Top Picks for Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) 2019

by Tom Nguyen

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival kicked off on Wednesday, July 31, 2019, with the opening night screening of The Infiltrators, followed by a gala, featuring two of my favorite local artists: La Mera Candelaria and Sizzle Fantastic of Cumbiaton.

Founded in 1997, this is the second year of the film festival, following a 5 year hiatus. Following opening night, the festival will screen feature films and short films by Latinx filmmakers, at TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, from Friday, August 1, through Sunday, August 4. The festival will also present LALIFF Legacy, LALIFF’s free student festival, featuring films produced by students from elementary, middle and high schools, as part of the statewide, public school film program. The festival closes with the world premiere of The Devil Has A Name, directed by festival co-founder and iconic actor, Edward James Olmos.

In addition to the films, there will be live musical performances each night, with more of my favorite artists, like Jarina De Marco , who will be celebrating her debut EP Malcriada, Gemma Castro, and YANGA, plus art, episodics program and special events. Here are my top feature film picks for LALIFF (in alphabetical order):

Building the American Dream
Directed by Chelsea Hernandez
(2019, 73 min, USA, Los Angeles Premiere)
Three immigrant families facing the deadliest working conditions in the USA, rise up to seek justice and equality in the Texas construction industry.

Carlos Almaraz: Playing With Fire
Directed by Elsa Flores Almaraz & Richard J. Montoya
(2019, 85 min, USA, Los Angeles Premiere)
This stunning documentary explores the brief, rich, and contradictory life of the artist Carlos Almaraz: a Chicano activist, sexual outlaw, and visionary painter of some of the most unforgettable images of southern California.
[Editor’s Note: Also check out Siqueiros: Walls Of Passion having its world premiere at LALIFF]

Directed by Margo Guernsey
(2018, 57 min, USA, Los Angeles Premiere)
A hotel housekeeper has won a City Council seat in Providence, RI. Energized to advocate for low-income workers, her stamina for politics is put to the test. Trailer:

Initials S.G.
Directed by Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia
(2019, 98 min, USA, Argentina, Lebanon, West Coast Premiere)
Down on his luck, an aging Serge Gainsbourg wannabe struggles with an acting career he can’t seem to get on track, an affair he doesn’t want, and a crime he didn’t mean to commit.

Midnight Family
Directed by Luke Lorentzen
(2019, 90 min, Mexico)
In Mexico City’s wealthiest neighborhoods, the Ochoa family runs a private ambulance, competing with other for-profit EMTs for patients in need of urgent help.

Directed by Ivete Lucas & Patrick Bresnan
(2019, 112 min, USA)
In a small agricultural town in the Florida Everglades, hopes for the future are concentrated on the youth. Four teens face heartbreak and celebrate in the rituals of an extraordinary senior year.

Directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green
(2019, 86 min, USA)
The summer before she leaves for college, Ayanna meets handsome and mysterious outsider Isaiah; her entire world is turned upside down as she navigates the demanding terrain of young love against a changing Harlem landscape.

Raul Julia: The World’s A Stage
Directed by Ben DeJesus
(2019, 82 min, USA, World Premiere)
Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage examines the life and career of the inspiring entertainer, Raúl Juliá. The feature documentary is a revealing portrait of the charismatic actor, who earned recognition across the world for his versatility on stage and on screen before his life was tragically cut short. From his early days on local stages in Puerto Rico to stardom on Broadway and in Hollywood, Raúl’s story is one of passion, determination, and a bit of magic – all qualities for which his performances were known.

Sick Sick Sick
Directed by Alice Furtado
(2019, 100 min, Brazil, West Coast Premiere)
Silvia and Artur’s teenage-romance starts abruptly and ends up all of sudden after a serious accident. Silvia gets sick and her days turn into dark. Her mourning becomes an obsessive quest to bring him back to life.

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