OC Film Fiesta screens free films in Santa Ana
September 02, 2011|By RICHARD CHANG
Here in Orange County, we've got film festivals celebrating indie movies, classic oldies, student projects and Vietnamese productions.
But one significant audience has been overlooked, until recently.
The second annual OC Film Fiesta gets underway Saturday in downtown Santa Ana. This festival's focus is on Orange County's growing Latino community, as well as its history and culture. More than 1 million Hispanics live in Orange County, comprising the largest non-white ethnic group, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
The film festival opens with the 1920 Douglas Fairbanks version of "The Mark of Zorro," and continues through Sept. 18 with classic films, contemporary indies, documentaries and animation. All screenings are free and open to the public.
For festival director Sandra Peña Sarmiento, orchestrating the OC Film Fiesta is a return to familiar territory. She has organized similar film fests in San Diego and San Antonio. The part-time Texas resident has also lived in Santa Ana for many years, and between 2002 and 2005 she ran an art gallery called Pocharte in Santa Ana's historic Santora Building.
"Historically, Southern California has had an indigenous history, followed by Spanish and Latino California mythology," Sarmiento said. "Latinos are portrayed in the popular media and popular discourse as newcomers and new arrivals, when in fact, the Latino and Asian presence here really pre-dated the Dust Bowl immigration out of the Midwest in the 1930s. The way I look at it, (Santa Ana) and this region has a Latino identity, but that's a jumping off point to other ethnic blends, other communities."
On opening night, the OC Film Fiesta will host a car show, displaying 1920 vintage automobiles along Sycamore Street. Musicians and DJs will play tunes from the Roaring '20s, and the outdoor screening of "The Mark of Zorro" will occur at 120 W. Civic Center Drive, between the Old Orange County Courthouse and the Howe-Waffle House. About 80 seats will be available, but attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs.
On Sunday at 4 p.m., the festival will present "Bugambilia," a 1944 Mexican classic starring Dolores del Rio and Pedro Armendariz and shot by cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. Those three – del Rio, Armendariz and Figueroa – teamed up again on John Ford's 1947 Central American tale, "The Fugitive," which will screen Sept. 17 at the Yost Theatre.
Other highlights include the civil-rights documentary "The Longoria Affair" at 2 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Yost Theatre; "Harlistas: An American Journey," a documentary about Latino Harley-Davidson riders screening at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Original Mike's restaurant; "The Three Caballeros," an animated Disney film starring Donald Duck and his two Latino amigos playing at noon Sept. 17 at the Santa Ana Public Library; and the 1940 version of "The Mark of Zorro" screening at 2 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Yost Theatre.
Even though many of the films are designed to entertain, they also contain some important, socially relevant themes.
"I think there's relevance in the subject matter in all of the films, whether it's 'The Fugitive' with Central America, or 'The Longoria Affair' with civil rights," said Victor Payan, co-organizer of the festival and director Sarmiento's husband. "A lot of films deal with displacement. Even 'Zorro,' with locals addressing injustice, is relevant and empowering and brings people together. Admission is free, so we're hoping the festival will attract people of all ages for a shared experience, so people can see themselves as part of this larger community."
THE VIETNAMESE CONNECTION
The OC Film Fiesta is not strictly for Latinos or about Latino subjects. On Sept. 10, the festival will screen "Touch," a Vietnamese American drama about the inner world of nail salons directed by Minh Duc Nguyen. Three short films from the Vietnamese International Film Festival will precede the feature; the program will start at 6 p.m. at the Yost Theatre.
This event is a collaboration with the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association (VAALA), which runs the biennial Vietnamese International Film Fest.
"We have a huge, diverse Vietnamese community in Orange County, and many in Santa Ana," Sarmiento said. "Usually, the Vietnamese and Latino communities just don't mix. This year, we really want to expand the festival to encompass the Vietnamese community. Here in Santa Ana, we want to bring them together and explore the intersections of culture and discourse."
On the same day, VAALA will host a spoken word and wine reception at 4 p.m. at its cultural center on 1600 N. Broadway, Santa Ana. All are welcome to attend.
A CITY REACHING OUT
The film festival will close on Sept. 18 with a screening of the independent movie "White Knight," starring Tom Sizemore, Stacy Keach, Hector Jimenez and Olga Segura. Sizemore plays a Ku Klux Klan leader who is imprisoned with field worker Jimenez as his cellmate. Jimenez, Segura and director Jesse Baget are expected to attend and stay for a Q & A.
The OC Film Fiesta is presented by the city of Santa Ana, which also organizes a massive street fair and parade for Fiestas Patrias on Sept. 17 and 18. Fiestas Patrias commemorates Mexican Independence Day and the independence of other Latin American countries.
Gerardo Mouet, executive director of Santa Ana's Parks, Recreation and Community Services Agency, said the film fest and parade were designed to coincide and reach the maximum amount of people – including non-Latinos.
"It's the whole city's attempt to coordinate, to color-coordinate if you will, a program that shows off Santa Ana as a great place to visit," Mouet said. "People can come and see a film, then stay, shop and dine and enjoy themselves."
The Parks and Recreation director said he understands that Santa Ana faces a certain image problem beyond the city's borders.
"Reality and perception are two different things," he said. "I live in this town. I ride my bike everywhere. Sometimes people feel safe with what they're familiar with. As they become familiar with the great restaurants and great historical buildings here, their eyes may open up after having such a great time in Santa Ana. That's how you build community – through culture, film, food and music."
Mouet added that vendor fees from the street fair are paying for the film festival and parade, not city or county taxes.