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LALIFF 2024 Coverage Part 1

by Rosa Parra

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) recently celebrated its 23rd year, and no different from previous years, the 2024 slate was filled with incredible films, panels and conversations.

The film festival opened with “In the Summers,” which debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.

It follows Vicente (played magnificently by Residente), a complicated father who evolves as the years pass. We follow the stories of his two daughters (Eva and Violeta) as children, young preteens, and ultimately, as young adults. It seems complicated to cast the right actors to depict the same character, yet the movie accomplishes this flawlessly. It’s a quiet yet emotionally riveting depiction of fractured families and how all human beings are various shades of gray. I can’t think of a better way to kick off LALIFF than with this intimate depiction of a Latino family.

Day Two was filled with feature length movies and short films. I enjoyed watching “Alemania” accompanied by “Union de Reyes,” a 30-minute short film that depicts the relationship between a father and son. “Union de Reyes” opens with a rather gleeful relationship as the father and son enjoy a beautiful sunny day and a swim at the beach. Their bond and back-and-forth banter are relatable, and just when we are invested in their conversation, the father falls ill and is taken into the hospital. It’s at this moment when an unexpected series of events take place, and we are not only quickly reminded of the fragility of life but also the reality that no matter how long our parents (in this case, the father) are in our lives, we will never fully know them as individuals. Their past struggles and lives before becoming a parent will, for the most part, remain a mystery, such that they will begin to become strangers to us. The film pays homage to the characters’ motherland of Cuba, our parents and inheritance (not necessarily monetary but culturally and familial) and magnifies the tension between Cubans and Cuban-Americans. The story is filled with drama, comedy, suspense and eventually optimism.

Directed, written and starring Danny Pino (from FX’s “Mayans M.C”), this short film is a beautiful ode to culture, family, and heritage.

“Alemania” is directed and written by Maria Zanetti and is a film from Argentina and Spain. Follows the teenager, Lola, who is anxious to travel to Germany (Alemania in Spanish) as part of a school study trip, but she faces obstacles when her unstable family tries to figure out their respective situations while not being able to support Lola fully. This is a slow paced coming-of-age story about self-discovery and resilience, and it felt like a love letter to formidable upbringings and dreams. I admit that it took a bit to become invested in the outcome because the story unfolded rather slowly, but the pacing feels this way to allow the camera to linger on the characters and capture every minute of movement, reaction and interaction. Sitting in a room with these characters adds realism and relatability. Although the family members are struggling with their own battles, they’re written and presented in an insightful and intricate way. Again, a common theme of the films I’ve seen lately is the importance of family support and this movie isn’t an exception.

Maria Zanetti is a screenwriter and film director who began her career making music videos and commercials.

Overall, “Alemania” is a well written, well directed and well acted coming of age story about pursuing your dreams while preparing your wings to fly off to new horizons.