LALIFF: Our Life's Blood

Our cultural offerings: Cancelled.

By Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: July 29, 2012

LALIFF: Our Life's Blood

I have just completed reading, and re-reading, LALIFF ÔÇô The Drive. It appears, at first blush, that time and the economy have caused it to run off the rails. And I mean to cast no aspersions, but this did not happen overnight. I, myself, caught up for twenty-five years of lawyering had no idea this entity existed. Other than following the career arcs of Latino and Latina actors, producers, directors, etc., other than trying to sustain and support them by attending the films and telling others of their merits, I had no idea this group existed.

And I have no excuse: I am an attorney. I am a writer. And I am ashamed to have been so ignorant of this entity and its noble causes. We are a people steeped in a culture of tradition, of honor and emotion. Yes, I can see the point made about the diversity within a "Latino" or "Hispanic" classification.

We are not a cookie-cutter people, much as "los otros" either see us, or want to peg us. So, yes, there is the organizational issue of a film festival oriented toward showcasing Latino films. But that is simply a matter of housekeeping and should not be an insurmountable obstacle for any entity attempting to bring a product to a wide number of demographics.

Some may say, "Easy for her to say..." Yes, it is easy for me to say.

But anyone with any amount of experience in entertainment and showcasing new talent ought to be able to categorize films so that they are shown in the best light possible. And that there is no internecine sniping or maligning between genres.

In my simple-minded manner, I think of this as preparing an art gallery for a showing. One locates and commits the artists, one finds an appropriate locale, one outfits that locale to best showcase the art that has been created, one arranges each piece of art so that it subtly but distinctly offsets and complements the next piece, one lights the art in a manner best suited to that piece, one finds music that does not distract the attention from the pieces, but music that adds to the entire ambiance of the setting. And then one serves a whole LOTTA good wine and food.

It is heartbreaking that the people who collaborated on LALIFF for so many years did not seek out additional staffers and interns to learn the ropes. To have the entire organization rest on the shoulders of one or two people, with "seasonal workers" coming in when the going gets tough is simply an incorrect model for an organization. This is not a Target the day after Thanksgiving. This is a dignified, bona fide multi-cultural effort to promote and showcase the wealth of talent and the breadth of experiences of the Latino people.

As I have said before, and continue to adamantly state, my people are in every socio-economic level of this society, we span the educational and financial markets in each and every state. We have raised ourselves up from poverty, sought out scholarships and student loans, worked our way from the fields where pesticides were regularly showered on us to Board Rooms of mega-corporations, and everywhere in between. We have shed tears from sheer frustration and hunger. We have shed tears from ecstasy in our small and large successes. And we have all of this to offer each other.

But, more importantly, we have ourselves and depictions of our experiences to offer "los otros", the ones who see brown skin and trencitas and figure we have nothing to offer.

I was once at Union Station downtown, awaiting the DASH that would take me to the courthouse. I had not yet put on my heels, and my mascara. A woman came up to me, moving her flat palm across my face as if I were blind. "Sen-ora, Sen-ora," she said. I looked at her, for I had been thinking of the caseload I would deal with when I got to court. Enunciating each word carefully and loudly, she asked, "DO YOU KNOW HOW I GO TO SAN-TEE ALL-EY?"

I just looked at her, my blood boiling at her arrogance and stupidity. "No". As she turned away, I said, "Of course I know which bus you would board for Santee Alley. But I will not tell you. You may remain ignorant. And I am bi-lingual and am an attorney." And, with that, I boarded my bus and left.

People such as that woman would have benefited from the LALIFF films. Our own jovencitos would have benefited from the films, seeing what their parents and grandparents went through. And we as a group would have derived benefit, seeing others' experiences. But that is not to be. Not this year, for some convoluted reasons.

We have sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, in school now and graduating from prestigious universities with degrees in film-making, cinematography, color-correcting, the whole shebang. There are gaffers, grips, craft service people who work on films. I am proud to know the woman who won the sole Academy Award for "Frida." My nephew is a talented film editor, who studied here and abroad.

It would be interesting to hear from the Board of Directors for LALIFF. To hear a clear-cut explanation of how it came to be that LALIFF went from SRO to a paltry and dissatisfying cancellation. Because if we do not hear the TRUTH, then there will come a time when someone says, "Oh, yeah, I heard somebody mention LALIFF once. But, I cannot place it."

And we will have only ourselves to blame.

Guadalupe Gonzalez (c)

About Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer:
Writer and Los Angeles Attorney

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