Social justice on film
Latin American and Caribbean Film Festival
Atlanta, Ga.—"I think [documentary film] is one of the only mediums
that allows viewers to make a connection between what's going on in their
countries to what's going on outside of their countries,"
said Janvieve William Comerie, program director Latin American and Caribbean
The third annual festival, held November 11-13, rotated venues nightly;
the Wyndham Hotel, the Hammonds House Galleries of African American Art,
and radio station WRFG each hosted an evening of film during the LACFF's
|Program director Janvieve William Comerie (right) with Makani Themba. (photo: Eric Bomba-Ire)|
Started two years ago in an effort to educate and create awareness about
problems plaguing the Latin American and Caribbean communities, the festival
has set as its goal speaking for communities of color, tackling the subject
of poverty and exposing injustice and oppression in overlooked places.
"The festival is always linked to social justice," Comerie noted. "It
allows viewers here in North America who might be somewhat isolated from
what's going on regionally in Latin American and the Caribbean to see
accounts of things that have happened, real things that happened with
real interviews of people."
In its first year, the festival focused on the African diaspora, showcasing
films portraying the struggles of Afro-Latinos and Afro-Caribbeans. In
its second year, the program examined indigenous people and their (sometimes
forced) migrations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In its
third installment, The LACFF took a huge step in its mission to put a
visual with an issue by partnering up with the Human Rights Network to
screen a series of powerful and informative documentaries.
From bigger productions like Peter Raymont's The World Stopped Watching—sequel
to the 1987 award-winning documentary The World Is Watching—to
smaller-budget films like the documentary short When the River Meets
the Sea, all featured films portrayed a poignant and sometimes devastating
picture of human rights abuses. But, conversely—and vitally—they
all depicted the courage of people striving against such oppression with
The World Stopped Watching is a cinéma vérité
examination of foreign news coverage of a climactic moment in the US-financed
Contra war against Nicaragua's revolutionary government, while When
the River Meets the Sea portrays the travails of the Garifuna community
in Honduras during and after deadly Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
On its second night, the audience got a direct account of the prevailing
socio-political and economic views in Venezuela from guest speaker Jorge
Guerrero Veloz, which followed the screening of Venezuela Bolivariana:
People and Struggle of the Fourth World War—a recounting of
the 500 years of capitalist evolution in the world down to the present
political situation in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.
|Guest speaker Jorge Guerrero Veloz talks about his film.|
(photo: Eric Bomba-Ire)
The evening was capped off with an Afrisalsa dance lesson from Anana
Parris. Afrisalsa, which combines African dance forms with Latin salsa
attitude, reflects the diversity within the Latin American and Caribbean
community and helps convey the blending of cultures that have emerged
from this region's melting pot.
Its third installment reveals that the Latin American and Caribbean Film
Festival is still a young and growing event—but one with a unique
look at films and their objectives. Comerie said she hopes to see "more
of the local Latino and Caribbean community involved, and students...
it will also be an honor for the festival to be associated with organizations
that are fighting for protection of human rights."
In the long term, Comerie said, the festival is also hoping to award
its entries—but only with an award system that is in accordance
with the spirit of its mission to promote social justice.
"I am not sure that we would award a film directly," she
said, "but maybe award the country of origin or the community—not
just reward one or two people that covered the stories of hundreds of
"Even though their jobs and work are very important in bringing
the stories, it's not [the producer or the director] at the center
of the film. So we will be opening the access to other people in those
communities also to benefit."
Comerie encouraged the local film community to utilize the documentary
form to help the Latin American and Caribbean Center bring to light important
matters that may go unnoticed or ignored by popular media.
"We always need people to help us document these things,"
she said. "So one area that filmmakers and film producers can get
involved will be to document the work that we do on the ground. We talk
to the undocumented population all the time so we need to start visually
recording their stories.
"We do have serious issues that we deal with and people tend to
say that we live in a serious condition; do we want to come out and see
serious issues again?"
The Latin American and Caribbean Community Center screens films dedicated
to issues of social justice on the second Friday of each month at WRFG
89.3-FM, located at 1083 Austin Avenue in Little Five Points. For information
about film screenings and news on Latin America and the Caribbean, visit
Eric Bomba-Ire is the founder of cinemATL