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San Francisco Immigrant Film Festival Provides a Powerful Platform for the Immigrant Experience

First Posted: Dec 16, 2013 11:23 AM EST
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On Sunday, the San Francisco Immigrant Film Festival came to an end, marking the fourth year of a powerful platform that captures the immigrant experience. SFIFF, which runs from Dec. 1-15, "shows a human face on the issues of immigration, and immigrant workers' rights through the exhibition of films/videos that document the lives of immigrants, and exiles, the facts that motivate people to migrate, and the problems most people face in the process to migrate to other country."

The non-competitive film festival, was started by former Venezuelan journalist Romulo Hernandez, who immigrated to the United States 21 years ago. Throughout the year, SFIFF offer free screenings of films/videos at different venues related to immigrant communities.

Hernandez says "there is enormous diversity in the immigrant experience," which is reflected in the SFIFF's film submissions.

"I think that immigration is a world-wide problem, everybody is looking for a better place to live where they can express them self, or get better jobs, or look for democracy. There are so many reasons why someone becomes an immigrant," he said in an earlier interview about SFIFF.

Out of the diverse pool of films screened, there is a particular format that resonates the most with Hernandez. 

"The movies that are the most touching are the ones that describe children," he said.

Hernandez referenced a moving documentary short called Border Gathering. "It's about a family that is gathering at the border between Mexico and the United States. There is a giant fence where you can see through to the other country. The boy's father is in the United States, and his wife and two kids are in Mexico. They are trying to touch each other, to kiss each other through the wall. It's very short -- about two minutes -- and you don't have a narrator, just the image and the voices, it's very powerful."

Also, on Sunday, the following works, narrative and documentary shorts were selected for the Movie Marathon at San Francisco's Mission Neighborhood Resource Center:

In fight for the dream, Estefania Hernandez, USA 2013; Is there peace? (Jambo Amani?), Unai Aranzadi, Spain/Democratic Republic of the Congo 2013; Things Left Unsaid (Palabras Pendientes), Juan Carlos Guerra, Spain 2013; The Immigrant , The Levy Brothers (director/writer Josh and producer/writer Robi), Canada 2012, Border Gathering, Adolfo Davila, Mexico 2006 and "El Toro" (The Bull), Juan Diego Ramirez, USA 2013.

The films were shown at a variety of locations throughout the Bay Area; this year's film festival selected 18 narrative and documentary films from around the world, most of which were seen for the first time in the United States and one (In fight for the dream) that had its world premiere at the festival.

As part of the festival, Hernandez makes the films available for free screenings to the local community at workplaces and for student groups.

Other selected films this year inlcuded: Memory (Memoria), Natalia Ortiz, Australia/Spain 2012; A Better Place, Moisés Romera & Marisa Crespo, Spain/Senegal 2013; Things Left Unsaid (Palabras Pendientes), Juan Carlos Guerra, Spain 2013; Goodbye Padrecitos!, (Adios Padrecitos!), Javier Macipe, Ecuador 2013; 9546 km/My World, Sergio Garcia Locatelli, Spain/Peru 2013; Lonche, Claire Weissbluth. USA 2013; The little Dowser (El pequeño zahorí), Julio Moreno Gimenez, Spain 2013; Adrift, Frederik Jan Depickere, Belgium/Colombia 2012; Ismael, Jorge López Salazar, Mexico 2012; Avion, the Absent Village (Avion, el pueblo ausente), María y Marcos Hervera, Spain/Mexico 2012; Agape, Story of a Dream, Carlos Quiles, Spain/Thailand 2012; Life: Deferred (Vida: Diferida), Brenda Avila-Hanna, USA 2013; Migration, Mira Nair. India/USA 2008; and To Arrive to Heaven (Llegar al cielo), Tony Romero, 30', Spain 2006.

"In addition to the festival and community screenings, Hernandez also does one more thing to bring these deserving films to a wider audience -- he posts some on his website after the festival. Most of the 2012 selections, either the trailers or shorts in their entirety, are available on his web site to see for free," according to LatinaLista.

Currently, 389 Miles by award-winning filmmaker, Luis Carlos, is a full movie featured on the SFIFF website:

The Immigrant, The Levy Brothers, director/writer Josh and producer/writer Robi, Canada 2012, has a different, more comedic spin on the immigrant experience and features some mainstream actors, such as Juno actor Michael Cera, comedian Margaret Cho, as well as actors, Scott Thompson and Will Forte, among others stars in the film.

"After being deported back to his native Canada, once-famous comedian Bob London (Scott Thompson) attempts a Hollywood comeback by enlisting human smugglers to sneak him across the Mexico-US border. Deposited in East LA after a taxing journey, Bob is rejected by his former manager and famous friends and finds himself penniless and alone. He is then adopted by a pair of migrant workers named Gerardo and Luiz who resolve to show Bob how to make it in America."

Check out the trailer of this unconventional immigrant film:

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