Seattle Latino Film Festival: Reviews and Interviews


Review: Strangers to Peace

Angelina P. ’24

Have you ever drawn a line between what can be forgiven and what cannot? Who deserves redemption and why? Strangers to Peace uncovers the ongoing battle between the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia) guerilla group through the lens of demobilized FARC members. The film focuses on the narratives of Dayana, a market vendor and trans woman grappling with her identity after the traumatizing, transphobic environment of the FARC; Ricardo, a father and university student struggling to make ends meet; and Alexandra, an Indigenous woman trying to repair her relationship with her family after experiencing years of physical abuse. The deserters have trouble finding their place in society, fearing the wrath of the FARC and the judgment of anti-FARC Colombian civilians. 

This theme of being an outcast carries throughout the movie, authentically depicting the hopeless position of FARC members, ex-FARC members, and civilians alike. Strangers to Peace exposes the FARC’s crimes against humanity but also reveals the motives behind the members’ mobilization: abuse, poverty, and opposition to the corrupt government. By taking a less mainstream approach on the conflict and straying away from the anti-FARC civilian experience, the film allows viewers to put a face to the FARC, contemplating not only the consequences of joining but also of leaving the FARC. 

Despite telling three separate stories, the cinematography has an organic flow. The directors elegantly connect the otherwise isolated narratives through themes of loss, hopelessness, redemption, and restoration. For example, both Dayana and Ricardo struggle to pursue their dream careers and, due to their unstable economic situations, ultimately give up their business and studies for minimum wage jobs. The camera work and editing are smooth, aiding the transitions and aesthetic experience. Like the narratives, the setting flows from one scene to the next: viewers see buzzing urban centers, impoverished towns, and remote indigenous villages in their most authentic form. 

The only notable shortcoming of the film is the confusing narration. The predominant narrator is never introduced on screen and her relationship with FARC is never clearly explained. To understand the role of the narrator in the conflict, viewers must pay very close attention to negligible details or read the movie description beforehand. Aside from this minor hitch, the plot is fairly easy to follow.

For non-Spanish speakers and Spanish speakers alike, Strangers to Peace will leave viewers pondering what it means to be a foreigner in your own country. The internal conflicts, never ending war, and economic crisis in Colombia persist in viewers’ consciences long after they finish the film. 


Review: Spain: The First Globalization

Eva T. ’24

Spain: The First Globalization. Its premise seemed intriguing: a documentary about the history of Spain, undoubtedly rich with information on colonization, religion, and language. I had reasonable expectations; I thought that, at the very least, this film would be informative. After coming out of the theater, either out of exhaustion or politeness, I attempted to appreciate what I’d just watched. I thought, “well, the visuals and score were good.” Then I gave up. I’d spent two hours and $35 on a documentary which made me feel irrepressible anger. 

Spain: The First Globalization is the epitome of propaganda. The circus began with a statement from director Jose Luis Lopez Linares, who stated this film came directly from the Spanish government in a PR campaign to “market” Spanish history in a more positive light. Throughout the entire ordeal, the movie was desperate to have its viewers sympathize with Spain’s past. The film conned its viewers, insulted their intelligence, and spread egregious fallacies, all to support their claims of Spain’s historical superiority. 

How? Firstly, through arguing that Spain’s colonization paled in comparison to the acts of other first-world countries like France, Britain, and the United States. The movie would introduce a controversial topic from Spanish history and then illustrate how the tragedies for which they were indisputably responsible were less horrific than those of other imperialistic countries. Though, to not give you the wrong impression, it must be said that this film didn’t do this frequently. No—they had a preferred method of deflection, one which required much less accountability and a whole lot more blame. The movie recycled three options: the colonized (or, according to this movie, those who “happened” to be affected by Spanish presence) were either happy that the Spanish were there, better off because of Spanish intervention, or collaborators in their own destruction. With each rare piece of factual information, at least two lies poisoned it. For instance, according to this movie, Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés was indeed in the Americas with the Aztecs, but he was not a colonizer. In reality, it argued that the Aztecs were the cause of their undoing using horrific misrepresentations of historical facts and events focusing on Aztec brutality, playing heavily into the stereotype of “Indian savagery,” without confronting Spain’s own role as conquistadores in the Aztec Empire. They wrap up this section of the film with a tribute to the late Hernán Cortés, conveniently forgetting to grieve lost Aztec culture, land, and people.

Now, clearly, this film brewed some intense emotions in me. But, to ensure I give you my full review, I must mention my personal opinion that the only thing preventing this movie from real, culturally-significant infamy is its incredible ability to be both infuriating and tedious at the same time. The flick earned its two-hour run time through its unnecessary repetition of already dull subjects and subsequent long-windedness. Avoiding becoming utterly apathetic to the affair was a challenge. You’d also expect a historical documentary to go in chronological order of events, so this movie’s scatterbrained plot didn’t do it any favors. Dejavu was just a side effect of an amnesic film that frequently forgot what it already illustrated: Oh? The Spanish provided China with silver? Interesting. Huh, we’re going back to the silver again, alrighty. Okay, this has to stop now. What more is there to say about silver? So on and so forth. What a drag. 

