Rogelio Almeida, best known for his 2009 film Yveete—the first Spanish-language film to win the Grand Jury Award at DeadCenter—can usually be found behind the camera, working on a new film. But this weekend, he hands the lens over to budding filmmakers and puts his extensive knowledge of the film scene to work by acting as festival director for the OKCine Latino Film Festival, now in its sixth year.
Originally started in the basement of the El Nacional Newspaper, in only a few years the film festival has reached international proportions, screening films from all across Latin America. But, what makes the OKCine celebration so important, according to Almeida, is the light it shines on homegrown talent across the state as well.
“We saw a need to have a Latino film festival in Oklahoma,” Almeida said. “Latino filmmakers from around the state are able to showcase their projects and show their works, and still be able to call Oklahoma their home. There is no other Latino film festival like this in the state.”
This year’s OKCine Latino Film Festival’s opening night will be Friday, March 6th, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Held at the Yale Theatre, 277 S.W. 25th St., for $25, the evening’s red-carpet festivities will include food, drinks and a performance by the Latin Mojo Band but, and more importantly, premiere films made by the Youth Film Workshop.
“It’s an educational component that we added four years ago and it’s really taken off,” Almeida explained. “It’s a five-day workshop spread over five weekends and we teach high-school students how to make their own films, from writing scripts to actually filming it. The past three years we’ve partnered with the OCU School of Visual Arts and, on the last day of the workshop, take them to their editing labs and they get to edit their own films.”
On the second day of the festival, Saturday, March 7th, OKCine will feature a free and open to the public selection of films and documentaries from America and various Latin countries, as well as host guests like João Dall’Stella, director of the short film Dia de las Carpas, which deals with immigration and family separation. It’s one film in a series of outstanding works that, as the festival grows each year, becomes bigger than the organizers ever expected.
“I can definitely see the growth every year,” Almeida said. “Each year we get more film submissions from around the world…this year we got over 100 film submissions. It’s becoming harder and harder every year to make an official selection because we started as a one-day festival, now we’re a two-day festival and, in the near future, we’d like to go into a three day festival.”
This weekend’s festival, however, is a great chance to not only see some genuinely entertaining and interesting films that, otherwise, you might not, but also as a way to support an underrepresented culture in Oklahoma City’s art scene, one that Almeida believes is the future of filmmaking.
“There needs to be support for Latinos in the arts,” Almeida said. “It’s really important to have this film festival, this platform, for Latinos in Oklahoma City, many south of the river, literally, and beyond. We’re showcasing the important stories that the Latino community is making and will continue to make for generations to come.”