Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

L.A. Latino International Film Festival starts


Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival

A still from the documentary "Immigrant Nation! The Battle for the Dream"

The 14th annual Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival kicked off last night in Los Angeles at Mann’s Chinese in Hollywood. And now that the red carpet has been walked and the luminaries have made their appearances, it’s time for the rest of us to dig into some terrific offerings as the festival begins in earnest today.

There are a number of films this year that deal with immigration and related themes, something to be expected, but not always as one might expect.

The more straightforward among them are “Immigrant Nation! The Battle for the Dream,” a documentary involving the activist deportee Elvira Arellano, who took shelter in a Chicago church for several months between 2006 and 2007 and was eventually returned to Mexico – taking along her U.S.-born son – after immigration authorities caught up with her in L.A. Another film, “Harvest of Loneliness,” documents the Bracero program that brought million of Mexican workers to the U.S. between the early 1940s and early 1960s, foreshadowing the back-and-forth over guest workers in recent years and the immigration debate in general.

Other films, among them the features “Memories of Overdevelopment” and “Rabia” are more complex examinations of the immigrant’s existence. “Rabia” deals with two young South American immigrants in Spain; “Memories of Overdevelopment” - perhaps the film I’m most eager to see – is based on a Cuban novel that itself is a follow-up to the novel that spawned the 1968 film “Memories of Underdevelopment,” a classic film of post-revolutionary Cuba in which its affluent, intellectual hero finds himself deciding to stay in Cuba as others leave, and questioning both options as he ponders where he fits in. In “Memories of Overdevelopment,” the hero leaves – and find himself equally out of place in the United States, as much philosophically as culturally.

Today's Los Angeles Times has more details on the films featured. The festival continues through Wednesday, with screenings scheduled from this afternoon on.