Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival Returns as In-Person Event

After going virtual last year with the online initiative LALIFF Connect 2020, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival returned as an in-person event on Wednesday. The premiere of “7th and Union” served as the opening night film at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

The Broken English production is the second feature film from director Anthony Nardolillo. Starring Omar Chaparro, the boxing drama tells the story of an unlikely friendship, a broken promise and two men using their old passions to provide a brighter future for their family. The cast also includes Felipe Esparza, Edy Ganem, Gregg Daniel and Oscar Torre.

“It’s a story about strength and family values— the struggle of a Mexican who comes to the U.S. to try to survive and to feed his family,” Chaparro told Variety. “He’s a retired boxer, but he realized that, as the slogan in the movie goes, his main fight wasn’t in the ring. It was in real life.”

As the festival’s opener, “7th and Union” captures the guiding mission of LALIFF to showcase the human experience from the Latino perspective. Chaparro spent four months training with retired lightweight champion Ricky Quiles to prepare to embody a boxer. It all led up to a shoot that spanned 18 days, with 10 hours on set daily.

“What a lot of Mexicans and Latin people who struggle, not only in the ring, in life, and a lot of people have not only one job — they have two or three jobs to feed their family. So I think a lot of people are going to see [themselves] reflected in this film about love, passion, fighting,” Chaparro added.

LALIFF recently partnered with Netflix to create the Inclusion Fellowship to support the work of five emerging Latino filmmakers whose short films will debut at the festival. Its other core programs include LatinX in Animation and the Youth Cinema Project (YCP).

“The kids leave the fourth grade going into the fifth grade with self esteem, self respect … and with their understanding, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity — I can’t give them any more,” actor and festival co-founder Edward J. Olmos said of the YCP. “We’re not trying to make filmmakers, we’re trying to create lifelong learners.”

Added LALIFF artistic director Diana Cadavid, “My biggest hope is that young people get to take advantage of the spaces we open for getting to know the industry better, either if you are interested in arts or film, television or music.”

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