“If we want to see more diverse faces represented in media, a film festival is a great place to start.”

That notion is what drove the launch of CineLatino three years ago, says festival co-director and Denver Film Society (DFS) marketing and communications manager JoAnna Cintron. “It’s a personal passion of ours—we’re both Latino,” says Cintron of herself and co-founder Ernie Quiroz, programming manager at Sie FilmCenter. “It’s a film festival that’s representative of the population. The world is finally starting to catch up: Latino film is not just about immigration. It can be a universal film with Latin flavor.”

The four-day event—featuring cinematic work from Latin America, Spain, and the United States—is held annually during National Hispanic Heritage Month, as part of DFS‘ lineup of mini-fests. The 2016 iteration includes 15 screenings, special receptions, and guest appearances. With too many good titles to choose from, I left it to Cintron to highlight her four top picks. But she had one caveat: “Mix it up,” she urges. “See one of those big films [and then] experiment with one of the smaller films. I think [you’ll] be pleasantly surprised.”

The Vessel

The festival opens with this subtitled feature film set in Soledad, a small fishing village that, 10 years earlier, saw a giant tidal wave sweep 46 schoolchildren out to sea. Back in the present, a young man drowns and then reawakens three hours later—and then begins to build something strange out of the decimated elementary school ruins. The movie was shot on location in Puerto Rico, and was executive produced by the renowned Terrence Malick. Thursday, September 22, 7 p.m. (opening night reception begins at 6 p.m.)


Get a glimpse into an unfamiliar world with this story of a 17-year-old Mayan girl who works on a coffee plantation in Guatemala. “It’s a rare look at this culture, and a beautiful universal story about love and trying to find a different life,” Cintron says. Ixcanul was shot in Spanish and Mayan K’iche’ language. Sunday, September 25, 1 p.m.


A 30-minute documentary following Gerardo Lopez (aka, Clever), a gang interventionist in Denver, as he leaves Los Angeles gang life behind and focuses his attention on keeping his family and other youth from repeating his mistakes. Stick around after the screening for a Q&A with Lopez and Colorado-based director Alan Dominguez and director of photography Aaron Kopp. Sunday, September 25, 5:30 p.m.


An official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival—and Mexico’s official Oscars submission—Desierto is the latest movie from Jonás Cuarón and Alfonso Cuarón, the filmmakers behind Gravity. The “suspense thriller” sees a merciless vigilante pursue a band of unarmed men and women along the U.S.–Mexico border, as a once-hopeful journey transforms into one filled with terror. Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan star. Sunday, September 25, 7:30 p.m. (closing night reception begins at 6 p.m.)

Details: CineLatino runs September 22–25. All events are held at the Sie FilmCenter. An all-access pass costs $85; individual screenings are $12; and opening and closing night receptions and screenings are $25.

Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.