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The 2021 Boston Latino International Film Festival debuts virtually

Now in its 20th year, with nine films directed by women

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
The 2021 Boston Latino International Film Festival debuts virtually
Scene from “Dreams of Chonta.” IMAGE: COURTESY OF BLIFF

The Boston Latino International Film Festival will screen a curated selection of nine films Sept. 24-Oct. 3 on a virtual platform in collaboration with ArtsEmerson. This year’s festival will continue BLIFF’s 20-year legacy of breaking down Latinx stereotypes through film and bringing Boston’s diverse communities together.

The 2021 festival is a more select version of the typical experience, paring down from an average of 30 films to nine specifically curated feature films. Between personal challenges and the limits of pandemic screenings, festival director Sabrina Avilés felt a more intimate festival would be more impactful this season.

Scene from “Fruits of Labor.” IMAGE: COURTESY OF BLIFF

“They’re all really, really good, and also for a wide range of tastes. There’s films that are a little more commercial and ones that take risks creatively,” she says.

Accidentally, the films ended up having a unique common thread. “Every film was directed by women,” she says. “We have nine women.”

The lineup includes standouts like the 2021 Sundance Film Festival official selection, “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It,” a documentary about the barrier-breaking Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer. A co-presentation of “Fruits of Labor” with the Bright Lights Film Series will be showcased as well as “Dreams of Chonta,” a documentary by local filmmaker Monica Cohen that was 10 years in the making.

Dreams of Chonta” follows the life of Diego Obregon, an Afro-Colombian musician who served as an artistic ambassador in the United States for the music of Colombia’s pacific coast. Cohen was entranced by Obregon’s music upon first listen and was amazed that she had never heard these rhythms despite coming from Colombia as well. And it’s not just Obregon’s musical talent that makes his story so impactful.

Scene from “Dreams of Chonta.” IMAGE: COURTESY OF BLIFF

“In a time so divisive in America, we need more faces like Diego,” says Cohen. “We need more stories that connect us with the human aspect of immigration and how important we are to the world.” Obregon’s journey reflects both the challenges immigrants face in the United States and how vital they are to it. The film perfectly aligns with Avilés’ goal of taking viewers beyond the headlines and the stereotypes into the dynamic and diverse experiences of Latinx people.

“I think the way people can connect is by connecting with small stories,” says Cohen. “We need to start looking at Latinos, Latinx people, as an important part of the progress of this country.”

Tickets for the virtual festival can be purchased online for $10 per film. “Fruits of Labor” and a program of short student films are both free to all audiences.