18th OLA Film Festival Offers a Cultural Bridge

A scene from “The Infiltrators” (“Los infiltrados”).

As a nonprofit organization, the primary mission of OLA (Organización Latino Americana) of Eastern Long Island is to advocate for the East End’s Latino immigrants. But as Minerva Perez, the group’s executive director, is quick to point out, OLA’s mission isn’t limited to helping the immigrant population navigate complicated legal or municipal issues. It also seeks to build bridges by connecting Spanish-speaking residents with the wider year-round community and, in the process, educate everyone about the concerns and strengths of their neighbors.

OLA’s annual Latino Film Festival of the Hamptons is designed to do just that. This year’s festival (the 18th) runs Friday and Saturday, September 17 and 18, with award-winning films from Guatemala, Colombia and the United States that will be screened at two locations — the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill and the Sag Harbor Cinema.

When asked if there is a theme to the trio of films that will be presented this year, Perez said: “The pursuit of truth and the courage to speak it. The three films I found presented themselves as the right combination. If you find three films all of same type, that’s not ideal.

“We also take a look at what we did last year and make sure we’re not choosing films from the same countries,” she continued. “We want to make sure the festival is getting something new.”

A scene from “La Llorona.”

All three films in the festival are in Spanish with English subtitles. The first film in the lineup, “La Llorna” (or “The Weeping Woman”), comes from Guatemala courtesy of director Jayro Bustamante. It will be screened outdoors at the Parrish Art Museum on September 17, and it uses a well-known Latin American folkloric legend of the ghosts of the past to explore the real-life genocide of Mayan people in Guatemala that began in the 1960s and continued for decades under the reign of José Efraín Ríos Montt.

“The genre is horror, which is not one we’ve ever done before,” Perez said. “It uses the legend of this weeping woman that will show up when bad things have happened, and if you see her, it’s like an omen.

“It’s beautiful, lush and gorgeous to look at — but also horrifying,” she said. “It’s really well acted and kind of moody, but meaningful.”

“La Llorna,” which premiered at the 2019 Venice Film Festival and also screened at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, has won numerous awards. It was selected as the Guatemalan entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards, making the shortlist of 15 films.

The doors for the Parrish screening will open at 6 p.m. Friday, and prior to the film, guests are invited to a 6:30 p.m. reception on the museum’s terrace followed by gallery tours (in English and Spanish) of the exhibition “Tomashi Jackson: The Land Claim.” The outdoor screening begins at 7:30 p.m. with a trailer of a new series of shorts co-produced by OLA titled “Opening Hearts,” followed by the screening of “La Llorna,” and after the film, a prerecorded interview with Bustamante.

“We wanted to make time for a tour of Tomashi Jackson’s show, which highlights the African American, Shinnecock and Latinx community of the East End and explores whose land is whose and how it gets taken,” Perez said of the evening. “‘Opening Hearts’ is a film made for OLA by Christiane Arbesu and is a series of shorts highlighting immigration stories in our community to make sure other conversations are out there.

A scene from “Days of the Whale” (“Los días de la ballena”).

“We’ll show a short snippet of the film and what it is like to be in a room with immigrants and to hear these stories.”

On Saturday, the film festival moves to Sag Harbor Cinema where both films presented are geared toward younger audiences. The first, at 7 p.m., is “Days of the Whale” (“Los Días de la Ballena”), a film by writer and director Catalina Arroyave which is co-presented by Cinema Tropical. Set in Medellín, Colombia, the story follows Cristina and Simon, two young graffiti artists who paint the city. But tensions arise and the fears that youth often deal with in terms of violence and the difficulties of growing up soon surface.

“It’s a film that I just fell in love with,” Perez said. “It’s about two teen protagonists in Colombia and the relationship between one of the teenagers and her dad, which is one of the best father-daughter relationship stories I’ve seen in a long while. It also has a soundtrack of new Latino music that’s kind of fun and fresh, and it’s a really well done film.”

Also at the 7 p.m. screening, “Voices of Youth” (“Voces de la Juventud”), will be shown. The 6-minute film was directed by Sag Harbor’s Allura Leggard (a recent graduate of Ithaca College) and produced by OLA Media Lab.

At 9:30 p.m., OLA hosts an “Under 21” screening at Sag Harbor Cinema that begins with “Myth and Motion” (“Mito y Movimiento”), a 28-minute video concert by Carolina Fuentes featuring inspiring images and music that was also produced by OLA Media Lab. The main feature, “The Infiltrators” (“Los Infiltrados”), directed by Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera, follows, co-presented by Sag Harbor Cinema. A live conversation with Rivera will follow the screening.

“The Infiltrators” tells the story of young immigrants, including Claudio Rojas, who is detained by ICE officials outside his Florida home and transferred to a detention center used as a holding space for imminent deportations. His family contacts the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, a group of activist Dreamers known for stopping deportations, for help. The film uses documentary footage and reenactments to tell the story.

“It’s a mocumentary based on a true story and it recreates DACA kids breaking into a detention facility to help them break out and escape with lawyers and contact numbers,” Perez said. “I think one of the key actors may have been detained from a result of being in the film. It’s about bravery, seeking the truth, and these kids saying I don’t care what I have at stake, we have to help.

“I think it’s important for adults and kids to see that bravery in action. The future doesn’t wait around for someone else to do it,” added Perez, who hopes that teens will turn out for the programming on Saturday.

She adds that breaking down stereotypes about various Central and South American cultures by highlighting films that offer unexpected narratives is one of the primary reasons the OLA film festival was founded back in 2002.

“It was started to show different stories. There’s this idea that, ‘Oh everyone’s from one country and has the same storyline,’ but there are films about Chilean Jews or elderly folks elsewhere,” she said. “We once chose an El Salvador film based on ‘Othello,’ a sexy thriller set in a middle-class family. No one would’ve ever thought that’s El Salvador — it looked like a house in the Hamptons with characters behaving badly.

“It opens the eyes to others with good art,” she added.

The film festival also provides the community with a rare opportunity to meet people from a different culture in a social setting on the East End.

“Sometimes, it might be their only opportunity to be around others who are not exactly like them,” Perez said. “If you go into any one of the Spanish-speaking delis and talk to people, community members are happy to see you and talk to you. But people get nervous and don’t want to feel they are asking too much and don’t want to impose. So the film festival becomes a way to know this is a safe place to share our cultures.

“It’s a positive way to bring people together.”

The 18th Annual Latino Film Festival of the Hamptons

Friday, September 17

Parrish Art Museum 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill

“La Llorona” (“The Weeping Woman”) 1 hour 37 minutes. Rated R. 7:30 p.m. Recorded interview with director screened after the film. Reception and museum tour 6:30 p.m. included with ticket price. Outdoor film screening. Bring a chair. $15 ($5 members and students) at parrishart.org.

Saturday, September 18

Sag Harbor Cinema, 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor

7 p.m. “Days of the Whale “ (“Los Días de la Ballena”) 1 hour 20 minutes. Rated PG-13. Live conversation with filmmaker after the film. Co-presented by Cinema Tropical. Also “Voices of Youth” (“Voces de la Juventud”) 6 minutes. Directed by Allura Leggard and produced by OLA Media Lab. $10.

9:30 p.m. “Under 21” event. “Myth and Motion” (“Mito y Movimiento”) 28 min. Video concert directed by Carolina Fuentes and produced by OLA Media Lab. “The Infiltrators” (“Los Infiltrados”) 1 hour 35 minutes. Rated PG-13. Co-presented by Sag Harbor Cinema. Live conversation with filmmaker after the film. $5 for 21 and under. Tickets at sagharborcinema.org.