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Film Series Explores Immigration Issues

Published: January 16, 2015

“Border Crossings and Crossroads in Recent Hispanic Cinema: A Film Series” arrives on campus on Monday, Jan. 26, with a screening of “¿Quién es Dayani Cristal?” at 7 p.m. in LH 151. The series continues at the same time and place with “La Yuma” on Monday, Feb. 2, “El Regreso” on Monday, Feb. 9, “Contracorriente” on Monday, Feb. 16 and “Aqui y Allá” on Monday, Feb. 23.

This series explores immigration issues as well as metaphorical aspects of border crossings such as sexual identity and gender bending in recent Hispanic cinema. It was made possible by a College of Liberal Arts Scholarly Intersections Grant and with the support of Pragda, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of Spain as well as Spain Arts and Culture. Co-sponsors include Film and Electronic Arts, Geography, Latin American Studies, Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures, the Spanish Graduate Student Association and the University Library.

Film series organizers and RGRLL faculty members Bonnie Gasior (Ph.D., Purdue) and Francisca González Flores (Ph.D., Stanford) applauded the series and its theme of border crossings. “The theme of immigration is especially relevant to California,” said González-Flores, who joined the university this fall. “The borders in question are not only geographical but also metaphorical; they can also relate to gender and sexuality, for example.”

Considering CSULB’s designation in 2007 as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education in recognition of having at least a 25 percent Hispanic full-time equivalent enrollment of whom at least 50 percent are considered low-income, RGRLL works hard to keep their interests in mind, said Gasior.

“When planning for these intellectual events, our students are always our top priority,” she said. Gasior also underscored the importance of making the Long Beach community feel welcome to participate: “We want them to join us for these screenings. Their involvement generates all kinds of fortuitous upshots, such as creating an awareness of culture and language study beyond our classrooms.”

A member of the university since 2001, she added, “The theme of border crossings manifests in a myriad of ways, and these films attest to this diversity. In the first film, ‘¿Quién es Dayani Cristal?,’ a body is discovered in the Arizona Desert with no identification except for a distinctive tattoo. It deals with the more traditional understanding of border crossings through geographical spaces. ‘La Yuma,’ on the other hand, introduces filmgoers to a female boxer from Nicaragua whose personal `border crossing’ is tied more closely to questions of gender roles in society. Similarly, ‘Contracorriente,’ a Peruvian selection, follows a married husband and soon-to-be father and his clandestine romantic relationship with his male lover.

When asked what González-Flores and Gasior expected the audience to take away from these recent films, they concurred, “We hope the filmgoers will ponder and perhaps reconsider what is gained (Freedom? Power? Love?) or lost (Family? Values? One’s life?) by transgressing borders. The audience will get something from this series by default because film is a beautiful medium that makes you think about the world in a different way.”

Film series like this one offer the chance to see movies not screened anywhere else, said González-Flores. “Nicaragua and Costa Rica are not countries with prolific cinematic output. ‘La Yuma,’ for instance, is Nicaragua’s first full-length feature film in 20 years,” she explained. “In a sense, then, these films are cinematic border crossings in themselves.”

The film series represents a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty and staff to have access to critically-acclaimed, independent foreign movies, said González-Flores.

“Having the chance to watch films from Central American countries, for example, opens a new world of cinema and allows us to come full circle with the theme of borders and crossroads,” she concluded.

–Richard Manly