Puerto Rican filmmaking figures prominently in this year’s Philadelphia Latino Film Festival with stories that explore identity, humor and cultural displacement.
One of the films tackles directly the complex task of naming a generation. It’s not X, Y or Z but it’s certainly based on the alphabet. Which in Spanish has 29 letters. The oddest one is the “enye” ; you know that “n” with a wavy line on top. It’s so characteristic that it has been adopted as the namesake for a rapidly expanding segments of the Latino population.
“I am an enye,” said filmmaker and blogger Denise Soler Cox in her work “Being Enye.”
“It’s a group of people here in the United States that is 16 million strong and growing, a group of people that found themselves stuck between two worlds because they were born in the United States to parents who were born in Spanish speaking countries,” she said.
With her personal documentary Soler-Cox wanted to speak for an entire generation of Latinos living between several worlds . She uses a poignant and often humorous tone to tell the story and says that “sometimes we don’t feel Latino enough and sometimes we don’t feel American enough, but we are both.”
“Enye” is one of the four full-length films and 14 shorts at this year’s Philadelphia Latino Film Festival. The selections says, Marangeli Mejia-Rabell, a Puertorican “enye” herself and the director of the festival, range from first-person narratives, to family dramas, erotic musings and full-length features. Some of the works have been presented at Cannes and other international festivals.
She says that “one of the things this year’s festival does is capture what’s happening in communities throughout Latin America and the Unites States now.
The film “Normal” depicts the deep division in Venezuela’s political reality through the plight of an anti-government protester who takes refuge from the police bullets, in an old boyfriend’s apartment He is loyal to then President Hugo Chavez ‘s political movement. She is fighting for change.
Normal takes place during the rioting that occurred in Venezuela in 2014 (Screengrab via phlaff.org)
The backdrop of most of the films, especially the Puerto Rican entries, is economic unrest. But as Mejia-Rabell points out, unrest of any kind is a powerful motivator for artists
“It’s at times of crisis when people really tap into the innovator in them, so the entrepreneurial spirit really emerges and people excel creatively,” she said.
Other films in the festival showcase work from Colombia, the Dominican Republic and U.S. Latino filmmakers. There’s even a movie that was recently presented at the Cannes film festival about Peruvian “Nikkei.” A portrait of a family and community of Peruvians of Japanese descent.
The Philadelphia Latino Film Festival starts today runs through the weekend at both at the University of the Arts and Kimmel Center. It’s accompanied by workshops and panels. The organizers are making plans to secure a permanent venue in the city. The latest idea is to take the films on the road in a traveling showcase that would play in predominantly Latino communities all around Pennsylvania.