Guest post by Sylvia Martinez.
The 2018 Latino Film Festival is about a week away!
Planning for the festival began in the summer of 2017. With the help of Latino Studies faculty and graduate students, we settled on a theme and list of potential films by early September. This year’s theme, “Latinx Spaces,” seeks to explore how the Latinx population navigates geographical, political, and social spaces in the U.S. It seemed particularly relevant to tackle this theme in light of Trump’s election since his campaign rhetoric centered on painting immigrants, but particularly Latinx immigrants, and by extension U.S.-born Latinx individuals, as a group that does not belong in this country. About a month after selecting the films for the festival, I quickly noticed that half of our scheduled program was LGBTQ+ themed. I wish I could say this was intentional but it was not. Regardless of intent, I am delighted with the outcome, as it will highlight the experiences of an often-invisible population in the Latinx community.
Perhaps I should not be surprised that half of our program is LGBTQ+ themed. We did after all purposefully choose to use the term “Latinx.” The term “Latinx” (pronounced La-teen-ex) has become a popular alternative to both Latino and Latina. Its use gained traction among queer communities rejecting the gender binary imposed by the use of Latino/a, Latina/o, or Latin@. Advocates embrace how the term advances social justice for queer and non-gender conforming individuals. Critics note it is another form of linguistic imperialism; specifically, U.S.-born Latinos imposing new language on predominantly Spanish speaking Latinos who may struggle to use or pronounce the term “Latinx.” But we can debate the merits of the term on another occasion.
Is it possible that the use of the “Latinx” in our title subliminally guided us towards LGBTQ+ themed films? It is quite possible. The LGBTQ+ themed screenings at the festival include the short films program and two feature films, Signature Move (2017) and Elliot Loves (2012). Presented primarily through comedy, the short films program highlights how love transcends age, gender, and time. In Amigas with Benefits, an elderly lesbian couple is excited about finally living their best lives, but an uninvited guest threatens their celebration. Presented in 3D printed figurines, the main characters in Victor and Isolina comically explain their lifelong and difficult love story. In Vámonos, the protagonist struggles with grief after her girlfriend dies. She must overcome homophobic hostilities to respectfully send her partner off into the afterlife. As the directors of the three short films plan to join us, this proves to be an exciting and engaging screening.
We are also excited to be screening Signature Move, starring Indiana University alum Fawzia Mirza. Based on a real-life relationship, this story portrays a queer love affair of Zaynab, a Pakistani American lawyer and wannabe Lucha Libre wrestler, and Alma, a Mexican American bookstore owner. Our festival ends on Saturday night with the screening of Elliot Loves, the story of a young, gay Dominican American man exploring the seemingly universal need of being loved and understood.
I cannot reiterate my enthusiasm for highlighting the experiences of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community through film. National statistics estimate that about 4 percent of individuals living in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ. Those that identify as Hispanic or Latino are more likely to identify as LGBTQ in comparison to Whites (5.4 percent vs. 3.6 percent). Despite this difference, the LGBTQ+ community of color remains highly invisible within the Latinx population more generally, but even within the mainstream LGBTQ+ community. This invisibility prevents us from understanding the particular level of marginalization this community encounters on a daily basis. Latinx LGBTQ+ individuals, for example, are disproportionately victims of homicide, hate violence, and racial discrimination. Our LGBTQ+ themed films at the festival present lighter and more comedic fare, but I point to these statistics to bring this community’s challenges to light. To that end, I do hope you can support the Latinx community by joining us at the Cinema.
The Latino Film Festival is a two-day event that will be held at the IU Cinema, beginning March 2 with Latinx Love Across Time and Space (Shorts Program), Dolores, and Signature Move. The series will continue on March 3 with Hostile Border, Beatriz at Dinner, and Elliot Loves.
This series is sponsored by La Casa, Latino Cultural Center; LGBTQ+ Culture Center; the departments of Gender Studies, American Studies, Sociology, and History; the School of Education; The Media School; the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society; the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs; and the IU Cinema.
Sylvia Martinez is an Associate Professor in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and the director of the Latino Studies Program.