Friday, September 28, 2007

Long Island Latino International Film Festival at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center

September 28-29-30

Projecting lots of friends Latino film festival predicts a warm welcome from East End's Hispanics by Gene Seymour, New York Newsday, September 28, 2007

Baby steps are the best that any planner of a fledgling film festival can hope for. And those putting together the Long Island Latino International Film Festival insist that after three years, they're barely beginning to establish themselves as an annual showcase for - and celebration of - the eclectic range of Hispanic cinema.

Still, the fact that the third edition of the weekend-long festival opens tonight at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center seems pretty audacious, as baby steps go.

In its first two years, the LILIFF ("Just like lisping the name, 'Lilith,'" jokes festival co-founder and executive director T.J. Collins) played at the Bellmore Movie Theater. Making the move to the glamorous East End is bold, but Collins says it's a logical step backed by market research and demographics.

"Between Nassau and Suffolk counties, there are more Latinos in Suffolk," he says. "So if it's going to be here, it may as well be in the East End."

There are 19 films on this year's schedule, which begins and ends with documentaries involving bats and balls.

The centerpiece of tonight's opening-night festivities at 7 is "Bragging Rights: Stickball Stories," wherein first-time-feature-director Sonia Gonzalez chronicles how immigrant groups of succeeding generations used New York's street baseball to assert their presence in the city.
Sunday's closing-night feature - following the 5 p.m. awards ceremony - is "The Legacy of #21," a tribute to Latino baseball pioneer and Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

In between, there are features and short films coming from as far away as Brazil (Fernando Pinhero Guimares' animated short, "A Garota") and Mexico City ("I Like You, Too/Yo Tambien Te Quiero," a romantic-comedy short by Jack Zagha Kababie to be shown tonight before "Bragging Rights"). Other scheduled features include Ivan Velez's melodrama, "Indiscretion" and Miguel Aviles' crime drama "44."

Collins and fellow festival producer Janet Cruz sat in the lobby of the Westhampton Beach theater one recent morning to talk about how the festival arrived at this point in its short history. As founding partners of the Long Island-based Mezcla Media Market, Inc., a nonprofit organization sponsoring the festival, Cruz and Collins have cultivated the LILIFF's growth with careful attention to they way they reach out to the burgeoning and diverse Hispanic audience.

Continue article at (and see trailer of The Little Cyn, entered in the Short Film Competition):