Third Annual CineLatino Film Fest Brings a Grande Selection to the Sie

Gael Garcia Bernal and Alondra Hidalgo hide from a demented border vigilante in Desierto.
Gael Garcia Bernal and Alondra Hidalgo hide from a demented border vigilante in Desierto.
STX Entertainment

Update: DFS announced today that director Jonás Cuarón, son of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón and co-writer of their Oscar-winning Gravity, will be joining the CineLatino guest list for the closing night screening of his debut Desierto. Find out how to buy tickets at the end of this story.

Tickets and VIP passes are now on sale for the third annual CineLatino Film Festival, which lights up the Sie FilmCenter September 22 through 25. And this year's looks to be the most vibrant fest yet.

Since its debut in 2014, CineLatino has become the most inclusive Latino film series in town. It's also a shining celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and focuses on a bustling community whose work continues to expand.

Last year, CineLatino co-founder Joanna Cintrón was named Coors Light’s Líder of the Year, which brought newfound attention to the festival and a $25,000 prize.That money not only went to the 2016 schedule, but it secured the festival's growth for years to come. And based on this year's assortment of fifteen films, the sky is the limit with CineLatino.

“Whether it is celebrating the innovative approach of the filmmakers behind The Vessel, the incredible work of local Latino community, or the next generation of great directors from Mexico, we could not be more thrilled to announce this year’s lineup for CineLatino,” says Ernie Quiroz, Denver Film Society's programming manager. “There are so many important stories that need to be told, and for four days at the Sie FilmCenter, we get to shine a spotlight on some of the best films from the U.S. [and] Latin America."

As the opening film, the Terrence Malick-produced The Vessel (El navio) sets a unique tone for the festival; the Puerto Rican movie boasts a cast of bilingual actors — veteran Martin Sheen, aka Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estevez, among them — who did double duty shooting English and Spanish versions of the film. Theaters choose which to screen (Spanish is, of course, CineLatino’s choice). The Vessel is the story of a boy who returns from the brink of death and catches the attention of a priest (Sheen) who is among the many people still reeling from a devastating tragedy that befell a small seaside town a decade before. The director, lead actor and producer will be at the festival to discuss the film.

Another highlight of the festival is Guatemala’s first-ever Academy Award submission for Best Foreign Film: Ixcanul, the story of a seventeen-year-old Mayan girl who wants to escape her life. She lives at the bottom of a volcano, is trying to avoid an arranged marriage, and toils away at a coffee plantation. The film became a runaway hit in Guatemala for its gripping storyline and use of the Mayan Kaqchikel dialect and has propelled its young star, María Mercedes Coroy, from a virtually unknown indigenous woman to a celebrity (which hasn’t been without its share of controversy amid the kudos).

Coming from Colorado is director Alan Dominguez’s (Photos of Angie) Clever, a documentary short focused on Gerardo “Clever” Lopez. The Denver-based gang interventionist uses his own story as a former member of the notorious LS13 gang in Los Angeles to help troubled teens find their own paths. Dominguez, Lopez and cinematographer Aaron Kopp will be on hand for this special Colorado premiere.

Gerardo Lopez, subject and star of Clever.
Gerardo Lopez, subject and star of Clever.
Alan Dominguez

Bringing some of his own star power to the festival is Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama También, The Motorcycle Diaries), who stars in three separate – and equally acclaimed – films at the fest: Eva No Duermo, the fresh-from-Telluride Naruta, and CineLatino’s thrilling closing-night film, Desierto.

Thrilling may be an understatement for the closer, which is the directorial debut of Jonás Cuarón, son of Academy Award-winning director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Children of Men); it stars Garcia Bernal as one of a group of Mexicans making the long, dangerous trek across the border into America. Their fears of the unforgiving desert terrain are the least of their worries as a merciless killer (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) begins hunting them down one by one. Desierto will go down as one the most nail-biting entries yet at CineLatino, and a definite conversation-starter.

Nine other films and programs – including a package of Mexican short films, a free screening of the 2006 lucha comedy Nacho Libre, and a free screening of the PBS doc Willie Velazquez: Your Vote Is Your Voice – round out the four-day feast of film.

Stamp your cinematic passport for CineLatino's international tour, from Thursday, September 22, to Sunday, September 25, at the Sie FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax. All-access passes for the festival are $85, or $70 for Film Society members. Individual tickets are $12 to $25 depending on the event, with deep discounts for members. See the full schedule and get tickets at denverfilm.org.

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