Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Recap of Newport Beach Film Festival 20th anniversary

It’s always a pleasure covering the Newport Beach Film Festival that takes place in Newport Beach and part of Costa Mesa every year. I’ve covered the event three times and I must say that it gets better every year. This year it took place from April 25th-May 2nd. This year I chose three films to screen and every single one exceeded my expectations.

Papi Chulo

The first film we screened was "Papi Chulo" which takes place in Los Angeles and is about a lonely weatherman who drives past a middle-aged Latino migrant looking for work. He decides to hire him to paint his deck, but ends up developing a friendship with him. The story gets complicated when we see the deeper reasons why the weatherman is desperately searching for meaning in his life after suffering a huge loss. We enjoyed this film very much and had no idea what to expect. We liked how it features two disenfranchised groups in society: the gay man and the migrant. Very interesting dynamics in the film!

The Harvest Season

The second film we screened was "The Harvest Season" which was shown together with the short "The Last Harvest: You can't grow without change." The short talked about the harvesting of our fruits and vegetables in the central valley of California. It talked about the labor shortage and how many crops are rotting because there is no one to pick them. It also mentions how if there continues to be a labor shortage we will not be able to buy certain fruits and veggies anymore. The film that followed talked about the wine industry in Napa Valley. Again, it talked about the labor shortage for picking the grapes. We see the lives of the temporary laborers, permanent residents and the multigenerational Latinos intimately connected to the production of premium wines in the Napa and Sonoma regions of Northern California. I likes the story of one of the laborers who travels on a work visa every year from Zamora, Michoacán to pick grapes. We see how he goes back after the harvest to Mexico in a four day bus ride. It's such a contrast to the types of people drinking the wine. Also we follow one winery owner who is a Latina and has achieved success in the family business. We see how the fires affected the region and what they are doing today to continue to recruit laborers for such back breaking work. I really enjoyed these two films because it brought awareness to some social issues that not many people know about. We drink our wine and eat our fruits and veggies without realizing how much work it takes to make it possible for us to enjoy them. 

Sea of Shadows 

The last film we screened was "Sea of Shadows." This was an environmental film about what is going on in the Sea of Cortez in Baja California. Little do people know that there is an illegal trade going on between the Mexican cartels and Chinese traffickers all surrounding the hunt for the totoaba fish which the Chinese believe has healing powers for various ailments. During this process, the fishing nets sometimes catch the vaquita porpoise on accident which is an endangered whale native to only the Sea of Cortez. Some of the concerns of the environmentalists is the depletion of the marine life in the region and especially the possible extinction of the vaquita porpoise. These is a lot going on this film and it follows a film crew that tries to get to the bottom of the trade and explores how the Mexican Navy is trying to help in the efforts to curb this crime ring. I learned a lot watching this film and I commend those in the effort to save the vaquita. The drug cartels mean business and trying to fight them just seems like a very frightening task to me. I felt like I was watching a scary movie because of how much is at stake here and the dangers of the whole situation. 

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to screen some amazing films and I can’t wait to cover the event again next year. Because of the Newport Beach Film Festival I was able to screen some amazing films and now I look forward to attending film festivals in general. It's really a great way to spend with your loved ones. 

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