After authoring the original “12 Best Black Film Festivals” list, I took the time to do what that list did for emerging independent Black filmmakers of color and canonize the best and most important opportunities for emerging independent Latino filmmakers of color by creating the definitive list of “15 Best Latino Film Festivals in the United States for Emerging Independent Filmmakers.”
A good film festival strategy includes applying to as many film festivals as you can with a goal of 40 festivals submissions, if you can swing it. Those 40 submissions should be evenly divided between large festivals, medium size festivals, niche festivals, and micro-film festivals.
For your niche film festival strategy targeting film festivals that specifically support Latino emerging independent filmmakers of color, you should apply to all 15 of these film festivals which I have ranked in order of friendliness, impact, and likelihood of becoming an official selection.
My Latino film festival selection criteria is based upon the combination of the size of the film festival slate, number of films that are curated versus programmed through open submissions, and how often the film festival programs films that do not have any high-profile Hollywood celebrities attached to the films. But if your independent film was financed with a larger budget and has stars, you definitely want to work your way through the list from the bottom up.
When your film is an official selection, you are granted an all-access pass to all the screenings, events, and activities for the film festival, including numerous insider official selection filmmaker only events and networking opportunities. After you start screening your film on the festival circuit and your film generates buzz and racks up domestic and international awards, you’ll discover that film festivals will reach out to you to screen your film, and many will pay to fly you out to the festival.
Here’s my top picks for the “15 Best Latino Film Festivals in the United States for Emerging Independent Filmmakers” to fill your slate of a dozen or so niche film festival submissions.
The Our Vision Caribbean and Latino Film Festival (OVCLFF) is the only combined Caribbean and Latino film festival that is Academy Award Oscar-qualifying for short films. Each year, the in-person festival occurs at the Carson Event Center in Carson, CA and the online version of the festival through Filmocracy. The winners of the short film categories will screen for 1-week in theaters on both coasts in Los Angeles and New York in order to fulfill the requirements for Academy Award consideration.
Through Filmocracy’s partnership with Hoopla, winners of the best feature, best documentary, or best short categories will be considered for non-exclusive streaming distribution through Hoopla. Hoopla’s titles will become available to 5 million Hoopla users. For a single view that lasts for more than 30 seconds, feature film producers will be paid $0.50 per view. Short films will be made available in bundles in groups of 5. Each short will receive $0.10 per view that last over 30 seconds.
OVCLFF is very filmmaker-friendly and filmmaker-centric for emerging independent Caribbean and Latino films and filmmakers of color. OVCLFF is distinctly committed to illuminating stories and artists from the Caribbean and Latino diaspora. OVCLFF is brought to you by Founder and COO Charles Alleyne and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Christopher C. Odom, MFA, PhD.
For over a decade, the GuadaLAjara Film Festival (GLAFF) has showcased the best of Latin American cinema, and celebrates BIPOC filmmakers, with the intention of finding intersectionality between the United States and Latin America to cultivate a borderless film industry.
The Cine+Mas San Francisco Latino Film Festival showcases the work of emerging and established filmmakers from the US, Latin America, Spain and Portugal. For over a decade, it has been a celebration of the latest work coming out of the 20+ countries and the diaspora.
The Cine Latino Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festival (MSPIFF) the upper Midwest’s largest showcase of the best new films from U.S., LatinX, Latin American, and Iberian cinema. MSPIFF offers a full array of lively film screenings, engaging filmmaker conversations, and exciting parties to engage the Twin Cities’ growing Spanish-speaking populations and vast community of global cinephiles.
The Houston Latino Film Festival (HLFF) is produced by a nonprofit, Latino arts organization dedicated to developing, promoting and increasing awareness of Latino culture among Latinos and other communities by presenting a variety of art and films to the Houston area. For over a decade, HLFF has screened films from all over Latin America, Spain, Portugal and the United States.
The Seattle Latino Film Festival (SLFF) was founded by Jorge Enrique Gonzalez Pacheco, a Cuban international award-winning poet, film industry professional, and cultural entrepreneur, who had vision to create a film festival in Seattle for Latino artists and filmmakers. For over a decade, SLFF has been brining audiences and filmmakers together for an education al experience and to support the magic of filmmaking as part of Latino and Romance Language Cinema globally.
The Hola Mexico Film Festival (HMFF), founded by Samuel Douek with the mission to bring the best of Mexican cinema. For over a decade, HMFF has showcased a wide range of films, from independent productions to documentaries and dramas, resulting in a carefully curated selection of the finest stories emerging from Mexico. The Hola Mexico Film Festival is the largest Mexican film festival held outside of Mexico. The festival screens annually in the spring, in downtown Los Angeles, at the prestigious Regal Cinemas in LA LIVE.
