Film festival educates students

Jessica GuerrucciReporter

Entering its ninth year, the Latino and Native American Film Festival continues to shine light on the two different cultures, highlighting both the good and the bad, through showing several different films.

The ninth annual Latino and Native American film festival began on Thursday, April 4 and went until Monday, April 8. The festival featured a range of different films focusing on both Latinos and Native Americans.

Anna Rivera-Alfaro, the assistant director for transfer student advising and an organizer for the festival, said they started it to share the culture and educate people because the stories told about the two cultures tend to be negative.

“This kind of highlights some of the positive things, not always positive, but some of them really draw on or talk about serious issues that are happening in the Latino and Native American community,” said Rivera-Alfaro.

Carlos Torre, an education professor, also helped coordinate the event and select the films. He said the festival was started as an effort to support the Latino and Native American population at Southern.

“We’re trying to recruit, retain, and graduate students in this area and faculty as well, so I said, ‘Why don’t we do something different?’ as opposed to just going out there and throwing out some literature and ‘You should come to the university,’” said Torre.

The festival also had a panel of judges to select the films they thought were best which was put together by Wesley O’Brien, who is the chair of the media studies department.

“There’s about five or six categories, and I have sort of volunteered a number of faculty members in the communication, media, and screen studies department, as well as Mike Shea in the English department, who are working on viewing the films, choosing their favorites and then we’ll compile which ones win,” said O’Brien.

The festival was open to the community which brought several Southern students along with New Haven parents and teachers. Julia King, who is a teacher in the New Haven public school system, said she saw the event as an opportunity to learn since she teaches a diverse population of students.

“I felt like it will help me with my education to help students,” said King. So, hopefully it’s something I can take back to the school and maybe invite them for next time or help me help them with their learning strategies.”

Torre said professors often like to incorporate the films in their syllabus, especially in world languages and history classes where the film festival is already mentioned. Many professors, including William Flores, who teaches Spanish, had their students come to the festival as a requirement, and others offered extra credit.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for them to learn the culture and to really immerse themselves in the language and really listening to the movie in an environment that is not influenced by home distractions,” said Flores.

Though the festival officially ended on Monday, Torre said 175 high school freshmen came to watch the films on Tuesday. Torre said they are trying to bring the films to the public schools to recruit high school students and show them that there is a support network for them at Southern.

President Joe Bertolino said at the opening reception that, as a social justice university, it is the university’s job to ensure the people in the community treat each other with dignity, respect, kindness, compassion and civility.

“Our goal as a university to ensure that opportunities, that events like this one, are an opportunity to engage in discussion and dialogue and learning about those who are different than you,” said Bertolino. “So, those who have a different perspective, those who have a different point of view, have an opportunity to dialogue and debate.”

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