Latino Film Fest aims to promote culture

By Troy Doetch

The Center for Latino and Latin American Studies wants you to know that it’s here.

Sharing a Garden Road address with the Latino Resource Center, it offers students a minor, a graduate concentration and a variety of programs to expand their knowledge on the Latino and Latin American culture.

This week, the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies will host NIU’s first Latino Film Festival to raise awareness for the program and promote the Latino culture.

The festival will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Latino Center, 515 Garden Road, with the Oscar-nominated documentary “Which Way Home.” Co-sponsored by Dream Action NIU, an organization that advocates post-secondary options for undocumented individuals, the film follows unaccompanied children migrants traveling from Mexico to the United States.

“This first one is really going to be gut-wrenching because it’s little kids,” said Sandy López, assistant to the director of the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies. “This is focusing on little kids who leave their homes to come to the U.S. because there is this promise that they feel that they’ll have a better life here and a lot of them don’t make it.”

The second film, “On the Edge,” will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Cavan Auditorium in Gabel Hall.

The film, co-sponsored by the women’s studies department, is a documentary on homeless women directed by Diane Nilan and Laura Vazquez, associate professor of media studies.

“I thought that was a nice piece because it showcased homelessness and woman,” López said. “The director was a Latino herself, and I thought that would showcase that Latinos can also create films.”

The last film, “The Other Side of Immigration,” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in A/B Formal Grant South.

The documentary, also co-sponsored by Dream Action NIU, focuses on the families and communities left behind when Mexicans immigrate to the United States.

“I think the two films focusing on immigration kind of help to fill out the rest of the immigration story because what you get in the media is about immigration restriction,” said Jamie Hink, a graduate student concentrating in Latino and Latin American studies. “I think this really helps to fill out the rest of the story.”

Each movie will be followed by a discussion of the film and refreshments will be available.

“I know that there are students who have to go out and watch a movie or see a lecture or attend an event,” López said. “I thought this would be a great way for those…students…to do something different outside of the regular classroom assignment that they may have.”

Though two of the films focus on immigration, López said the film festival didn’t intend to put such emphasis on the issue. However, when choosing films that focused on Latino topics, immigration became underscored.

“It wasn’t created to focus on immigration,” she said. “It wasn’t even really created to focus on an issue. It was created so that we could showcase some Latino films. I wanted to showcase some Latino films and let people know about the center, about the opportunities that we offer students, our resources, our scholarship our minor, and we’ll give them a little treat as well.”