New York Latino Film Summit: Profiles



The New York Film Summit on Friday and Saturday saw over eighty of the area’s film professionals come together to discuss the future of Latino and Latin American multimedia in the United States. After two grueling brainstorming and organization sessions, several of those present were approached to give their thoughts on a few of the most pointed questions that came up during the summit. 

Felipe Tewes

I work in the HBO film-programming group, film acquisitions group, I’m the manager of film program.

What is the most pressing issue facing Latinos in film in the US today?
For me, the most pressing issue is audience support.

The most pressing issue facing Latinos in general?
You got me with that one. I didn’t know you were going to go so big. I think the biggest issue is… the biggest issue is how to balance integration while retaining your own culture and
the community that come from retaining your own culture, that’s what I think.

Any final thoughts on the Summit?
I think it was absolutely necessary and I think you could feel the need and the urgency
we all felt because we were all here giving up our weekend. I think it was really a success and I’m very glad it was organized and I just hope that its only the first step in momentum to a much tighter more mutually supportive community, and not just in collaboration but also in support, in us, being a better audience, better filmmakers, and just help each other out.

Maria Christina Villaseñor

I’m an independent writer and curator.

What is the most pressing issue facing Latinos in the US in film today?
I think its really one of a united front, of realizing the different angles at which we come into the industry and having the industry be a far broader term, looking at the art in terms of commercial and noncommercial aspects from it and cultural organizations and
understanding the difficulties which we all face in those different areas and really exchanging information and creating a united front to deal with some of the issues we face in terms of representation.

What is the most pressing issue facing Latinos in general?
Oh there’s so much. I think really equal representation. That were seen as a growing demographic, and we need equal representation in terms of broader cultural representation, broader policy.

Any final thoughts on the summit?
Its an amazing show of energy and thoughtfulness and of, you know, commitment to working through the excitement and messiness of what’s involved in fixing this situation. I feel like there’s a ground swell, but its going to dig its heels in and its not going to be a fleeting thing.

Rodrigo Brandão

I do marketing and publicity for a film distribution company called Kino Lorber films
based in New York, we specialize in documentaries, independent films and foreign titles.

What is the most pressing issue facing Latinos in general?
In general, I think its immigration reform. It’s affecting so many people in our population in such brutal ways. Its not fair or acceptable that millions of people don’t have access to even the most basic set of rights, no access to education or health
depending on the state where you live, they really are dealing with immense obstacles.

What is the most pressing issue facing Latinos in film in the US?
In film I think it’s a variety of questions. I think we need to have a better grasp of our history, our culture. We need to expand the conversation to make sure people understand that film is also part of you know, community, the history of Latinos in the US, that you can see the history of Latinos in film and viceversa. We need to pressure the institutions that are already in place to really represent Latinos and Latin Americans in the work that they do, because those institutions are out there and their mandate is already to serve the public but they insist on pretending that Latinos are invisible, that we don’t exist. And I’m talking about from newspaper to cultural institutions to museums to distribution companies, for profit and not for profit. There has to be a way to pressure them to represent our community. So I think we need to do this for us to advance the cause, to reach critical mass.

Any final thoughts on the summit?
I’m really excited to be here. Its so many people – you know I’ve been in New York City for ten years and its amazing to see there’s so many people I don’t know, I got to meet them because of the summit. We really need to follow up on the solutions we proposed. We really need to make those proposals happen.


Paula Heredia

I’m a filmmaker, I make documentary films.

What is the most pressing issue facing Latinos in film today?
What we agreed on is the lack of community, and the desire to build that missing
community. We are in a moment, and this event proved it, that we all see the benefits of embracing our cultural differences while embracing all of the things our shared heritage has given us.

What is the most pressing issue facing Latinos in general?
I think each one of us is a microcosm of the issues going on with the Latino community at large. Our struggles and wishes as filmmakers, working together, building community, even re-identifying ourselves as first class citizens – is something that reverberates with the entire community.  I think the dreams are the same.

Final thoughts on the summit?
I think we’re all really excited. Despite the fact that we all have such busy professional lives – I don’t think any of us really needs another project at the moment – we’ve all dedicated ourselves to try and explore what everyone is thinking, and come to the table with ideas to execute everything we want to do. And people have volunteered for things they have personal passions for. I haven’t seen this level of passion or interest in a while. I expected a much smaller group.

Cristina Ibarra

I’m a filmmaker, I mainly do documentaries for PBS, I also make fiction, but I haven’t worked in the fiction side for a long time.

What’s the most pressing issue facing Latinos in the US in film today?