The so-called documentary Spain: The First Globalization is ultimately unsuccessful—unable to keep its audience’s attention and incapable of convincing viewers of its ridiculous false arguments. Thus, this unfortunate film accomplished little more than being a soulless waste of its audience’s mental energy.


Review: It Runs in the Family

Zane R. ’24

For Victoria’s family, erasing things is a habit. When someone dies, they get rid of the photos instead of preserving them. Maybe they see it as cathartic, but according to Victoria, narrator and protagonist of the documentary It Runs in the Family, this erasure particularly affects the black sheep of the family, the people who fall outside of the norm and thus are easier to forget and ignore.

Victoria’s movie opens with a long segment of a home movie and features lengthy cuts of scrolling through family photo albums, seemingly paradoxical because of its focus on erasure. The purpose of the movie is to investigate the life of Victoria’s estranged second-cousin, filmmaker Oscar Torres. Few family members know much about him, and nobody seems to want to talk.

The film follows Oscar’s life through interviews with various family members. Beginning as a socialist student under the Trujillo dictatorship, he later found refuge in Cuba until he became ostracized from the socialist movement because of his openness about being gay. Victoria also explores Oscar’s isolation and alcoholism, which lead to his early death.

The subject of identity creeps into the movie slowly. Victoria discusses the impact of Oscar’s homosexuality on his life and compares her own experience coming out as a lesbian. She’s terrified of being erased like Oscar, going so far as to take her photo albums from her parents so they will never be thrown away. This fear of erasure could have been explored more fully — the movie leaned on telling, rather than showing, Victoria’s own experience, and her family seemed supportive of her identity. Perhaps the movie could have depicted conversations between Victoria and her parents about the aftermath of her coming out to clarify Victoria’s feelings.

In the second half of the movie, Victoria recruits family members to perform readings of Oscar’s unproduced scripts. These reenactments were interesting but seemed disconnected from the rest of the movie. Except for one about sexual assault, they revealed little about Oscar’s life. While the reenactments were a poetic ending because they forced her family to acknowledge Oscar and his contributions, these feelings could have been explored more with further interviews. It would have been interesting to see how the reenactments changed family members’ perspectives, something the movie did not touch on.

Overall, the movie was engaging with unique cinematography and personal content. Although certain themes and emotions could have been explored further, Victoria successfully describes the life and erasure of Oscar. I can imagine that it was difficult to tell such an intimate story, but the benefits for the viewer are clear: an understanding of this family and a piece of Dominican queer history.


SLFF Critics on Reviewing Films

Zane R. ’24

On October 7, Zayda Villar Sánchez and Miguel Cano Perez visited Spanish V classes to speak about critiquing and selecting movies for the Seattle Latino Film Festival. Sánchez’s favorite movies chosen for the festival include Romulo Resiste (for clearly explaining complex geopolitics), the short Sombras (“te da alma,” she said, or “it feeds your soul”), Frente al Silencio (for its excellent choreography and interesting theme), Gaspar (for its representation of autism), and Strangers to Peace (for humanizing the people caught up in the guerrilla movement). Sánchez and Perez recommend having the patience to watch movies all the way to the end — you never know what could happen, and if it’s boring, they say, you can put it on double speed. As for reviewing movies, they commented on the difficulty of assigning a numerical score, as taste is subjective and all movies are products of directors’ hard work.


An Interview with Spanish Teacher Paloma Borreguero 

Angelina P. ’24

Upper School Spanish Teacher, Paloma Borreguero, has been involved in the Seattle Latino Film Festival for years now, bringing authentic Spanish film to the Lakeside community.


AP: Why do you feel it has been important to be involved in organizing and planning the film festival?

PB: I am very interested in culture. I believe that language is very tied to culture, and so one of the best ways for students to understand a language and feel that it is important is if they know the culture. GSL, outdoor trips — these experiences are experiences out of the classroom where [students] are learning and seeing people from that culture go to these movies, and these movies are done by people from those countries with their own view and focus. Last year we were able to bring a famous director from Venezuela and a Hispanic critic from Miami. This year, I hope to bring the young star from [Gaspar] for opening night. Going to the movies makes all of us in Seattle aware of the Latinos around us and also how other countries think. 

AP: You’ve been involved with the SLFF since its beginning; what does it take to put it together every year?

PB: My focus has always been outreach and education, so I have connected with other schools. Unfortunately what we were doing got stopped by COVID, so now we are trying to pick the pieces back together again. This year we have a couple community colleges and at least four independent schools; I was not able to get any public schools. 

Right now, the film festival has people volunteering not only in Seattle but also from Spain, Miami, and even Paris. It is a very small film festival in terms of the people because we are all volunteers. It is very difficult to get a film festival going in the U. S.: Spain has several film festivals, and the government provides funds for them through the cultural department; [our] film festival has to live from grants and donors. 

AP: Why do students write reviews about the films? Are reviews published or used elsewhere?

PB: We decided it would be nice if the directors got some feedback. We recently used a couple letters to ask for grants and see how it affects our younger audience. You are giving back to the film festival. The film festival is very aware of diversity. This year we tried to include movies showcasing many minorities. There is a fabulous movie that will show how people develop deafness. It’s just a tool. It’s an easier way for people to learn about other people.