5th Annual Latino & Native American Film Festival
To expose Connecticut’s diverse university, public school, and other State-Wide communities to films that are engaging and focus on the experiences, aspirations, and accomplishments of Latino & Native Americans. In this way, we aim to have such films serve as vehicles for Recruitment of Latino & Native American public school students toward furthering their education at the University level and, simultaneously, helping Retain and Sustain these and other students as they progress toward completion of a University degree.
Direct recruitment and formal college fairs are indispensable. Yet, we have seen the strong influence toward engendering interest and participation that a user-friendly and engaging medium, such as a film festival, can have on most everyone in our target audiences. The Annual Latino & Native American Film Festival represents an opportunity for SCSU students, faculty, and staff to interact with each other, as well as with students, parents, teachers, and administrators from the New Haven and other Public School systems in ways that highlight the significant opportunities that higher education can provide.
The Film Festival emerged as a project of the Latino and Native American Advancement Committee (LANAAC) to contribute to the first two of this Committee’s 3 goals: 1) Recruitment and 2) Retention
of Latino and Native American student at the University, and 3) Timely Graduation of these students.
Currently in its 5th year, the Festival has helped familiarize our various, diverse communities with excellent artistic, social, political, and entertainment film projects being created by contemporary filmmakers from the US, the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. With so many negative stereotypes stilting the progress of Latinos and Native Americans in this country, it is important for students of Latino and Native Heritage, as well as more mainstream populations to meet and interact with positive role models. Through this event, our audience will gain an understanding of films outside of the Hollywood monopoly, and learn first-hand of the commitment and creativity of Latino and Native filmmakers in addressing the issues outlined above.
Most of the films screened at the Festival are rarely available in the United States or known outside particular ethnic populations. They are selected for their ability to bring awareness, in respectful, creative ways, to important pressing social, civic, and global issues such as: migration; citizenship; women’s and other human rights; media images of underrepresented groups; censorship; political repression; humor; multiculturalism; issues of Gender, Sexuality, LGBTIQ orientations; physical, emotional, mental challenges; and so on.
Accordingly, we select films that are sensitive, intellectually challenging, and appropriate for all age groups. The protagonists of most films, are often personalities who serve as inspirations to public school or SCSU students. Overall, Festival activities are designed to engender open minds regarding Latino and Native American experiences and achievements, as well as, toward filmmaking as educational, social, and cultural expression.
We plan to invite Latino and Native filmmakers to SCSU and or the New Haven Public Schools to
screen their films and discuss attendant issues with students, faculty and staff, and the greater New Haven communities. Last year, for example, we screen the well research and accurately depicted Cinco de Mayo: The Battle of Puebla (2013) and held a Question & Answer (Q & A) session (at a New Haven High School) with Mexican filmmaker, Rafa Lara. This film is a faithful re-enactment of the historic event of the same name. Additionally, we organized an afternoon with 2 documentaries (one from Puerto Rico and one from Hawai’i) followed by a conversation between specialists and audience, about the social, political, economic forces shaping both societies. Few other approaches could have generated the level of interest and engagement in history, culture, social class, politics, individual and group psychology, and other disciplines that emerged from these Q & A sessions and dialogue.
We will also screen a selection of “unaccompanied” films (filmmakers not present or interviewed via Skype) as well as a selection of Award Winning Shorts from various Showcase Competitions around the world. Similarly, SCSU and or public school students and other personnel (professors, teachers, SCSU recruitment/admission representatives, and others) will be present to facilitate connections among film subject matter, student interests, and what SCSU can offer toward such interests. For many public school students, it will be their first trip to a college campus. Thus, providing us with an opportunity to encourage these youngsters to consider continuing their education at SCSU, or other appropriate post-secondary institution.
The Film Festival provides a forum to advance public understanding of Latino & Native American cultural identities and a vehicle for crossing boundaries that keep the Latino & Native American communities, as well as the majority and other communities at SCSU, from knowing their own stories as well as each other’s. The nature of the films selected for the Festival is such that we aim to facilitate student’s own understanding of themselves and the broader societies / cultures of which the are part; understanding of the world into which they were born or in which they live currently; understanding of
how to navigate in these varied environments / situations; and understanding of how to advance their goals and aspirations, as well as contribute to the betterment of their societies.
Thus, we highlight the complexity and vitality of Latino & Native American communities through cutting-edge narrative, documentary and experimental films, so as to demonstrate how those multi-faceted stories and events impact on all of our lives, and how our lives impact on the world. In this way, we look to promote knowledge, dialogue, and understanding with a broader, global audience, hopefully, helping to make connections between film subject matter and student’s chosen fields of study, as a way of generating enthusiasm for furthering academic engagement and perseverance in their studies.
Toward these ends, we’ve been fortunate to have the collaboration of faculty across a number of departments and or fields of study (World Languages (Spanish, Portuguese Italian, French); Media Studies; Education; Psychology; Sociology; Comparative Literature; History; Philosophy; Political Science; Art History; and so on). Students have been encouraged, and or required, by professors to attend the Film Festival, as well as visit museums and libraries in the New Haven area that can enrich their understanding of Latino cultures, languages, and literature.
Many public school students have little or no previous experience with, or in, a university environment) the Film Festival creates opportunities for them to interact with SCSU Latino, Native American, and other students in an effort to familiarize them with the purposes of college education and, if appropriate, encourage them to consider pursuing higher education at SCSU. The films serve as an attractive incentive for going on a field trip, while the presence of SCSU students, faculty, and administrators at these screenings allows public school students to meet and interact with role-models and guides often lacking in their daily lives.
Additionally, selected films are screened at a variety of New Haven public high and middle schools.
SCSU students and other personnel are also present at these screenings. Besides acting as role models and guides (as above) SCSU students can discuss how they were able to gain a deeper understanding of a particular topic (usually the subject matter of the film being screened) through their studies at the university.
Over the previous four offerings of the Annual Latino & Native American Film Festival, we have had attendance ranging from 400 to 650 participants per year. Judging from attendance levels and the verbal and written comments submitted at the Festival and or to individual Festival organizers, it is accomplishing its goals. A brief sampling of comments received illustrate this point:
“I just took a good look at your film festival schedule, and I am really impressed by the wide range of interesting films you are making available to the New Haven community. Bravo!!” (Virginia Metaxas, Ph.D.; Department of History SCSU. In email sent Sunday, April 20, 2014 at 1:38 PM);
“A fabulous jam-packed slate of films this week at SCSU: Thursday all-day marathon, plus Friday and Sunday, all FREE” (comment on Facebook, NEFIAC Home page, April 24, 2014);
“You’ve got to go to these films! Last year I thought it was going to be more of the crap we get on Spanish television, but was pleasantly surprised by how engaging and relevant they were” (comment by an undergraduate OLAS member to in-coming freshmen).