The 11th annual Milwaukee Film Festival kicks off Thursday and it includes a program called Cine Sin Fronteras (or Cinema Without Borders). The program, which showcases Latino stories, includes nine feature films and three short pre-feature films.
Claudia Guzman and Jeanette Martin are two programmers of Cine Sin Fronteras. Guzman says inclusion is the guiding philosophy that defines what Cine Sin Fronteras hopes to accomplish.
"We really wanted to represent the diversity within the Latino community and make sure that we were inclusive of, for example, the Afro-Latino experience, the queer experience, immigrant experience, undocumented experience, and really sort of complicate the idea of what folks think the Latino community is," says Guzman.
The Milwaukee Film Festival audience is majority white. So, that means that Cine Sin Fronteras has the responsibility of representing Latinidad not only to Latinos in the Milwaukee area but also people outside of the community. Martin says she feels an immense amount of responsibility to fulfill this duty.
"That's a big, big test, right? Because we know what media can do when it misrepresents us. And that's the opposite of what we're trying to make sure that we're providing to people — an empowering representation, a different representation. A way for people to rethink of what they thought of maybe another community to be," says Martin.
The criteria for what movies make it in is a combination of things, says Guzman.
"One is we're looking for films that are doing well at film festivals that are you know that are landing well with other audiences across the country, around the world. But that's not all. We're also looking for those hidden gems that we feel tells an important story that is far too often untold," she says.
Guzman cites the film Dolores. It tells the story of Dolores Huerta, an activist that worked alongside Cesar Chavez in organizing the first farm workers unions. Guzman and Martin brought the film to the 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival.
"It is shocking to me how many people don't know the story of the Dolores Huerta. She worked right alongside Cesar Chavez, but everybody knows his name," she explains. "There's a stamp with his picture on it and all of that, but far too many people don't know the story of Dolores. And it was an honor to premiere that film as part of the Milwaukee film festival that year. "
Guzman and Martin said they're looking to uplift stories that are part of who Latinos are but that far too often don't get heard.