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Pride at new Latino Film Festival
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Pride at new Latino Film Festival

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Nearly two years ago, Cuban poet, writer and artistic promoter Jorge Enrique Gonzalez-Pacheco and Chicano scholar, filmmaker and activist Lonnie Tristan Renteria met for the first time over pancakes and coffee at the Capitol Hill IHOP. It was at that meeting the Seattle Latino International Film Festival was born. Renteria said the two men looked at each other and said, "This is an ambitious idea. Do you think we can do it?"

By the end of the meeting, Renteria said, he and Pacheco realized that "the world is ready for it, and I think Seattle is ready for it."

According to festival officials, the aim is to exhibit films that recognize the richness and diversity of Spanish-speaking communities worldwide. The broad range of Latino cultural expression cannot be minimized to stereotypes. Instead, they say, their mission is to both educate against and dispel social myths by offering a forum to voices that represent the multiplicity of perspectives in the Latino experience, and to bring focus back to common ground of all communities, our humanity.

Although there's been plenty of hype about a festival such as this one, it wasn't until Renteria and Pacheco arrived that the idea became a reality. The two Latino men have been tirelessly working on the project together to make sure the public will get to view the best possible films in the genre.

"We've kind of become brothers," Renteria told SGN. "We tease each other, calling it a marriage - he's the artist and I'm the executive."

He said they have great love for the project, adding, "The thing is, we trust each other a lot."

Still, Renteria says the Seattle International Latino Film Festival is not about them; it's about getting the LGBT and Latino communities together.

"I want people to go to the festival to support an alliance," he told SGN. "This is a way to bridge the Latino and LGBT communities: by watching world-class films. We are not bringing trash - these films have won a lot of major awards."

Renteria described the film lineup as "magnets for awards" and said they will inspire people to visit the places depicted onscreen. You will be surprised to see they are not the third-world and harsh realities depicted on mainstream news stations, Renteria said, adding he hopes the films will convey the feeling that "we all share the same humanity."

"Essentially, what we are trying to do is show that there are many things happening in Latino countries," he said. "There is a richness in culture that cannot be denied."

The festival will not be devoid of Gay content. Both Renteria and Pacheco are Gay, and did not want to leave the LGBT community out of the festival. Renteria said they have two confirmed films that can be described as Gay films, but that a lot of the other movies in the festival will feature some Queer content and characters.

Renteria is an active member in the local LGBT community, continually working with Three Dollar Bill Cinema and Gay City. However, he said most of his activism is not doing work from within; it's going out and creating alliances.

"It is OK to ask people from other communities to be part of the movement," he told SGN. "I am Latino and Gay; I have multiple identities which allow me to move from each community with ease. I can go into both communities and push ideas. That is where my activism is now."

The activist/filmmaker held screening on July 21 of his Gay City documentary What's Right With Gays These Days, a film he made as a response to LGBT persons always being asked, "What's wrong with you?" Renteria said in his film he asks LGBT people to tell the world "what is right with them."

"Our community has always thought of ourselves in pathological ways. It's time to change that," said Renteria. "When you're doing something right with yourself, you are doing something right with the community."

The Seattle International Latino Film Festival's inaugural season will begin September 24 and run for three days. The festival will open at Landmark Theater's Harvard Exit, with most of the films screened at Northwest Film Forum and Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. The hope, Renteria says, is that the festival will grow to a week-long - or longer - celebration over time.

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