Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at the AFI Latin American Film Festival in Silver Spring

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

One of the best ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is right in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The AFI Silver Theatre is hosting the AFI Latin American Film Festival now through Oct. 11.

“This is actually the 34th edition,” Associate Film Programmer Josh Gardner told WTOP. “It actually precedes the AFI Silver location going back to the Kennedy Center. … We have so many films, 44 in total, for you to check out from all over Latin America — and it really showcases the diversity of the Latin American experience. We’re gonna have food, there’s gonna be music, there’s receptions, filmmaker Q&As, it’s a can’t-miss event in the DMV.”

This year’s impressive international lineup includes the short film “Strange Way of Life” by Spanish filmmaking master Pedro Almodóvar, director of such acclaimed works as “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988), “All About My Mother” (1999), “Talk to Her” (2002), “Volver” (2016) and “Parallel Mothers” (2019).

“He’s a mainstay at the Oscars who works with Penélope Cruz a lot,” Gardner said. “His new film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s actually his second English-language short film and it stars Pedro Pascal, who many of you know from ‘Game of Thrones’ and his latest TV show ‘The Last of Us,’ and also Ethan Hawke. It takes place on the U.S.-Mexico border and it is kind of a queer cowboy romance, so it’s definitely a must-see of the festival.”

Don’t miss “They Shot the Piano Player” by Spanish director Fernando Trueba and animator Javier Mariscal.

“It’s a quasi-documentary narrative feature about the death of virtuoso Brazilian pianist Francisco Tenório Júnior, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances during Argentina’s military dictatorship,” Associate Film Programmer Javier Chavez told WTOP. “No one knows what happened to him … so the film interviews some great Latin jazz musicians … with bright animated sequences. The narrator is voiced by Jeff Goldblum.”

You can also check out the U.S. premiere of “The Ones From Below” by Bolivian director Alejandro Quiroga and producer Alvaro Olmos Torrico, who will both be in attendance for a Q&A after the film.

“It is kind of a Neo-western that tells the story of a small town in Bolivia that is struggling with their water resources because a wealthy Argentine landowner has come and is kind of sucking it all up, so it’s kind of a revenge western of the lengths this man will go to to protect his family and his town,” Gardner said.

The closing night film is “Pictures of Ghosts” directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho, who will attend the festival.

“We’re so excited to be presenting this film in particular,” Chavez said. “It has been selected by Brazil to represent the country at the Oscars. … It’s really this personal essay where Kleber is reflecting on his filmmaking journey and the dwindling cinemas of his hometown of Recife. He starts in his childhood home in an apartment where he actually shot his breakout film in, so it’s really funny, it’s got good music and it’s really heartfelt.”

In the end, the mission is to expose D.C. audiences to a wider lens of storytellers.

“It is more than just a celebration of the great cinema coming out of Latin America; it’s also about the culture within that region,” Chavez said. “I’m Latino myself, I’m Cuban, and this festival is such a great way to engage with the films from Cuba and what I missed from there, as well as just exposing myself to all of the other countries in that region and learning about their trials and tribulations, how different but also how similar we all are.”

Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes 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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