I hate to say it, but I think it is about funding. Because the project I’m working in now, for PBS, has been funded every step of the way, from development to, well we haven’t done distribution yet. And what I’ve noticed is that the way that funding for PBS has been cut, there’s been severe cuts to the development of film. I think that’s the most crucial part of the process, the development stage, that’s where you put your ideas to test, where you go to the field to take footage and see if your approach is really viable. And now with the funding cuts, Latino public broadcasting is really not funding development. I don’t know where id be if my development hadn’t been funded. Along with that, it the projects are coming from your own voice, and that you’re not writing a story that is based on limitations programmers, expectations that they have about you because your Latino. That’s a horrible way to think because you’re not going to make a good project like that. You’re going to make something that’s whitewashed and watered down. So you need to have this watchdog mentality on yourself, make sure you’re not doing it.

Any final thoughts on the summit?
It was a reminder that I’m not alone. There’s this collective frustration born out of love… I’m walking away with the feeling that yes, there’s a crisis, but also the feeling that there’s a movement of like minded individuals trying to change the way things work.”

Roberto Alcázar

I'm a writer/producer of documentaries like Yasuni, and narratives like 200 Cartas half of the time. The other half is dedicated to creating social content for brands and advertising through EO Integration.

What is the biggest issue facing Latinos in US today?
There are many issues, from immigration to adaptation. There are big differences between the ones who crossed the border to the one who were crossed by the border. It's definitely a fascinating moment in the history of the US that needs to be documented and voiced in an intelligent and relevant way.

What is the biggest issue facing Latinos in multimedia today?
Finding that relevant POV that can take the message further for the audience, not just the filmmaker. In my opinion, filmmakers that just want to tell stories without thinking about their audience, are just holding a camera.

Any final thoughts on the summit?
The summit was definitely a good platform to bring together ideas and propositions, but in my opinion, it was also used by a few people to ignite their individual agendas. Some people proposed the problems they're facing as the problems that all of us need to solve. Not the case. When you have the amazing opportunity to listen to a Pulitzer Prize winner give an amazing talk but then the following question repeats exactly what he said, you realized that people were not listening. I think that some people were just waiting for their turn to talk.

Alex Rivera

Filmmaker, digital media artist.

What is the biggest issue facing Latinos in the US in film today?
Well I think it’s hard to say which is the most pressing. There are challenges and issue inside us as artists and creators in terms of your own imaginations, and where we want to go, where we think we can go, basically stretching the envelope and imagining ourselves in every expression of the medium. So, imagining ourselves in dramas, and science fiction, and horror and documentaries. I think that we need to know that the Latino experience can be expressed in myriad ways. And knowing that and gong into those shadows, and having confidence to do that. Of course the other part of the puzzle is that you usually need partners to get things done. And unfortunately I think the evidence so far is that participating with institutions, whether they’re museums, guarantors, corporations, for one reason or another have not bought the community in and that’s why the numbers are so low. And so I think that it’s a dual challenge. One is for us to bring the radical, expansive, exciting, new visions, bring that out, but we also have to exert political pressure, economic pressure, on the partner organizations so they start to open up space for us to do our work.

Any final thoughts on the summit?
I think this gathering we had tonight, I hope anyway, is about what can we do differently. Because there have been attempts to address these crisis for the last 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, there’s been a crisis for a long time. My personal opinion is that the problem just gets bigger and bigger as our numbers get larger. And something has to change, because our numbers are too big to be shut out. We’re going to be a majority in this country, and it’s a scary scenario that we’re going to be a majority still not on TV, that we still have no access to make our films, tell our stories. We need to change structures in this country so we start to own a piece of it, because we have a strong presence in the streets. But if you go into boardrooms, places where power is, places where money is, we don’t. We are America now and we deserve to participate. 





New York Latino Film Summit: Changing our Paradigms
by Carlos A. Gutiérrez

On Friday and Saturday, June 21 and 22, a special gathering of Latino film professionals under the banner ‘New York Latino Film Summit: Changing our Paradigms’ took place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It was an exercise in bringing together local Latino film and media arts professionals to discuss the most pressing issues affecting the group, to try to find ways to face these concerns, and most importantly, to create a common front, a sense of community.


The New York Latino Film Summit Raises Questions, Pushes for Community
by Diego Molano

The weekend of June 21 and 22, the New York Latino Film Summit brought together dozens of filmmakers, media arts professionals and intellectuals from the greater New York area. Over the course of Friday and Saturday, the combined group explored the most pressing issues facing the Latino community in the film and media arts world, from questions of identity to commentary on the funding sources available.