Daniel Salazar on the XicanIndie Film Festival, opening tomorrow

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In his tenth year as curator of the XicanIndie Film Festival, Daniel Salazar decided to revamp the whole project. Working with film programmers from all over the Americas, Salazar created the Encuentro Mundial de Cine, an international curatorial collaboration using digital platforms to broaden the pool of films available to screen. In advance of the festival opening on Thursday, April 3, Westword spoke with Salazar about his global, curatorial collaboration.

See also: Favianna Rodriguez talks sexual liberation, immigration, racial justice and art

Westword: What is the XicanIndie Film Festival? Daniel Salazar: The XicanIndie Film Festival started out as the Xicano Independent Film Festival years ago. It's our sixteenth year. I've been directing it for the last decade, and I've had an ongoing relationship with El Centro Su Teatro. It has evolved quite a bit. We call it Xicanindie Film Fest Latino World Cinema. This year, we have tried to start from scratch and envision what a film festival could be like if it was starting up right now.

Most festivals began in the pre-digital period. For example, with Su Teatro, when I took over the film festival, they would put a sheet up and project the films on the wall. It had this homey feel to it. Immediately, when I came on, we collaborated with the Denver Film Festival so that we could screen 35mm films. You had to have a 35mm facility in order to show the films of the period at festival quality. Well, now all that's changed. Film festivals used to pride themselves on the exclusivity of the films, and you knew that if you didn't see them at the film festival, there was a good chance that you were not going to see them.

This year, we created a coalition of independent film festivals. They're community based and involved in organizations like Su Teatro -- a cultural-arts neighborhood community organization. We really opened up our net wide through a friend named Juan Garcia. He and I originally got together, and it turned out that he was very technically skilled. He put out a call for entries, because he wanted to do a Latino film festival in Houston. He got in touch with me, and we decided to build this whole coalition. He had never done a film festival. Applications came from all over Spain, Latin American and Mexico. Just three or four of the original 200 were from the U.S. He didn't know what to do with them; he was overwhelmed with them, so he needed a curator type to go through them.

I talked to him and told him, "I'll look at them. If you want to curate a festival like that, I have one coming up, so that will help me. Right?"

He says he's going to send me the films. I assumed he was going to send me the titles and maybe links to the websites. No way, man. It took him about four days, but then he sends me a link and a signup, and he's got this beautiful site where he's got about 250 pieces all online. They each have a poster. All I have to do is scroll down, and I've got the whole collection. It was a lot more than I anticipated, right? You keep the cursor on the title, and the metadata comes up, all the basic info: film, genre, time, country and director. It's all there. Then I look, and it says: Click here for full video. So the dude put up everything; it was all online. All I had to do was click, and I could see the whole thing.

As I started to go through all this material, one thing occurred to me: Everybody must know After Effects now, right? All of the titles for each of these little production companies look like fucking Columbia Pictures or something. They're just great. A lot were student work and a lot were predictable, but there were some real gems, man. I guess that's the new age: You get 250 things and maybe 30 of them will be worth it. We are so inundated with so much, and it's so accessible in ways that it wasn't.

I started to feel that he was really onto something. I realized that the festival that I'm doing here in Denver is pretty much the festival he's going to do in Houston. A lot of the material is coming from him. Within a period of a month, we'd organized sites in Argentina, Peru, Mexico, New York, Houston, Denver and San Francisco. All of a sudden, we start getting more material, because instead of me calling from this little film festival that nobody's ever heard of, now, we're calling from Encuentro Mundial de Cine 2014.

Read on to find out more about XicanIndie.

Talk about this year's lineup.

One of the things that's exciting about this year is that we've got a number of wonderful short films. They're very different. Some are kind of edgy. Some are really innovative. This has renewed my independent spirit. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with it, but as I started to look at it, I thought, "Yeah, man, all these festivals have become really institutionalized -- like Sundance."

A lot of films about issues like the genocide of Mayan Indians end up with this righteous indignation kind of thing. That's where they end. What I found is that it's really different for the countries that are really experiencing genocide. It's just part of the story. It's a part of the story that they survive in spite of. It's another obstacle, but it's not the focus. It was this very different vision that was being presented in these films.

We've got a lot of really wonderful feature films, a whole focus on the Chicano movement and some great guests, including Esai Morales. He's a heartthrob -- from La Bamba.

Talk about the goal of the festival.

The goal is to share films that should be seen, that represent an alternative to the power that Hollywood has exerted in terms of influencing how we understand, appreciate and create films, and to show that there is a real alternative to that in Latin American work that is distinct. Hollywood is such a part of our environment, and we're not aware of it. When you see something a little different, you realize how much control and influence and repetition exists in the mainstream.

These films we are showing celebrate Latino culture. One of the things that we're talking about with Encuentro Mundial is that all of these sites are really neighborhoods, but we're global at the same time. We're a community, but we're also global. We're going to be celebrating our love for film and storytelling throughout the whole continent. XicanIndie starts Thursday, April 3 and runs through Sunday, April 6 at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive. Tickets cost $10 and are available at suteatro.org or 303-296-0219.

Follow me on Twitter: @kyle_a_harris

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