AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring kicks off 32nd annual Latin American Film Festival

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the AFI Latin American Film Fest (Part 1)

September is Hispanic Heritage Month, so what better time to watch Latino filmmakers?

The AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland, kicks off the 32nd annual AFI Latin American Film Festival on Thursday, featuring 49 films from 22 countries through Oct. 13.

“We’ve been doing this film festival for a long time,” Programming Director Todd Hitchcock told WTOP. “We’ve been doing this going back to our time at the Kennedy Center. … It was very successful in its earlier phase, but it’s gone to a new level since we’ve gone to the Silver Spring location, so it’s been great to see it really take off in the last two decades.”

The festival returns to in-person screenings after last year’s virtual version.

“Don’t you want to get out of your house and see something entertaining, interesting and thought-provoking and discuss it with your friends afterward?” Hitchcock said. “We have a lot of films in the lineup, nearly 50, that could fit that bill for you. Come on out to the AFI.”

The festival kicks off with the opening night screening of “A Cop Movie” (Mexico).

“It seems to be at first like a documentary about Mexico City cops, but as the movie goes on, it changes our understanding about what we’re seeing,” Hitchcock said. “It becomes this meta-puzzle about what did we see and how much was it a performance? It shifts from narrative to documentary. All that may sound academic, but it’s actually really fun.”

He’s also really high on “The People Upstairs” from Spain.

“[It] is a really fun clever comedy,” Hitchcock said. “It stars Javier Cámara, a tremendous actor. You might recognize him from ‘Narcos.’ Way back he first came to prominence as the nurse in Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Talk to Her.’ Anyone who has dreaded going over to the neighbors for a drink … will relate to the awkward conversation … between two couples.”

You’ll also enjoy “Heroic Losers” from Argentina.

“I love this film,” Associate Programmer Abbie Algar told WTOP. “It’s a great heist comedy from Argentina. It’s based on real events and it stars the superstar Ricardo Darín … but also his son, Chino Darín, who is an up-and-coming star in Argentina. This is their first film together and they have some excellent chemistry. It’s really, really fun.”

The lineup includes seven U.S. premieres screening for the first time in America.

“‘Fever Dream’ [is] the latest film from Peruvian director from Claudia Llosa,” Algar said. “It’s essentially a thriller/ghost story set in the Argentine countryside. Over the course of the film, it becomes something completely else. … There’s a film from Brazil, ‘7 Prisoners,’ that just had its premiere at the Toronto Film Fest about human trafficking in São Paulo.”

Best of all, you can hear from the filmmakers themselves during guest Q&As.

Actress Ana Alejandra Carrizo will introduce “Something Blue” (Panama) on Sept. 26.

Organist Andrew Simpson will provide live musical accompaniment to Raoul Walsh’s silent gem “The Loves of Carmen” (1927) to salute National Silent Movie Day on Sept. 29.

Filmmaker Trisha Ziff and subjects Noe and Vanessa Mejía will offer a special Q&A after the double feature “Oaxacalifornia” and “Oaxacalifornia: The Return” on Oct. 3.

As for local filmmakers, director Ellie Walton will join producer Quique Avilés and poet Sami Miranda to introduce “La Manplesa: An Uprising Remembered” on Oct. 10, while fellow local filmmaker Mario Ramos will introduce “La Condesa” on Oct. 8 and Oct. 11.

Producer Robin Miller Ungar will introduce “Soy Cubana” on Oct. 11 and Oct. 13.

Lastly, filmmaker Manny Pérez will host a Q&A after “La Soga 2” on Oct. 9.

“This is an action movie from Dominican-American actor and now director Manny Pérez,” Algar said. “It’s about this hitman who is now trying to turn his life around and get back to living a normal life in the U.S., but obviously he has to do one last job. It’s great fun.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the AFI Latin American Film Fest (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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