My dissertation investigates the manifold ways Latino/a film festivals based in three Californian metropolitan regions – the San Diego-Tijuana transborder region; Greater Los Angeles; and the San Francisco-Bay Area – all have promoted their distinctive visions and identities, latinidad, as articulated by way of their festival practices and their appeal to imagined communities. The title – “Protest, Pitching, Crossover Dreaming” – was inspired by my main argument: These film festivals are activist, special interest events whose respective missions and practices are intricately tied to each festival’s politics of identity, place/location, and commerce. Not least of all, this is also reflected by their respective stakeholder constellations (e.g., organizers, filmmakers, sponsors, audiences). In fact, each festival’s take on latinidad is shown to be a constant negotiation between its original mission and its ever-evolving “environment” (Rüling 2009) and here, their self-imposed obligation to accommodate the changing needs and demands of their target communities and their need to reckon with sociopolitical, technological and economic factors. In a nutshell, my thesis not only shines a light on the challenges and successes associated with providing an arena for Latinx film productions, talent and subjectivities; what is more, it also attests to the ongoing necessity to disseminate stories that mirror U.S. society in ALL its complexity and diversity.<br />
The theoretical and historical chapters navigate a wide world of scholarship ranging from traditional and contemporary media, film, film festival and performance studies to cultural, social and specifically ethnic – Chicano/a/x, Raza and Latino/a/x – studies. The theoretical chapter briefly traces some of the cultural, communal and commercial roots of the festive paradigms of old and then provides a more exhaustive overview of a number of traditional and more current issues in conjunction with and beyond the film festival’s original role – upon its emergence in the early/mid-20th century – as cultural and economic arena. This chapter also takes into account the exceptional situation of U.S. based film festivals: their overall belatedness, which can be seen both as a result of the U.S.’s historical lack of a support infrastructure provided by the state, and Hollywood’s long-time lack of interest (pre-Sundance, pre-indiewood) in national film festivals due to its eye on international markets. The next chapter jump-cuts to a discussion of Latino/a film activism, including its transnational lineage to Latin American Tercer Cine, and the development of U.S. Latino/a identified cinema – its arenas of exhibition as well as its ongoing struggle for visibility and opportunities. The analytical part further explores, critiques and substantiates the claims and findings articulated in the previous chapters, drawing on my fieldwork activities (2008- 2012), in the course of which I conducted numerous qualitative interviews, as well as my assessment of print and online promotional materials published by the festivals under scrutiny in the analytical chapters. My focus here is on the San Diego Latino Film Festival (since 1994), L.A. based Reel Rasquache Arts and Film Festival (2004-14), and the Bay’s historical festivals – both of Cine Acción (Women of the Americas, 1988, and ¡Cine Latino!, 1993-2004) and the International Latino Film Festival San Francisco (1997-2008) – and finally, today’s San Francisco Latino Film Festival, organized by Cine+Mas (since 2009). The conclusion wraps up my findings.