On Saturday, December 1 and Sunday, December 2, the 9th annual OLA Film Festival will take place at the Parrish Art Museum’s Lichtenstein Theater. The film festival is put on by Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island and will feature plenty of award-winning films from various Latin countries like Chile and Mexico.
By showcasing different cultural viewpoints, these narrative and documentary films can be enjoyed through the eyes of another.
According to the festival’s founder, Isabel Sepulveda de Scanlon, the OLA Film Festival began nine years ago under the OLA charity, which she also started. “I realized there were a lot of people who never go overseas to see these films and consequently, they aren’t given a chance to see world cinema firsthand. It’s really about bringing the culture over and educating the public,” Sepulveda said.
“Nine years ago, we had five people at Guild Hall. Now we’ve got around two-hundred people attending,” Sepulveda said, pleased with the growth of her festival. “We don’t have a lot of monetary resources, but our sponsors have been incredible. Thanks to their sponsorship, we’ve been able to advertise more and get the word out,” she continued. “I’ve seen young people, older people, many different races and ethnicities, and that’s my goal—to have different ages and cultures under the same roof for the same cultural event.”
The festival opens with a screening of Patricio Guzman’s documentary Nostalgia For The Light, a tragic story of family members sifting through the sands of Chile’s Atacama Desert. The desert itself draws astronomers from all over the world who use the area to stargaze. This juxtaposition of stargazers and family members searching through the sand to find the graves of loved ones is strikingly poignant. The so-called “driest place on Earth” is the perfect setting for such a strange tale, which was also home to the Chile’s brutal political past. “There’s an energy in that part of the world, it’s impossible to describe, but you can feel it, and the documentary discusses that,” Sepulveda said.
On Sunday, Thomas Riedelsheimer’s film Jardin en el Mar will be screened. The film centers on Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias as she journeys to the Mexican Sea of Cortez. Along the way, she travels to the depths of Candelor Bay off the Island of Espiritu Santo, where the artist has been commissioned to create a piece of underwater sculpture. The film is a beautiful portrait of a creative genius with insight into what drives the spirit of an artist.
The festival concludes with Abrazo Partido/Lost Embrace, a 2004 film directed by Daniel Burman. It is the story of a young Jewish-Argentinian man looking to discover his past and connect with his long-absent father. The film touches on how a family can be torn apart by war. In this case, the Yom Kippur War of 1973. After years of questioning why his father left him to fight in a war, young Ariel’s father returns from Buenos Aires and the two attempt to reconcile. While it deals with serious subject matter, the film is “wildly funny,” Sepulveda noted.
Looking to the future, Sepulveda said, “We have to do something special for our tenth year. We have to celebrate it, maybe in a bigger way—more films, more events, that kind of thing. Maybe we could do the festival over two weekends, expand to East Hampton, something like that.”
Tickets are $10 for each film, $8 for Parrish Art Museum members. The Parrish Art Museum is the oldest cultural institution on the East End and showcases art of varying styles. The OLA Film Festival is a nice fit for what the Parrish is striving to achieve.