Q&A: Inaugural Tufts Latinx Film Festival celebrates diversity, dialogue

The promotional posters for 'Coco' (2017), 'Vida' and 'Ixcanul' (2015), screening at the inaugural Tufts Latinx Film Festival, are pictured. via IMDb

While movies can amuse and entertain us, they also teach us a lot about ourselves and the society we live in. It is also important and beneficial to watch movies that depict the lives and societies of others, so we can develop a better understanding and appreciation of each other and begin to bridge the gap that divides us.

No one understands the significant impact of diversity in movies better than junior Vladimir Proaño. An intern at the Latino Center, Proaño helped plan and organize the Tufts Latinx Film Festival, which began Oct. 24. The festival will close on Nov. 9 with a screening of television miniseries Vida at 1 p.m. and Pixar’s award-winning film Coco at 3 p.m. in Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room. The Daily sat down with Proaño for an interview to learn more about the festival. 

Tufts Daily (TD): What’s your role the Latino Center? What does the center mean to you, and do you think it is an important part of Tufts?

Vladimir Proaño (VP): My duties at the center range from supporting logistics to designing some of the center’s programming and events. Within the center’s organization, I work in the Arts and Culture committee with another intern and two peer-leaders and work with events that pertain to our committee, although we also collaborate with interns and peer-leaders in other areas as well.

My experience with the center is fairly recent, as I was generally uninvolved with it during my first and second years at Tufts. The center has carried out very important changes since then, however. One of them has been to expand its programming to cater to more Latinx groups, including Caribbean and Latin American students. As someone who grew up in Latin America and experienced the lack of space on campus for people who share my background, this was a valuable opening that made me want to get involved in programming to improve this connection. For many students, the center has historically been a homely space, and this new opening to students like me was valuable. This extends to the new groups the Latino Center works with, and of course, other groups it has always catered to. Here lies the value of the center for Tufts, as it is the primary point of contact the university has to interact with Latinx students in ways that match their experiences. After all, Latinx is neither a race nor a nationality. It is a broad spectrum of cultures coming from and related to a geographic region, which makes it impossible to place these students under more rigid categories like race and nationality. The Latinx experience is unique and so is the center.

TD: Where and how did the idea for the festival originate?

VP: This year’s Tufts Latinx Film Festival is the first of its kind, though we hope to make it an annual celebration of Latinx identity and culture. The idea came from our director, Julián [Cancino], and was further developed and curated by [sophomore] Rebeca Becdach and me [and] interns at the center. However, the unique element is that we invited Latinx professors to participate in it and gave them complete freedom to choose the films they were interested in screening. This way, we can foster more organic interactions between students and faculty about Latinx identity.

TD: Why is the festival important to you?

VP: The element I like most about the festival, besides the input from faculty, is the diversity represented in the films. We have movies written in indigenous languages from Guatemala and others that look into the Latinx perspective in the United States. For me, this festival is a sample of the diversity of our identities.

TD: Why is the festival important to the center?

VP: It offers a chance for faculty and students to interact in a space outside of the classroom and exposes students to topics that faculty are not always able to share in class. Besides, by bringing in professors from different departments, various perspectives are made available to students who don’t necessarily know much about certain fields. Therefore the festival is important to the center in that it helps it meet its objectives of fostering conversation and reaching out to students who either identify with the discussed topics or are interested in them.

TD: And why is the festival important to Tufts in general?

VP: By making these very particular glimpses of the Latinx and Latin American experiences available to the wider Tufts community, the festival fosters conversation and cross-cultural learning.

TD: How and why were these particular movies chosen for the festival? Which one is your favorite?

VP: The movies were proposed by Latinx professors that we reached out to and that agreed to present the movie and deliver some introductory remarks. It is completely up to the professor which movie they want to screen. I have only seen one of the movies so far, “Ixcanul” [2015], and [I] enjoyed it a lot and would most definitely recommend it.

TD: What would you say to a student who is thinking of attending a screening to convince them to go?

VP: The films we plan to screen are not the first suggestion you will find on your Netflix account. They are, however, great works that have won awards and show the realities of some Latinx experiences that are worth watching.

TD: What do you want people to take away from the festival?

VP: I would say the diversity that the term Latinx or Latino entails. While many structures and systems often deal with the Latinx experience incorrectly and fail to understand it, in reality it is not as simple as it is often depicted. It is extremely diverse and complex, and I want people to get a sense of this from the festival and hopefully understand some of their Latinx peers’ experiences.

TD: What are your future plans for the festival? Would you like it to happen again?

VP: The festival is still underway, so we have not yet discussed any future plans. However, it has been successful and extremely interesting so far and would certainly like to see it continue next year … We regularly issue a newsletter with all events. This Friday, we will have a town hall for the community to come and voice their feedback, and hope to see everyone with something to say present.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


COPYRIGHT 2019 THE TUFTS DAILY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.