By Claudia Puig on Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 in 2019, News.
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Film is a spectacularly communal art form. And film festivals take this celebration of community seriously—some would even say reverently.
So it is with near-missionary zeal that we proudly present this year’s film program. We are deeply appreciative of the artistic vision of our filmmakers and thrilled to be presenting this impressive slate to Mendocino audiences.
Through film we recognize our common global existence and better understand and empathize with others as we begin to see the depth of their experiences, as well as the obstacles they may face – whether literal walls or psychological and cultural barriers. Great films illuminate and elucidate, and, in the process, encourage compassion. In the best cases, they can transform us.
It’s been said that films are in “conversation” with one another. What a thrilling discussion could be had among such artistic participants as Amazing Grace, with its transcendent gospel music powered by the late, great Aretha Franklin, and Afghan Cycles’ determined young Afghani women breaking with tradition. Knocking down barriers decades before and a world away were their forebears in Maiden, the real-life story of an all-female sailing crew competing in the prestigious Whitbread Round the World Race.
Be inspired by the valiant souls in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez working to protect the world’s most endangered sea mammal in the film Sea of Shadows, as well as the actions of a few dedicated caretakers in Kenya who seek to a stave off the extinction of the white rhinoceros in Kifaru. Join a Chinese-American family who throws a wedding celebration to honor their beloved dying grandmother in the bittersweet film comedy The Farewell. What a fascinating conversation might take place among the brilliant novelist in Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am and the Italian operatic tenor from Pavarotti. And oh, to have their colloquy moderated by the eponymous legendary newsman of Mike Wallace is Here.
Our lineup for the 14th Annual Mendocino Film Festival is a varied and expansive collection of films, attesting to the wonderfully diverse breadth of the human experience. We are proud to announce that half of the films in this year’s program are made by women or people of color. We hope you will enjoy our cinematic offerings and join the conversation, whether in our filmmaker Q&As, at our discussion panels, or around town, as we come together for another year over our shared love of film.
Listen to Claudia discuss the Festival, the films, and the filmmakers in her interview with KGUA hosts Peggy Berryhill and Leigh Anne Lindsey here.
Diversity in film is something Mendocino Film Festival Program Director Claudia Puig is passionate about. A native Spanish speaker, Claudia studied at both Cambridge University and Universidad Ibero –Americana in Mexico City. She has served as a speechwriter and diversity consultant for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and teaches a college course, Diversity in the Media in Los Angeles. Her consulting business specializes in film analysis and diversity issues. In 2018, Claudia was the winner of the Roger Ebert Award for Excellence in Film Criticism from the African-American Critics Association. No wonder Claudia and this year’s crackerjack team of women programmers, Ann Walker, Pat Ferrero, Kira Wojack, and Maggie Mackay have selected films that illustrate diversity in culture, lifestyle, and and gender.
Latino Culture and Gender Diversity
Latino culture is represented in many films this year, including a retrospective showing of the classic, My Family (Mi Family) starring Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales, Edward James Olmos, and Jennifer Lopez in her first film. Director Greg Nava and stars Jimmy Smits and Esai Morales will be in attendance for Q&A after the film.
The incendiary singer and star Chavela Vargas, known for jumping onstage wearing pants, a poncho, and a pistol, is portrayed in the documentary film, Chavela. Her passionate love songs to women were deemed scandalous in Mexico of the 1950s, yet, after a long bout with alcoholism, she achieved a triumphant comeback in her 70s. Equally incendiary, the National Pyrotechnic Festival of Tultepic, Mexico is brilliantly illuminated in the documentary film, Brimstone and Glory, and ¡LAS SANDINISTAS! takes us on a journey from the 1970s to today with the women who have struggled and fought in Nicaragua. On a lighter note, Pixar’s Academy-Award winning animated feature Coco is a “resplendent, celebratory love letter to Mexico.”
Diversity and Women of Color
Night Comes On, winner of a NEXT Innovator Award at Sundance this year, portrays a desperate world of sisterhood in a hostile landscape, and Ovarian Psycos is about a new generation of fierce, unapologetic feminist women of color from East LA who confront injustice, build community, and redefine their identity with a raucous and irreverent bicycle crew.
Claudia is president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) and a nationally recognized entertainment journalist. Currently a critic for NPR’s Film Week and a contributor to Morning Edition and All Things Considered, she was a film critic for 18 years at USA Today, and host of their video series The Screening Room. Claudia is much in demand as a moderator for entertainment industry panels and Q&As, and recently moderated a panel of women filmmakers at Harvard University, and another on film criticism at Ebertfest at the University of Illinois.