Founded by David Acosta & Beatriz Vieira, the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival (PHLAFF) was established over a decade ago in the Greater Philadelphia region to showcase the extraordinary and innovative work of emerging and established Latine/x/a/o filmmakers. PHLAFF’s programming focuses on the diverse experiences and realities of our people. PHLAFF has evolved into an international film festival that brings the best of Latine/x/a/o stories to a wide audience. PHLAFF attracts a diverse audience, developing a new space in the Philadelphia region where filmmakers, actors, producers and creatives can meet with other artists, engage with audiences and present and discuss innovative work.
The New York Latino Film Festival (NYLFF) has been showcasing Urban Latino films in the US for over 2 decades. Since its founding in 1999, the NYLFF produces culturally relevant and entertaining experiences that build audiences for Latino cinema, support the film community with professional development and foster relationships for Latino talent. Programming includes the flagship film festival in New York City, competition programs and community programs.
The Havana Film Festival New York (HFFNY) is an internationally recognized film festival celebrating Cuban and Latin American cinema. For over 2 decades, HFFNY has offered a cinematic tasting menu of everything we love about Cuban & Latin American Film featuring free programs & events, retrospectives, filmmaker Q&As, and a slate of NY, US, and World Premieres alongside beloved classics, newly-restored. HFFNY is a project of the American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba.
The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) is a distinguished international event dedicated to showcasing the entirety of human experience from the Latino perspective, whether through film, television, digital, music, art, or any other vehicle, regardless of platform. Founded over 2 decades ago by Edward James Olmos, Marlen Dermer, Kirk Whisler, and George Hernandez, LALIFF is recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its discovery of emerging Latino talent. LALIFF has been home to first films by Academy-Award winning directors, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro G. Iñarritu, and Pablo Larrain, as well as home to the first films by Golden Globe-winning actresses, America Ferrera and Gina Rodriguez.
Cine Las Americas International Film Festival (CLAIFF) is a multi-day event that showcases contemporary films and videos from North, Central, South America, the Caribbean and the Iberian Peninsula. Produced by Cine Las Americas, the organization’s mission is to promote cross-cultural understanding and growth by educating, entertaining and challenging the diverse Central Texas community through film and media arts. For over 2 decades, CLAIFF has offered theatrical screenings of films made by and/or about Latinos or Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Films from Spain and Portugal are also included, enhancing a truly Pan-American cinematic experience.
The North Carolina Latin American Film Festival (NCLAFF) celebrates the power and artistry of Latin America’s film and audiovisual production. For over 3 decades, its mission has been to provide a space for Latin American images, sounds, and stories to reach a wider audience. NCLAFF was founded in 1986, by Sharon Mújica. Since 2008 the festival has been directed by Miguel Rojas-Sotelo sharing both classics and new releases from different genres of a rich and prolific Latin American cinema tradition.
The San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) is an 11-day celebration of Latino Cinema, Arts & Culture. The festival presents over 160 films from Latin America, the United States, and Spain as well as Opening Night and Closing Night Parties, the Annual Sabor Latino – Food, Beer & Wine Festival, Q&A sessions with visiting filmmakers, free student screenings, and more. For over 3 decades, audiences have enjoyed the rare opportunity to meet filmmakers and actors from all over the world. SDLFF is one of the larger and well-respected Latino film festivals in the world. Over 350,000 people have attended during the past 30 years and over 4,020 films/videos from across Latin America and the United States have been screened.
For over 4 decades, the Chicago Latino Film Festival (CLFF) has been one of the longest running Latino film festivals in the United States. CLFF celebrates the motion picture arts depicting Latino culture, arts and realities through film. The festival screens close to 100 films from all over Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain, Portugal and the United States. CLFF offers Chicago film lovers from all walks of life the opportunity to view films that might otherwise be inaccessible because they have yet to secure a distributor or streaming deal. Its programming reflects recent trends in Iberoamerican cinema, from films that have become a sensation in the international festival circuit or were box-office hits in their country of origin or have yet to be released theatrically. CLFF is a division of the International Latino Cultural Center in Chicago.
Once again, the goal is to submit to all these niche film festivals for emerging independent filmmakers of color. Screening your film in as many festivals as possible increases your front-facing public professional persona opening door not just to the film and television industries, but to a multitude of other direct and indirect career paths for filmmakers.
As you begin to screen rack up festival screenings and awards, please share your success stories with us, and give us, and this list, a shout out on social media. We want to celebrate your wins with you.