up in. A component of the story Melo was anxious about while embarking on this project was that he was afraid that Ben’s nonbinary identity wasn’t a topic of discussion enough in the character’s dialog. But in doing so, he created a narrative in which Ben’s identity and personhood weren’t an issue nor a question. Instead, they were embraced by Vicky. Though they were completing a business transaction, the two characters leaned on each other and created a strong foundation throughout the film that not even developers could destroy.
Two Latinx women walk side by side through a desert, smiling together. A still from Nicolas Jara’s Out in Place.
Out in Place
For filmmaker Nicolas Jara, film has been such a part of their life from an early age that cinema was almost an inevitable career path to embark on. “I grew up in a very movie-watching family, going to the movies and renting movies and seeing movies at home was integral to our experience,” Jara said. His film featured in this year’s Outfest Fusion, Out in Place, follows Carrie, played by Ginna Diaz, and Nayelli, played by Izzy Bravo, a couple who embark on a psychedelic journey while moving into their new home in Joshua Tree.
While watching the film, you can feel what the characters feel. It’s a film that expresses the longing and hesitations of stability yet being able to seek solace in the ones you love while also making revelations on a magic mushroom trip. The film was inspired by a trip to Joshua Tree back in 2020 with friends. “My friend Jay and I are walking around, and I just feel this energy,” said Jara. “Anyone who’s been to Joshua Tree knows there’s something special about that space.” And within writing in January to filming in March, Jara’s vision came to fruition. From making home videos with his cousins to now having his short film debut at Outfest Fusion, Jara’s career path is just starting. And as for its trajectory, the sky is the limit!
A Latinx person with short dark hair with gray paint around their eyes looks upwards. A still from Beth Warrian’s Adore.
Before making her short film Adore, director and writer Beth Warrian took a ten-year gap away from filmmaking to work as a sous chef at a vegan restaurant. However, once she returned to the craft, she made this film as a thesis project for her undergraduate degree. It has since made its way to film festivals across Canada and this year’s Outfest Fusion.
Warrian’s 11 min short cuts deep and speaks to anyone who hopes to be embraced authentically and genuinely by their kin. With the film’s success, Warrian has many to thank, one being the film producer Sofia Bant, who played a significant role in the film. “She brought her heritage to the film. She’s Peruvian and Dutch, And I think once we started seeing this family as you know, maybe an immigrant family, someone who’s not just their gender identity, I think that really like made a lot of things click for us. Although she didn’t write pages, I consider her to be the sort of a co-author of the story,” Warrian said.
Aside from student film projects, this is Warrain’s first film, and for having such a long absence from the industry and craft, she was reassured that this was what she was meant to do. “I had such a good relationship with the actors and team. And I was just like, Okay, this is true. I can do this. I can keep learning. I can make something meaningful to everyone who’s involved.” Warrian continued, “It was really vindicating and quite emotional, I think to be making the film.”
Joey Harvey (they/them) is a Non-binary Mexican American journalist, creative writer, and poet based in the Los Angeles area. Their words have been featured in publications such as Queerty, INTO More, LA WEEKLY, and Trash Mag.
Harvey is one of the eight 2023 Outfest Inclusive Press Initiative Fellows for the Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival. You can learn more about them and the program here.
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