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Newark Public Library Celebrates Hispanic Heritage and Explores Latino History and Culture through Film
September 2, 2008
Media only, please contact:
Ingrid Betancourt at (973) 733-3637

The Newark Public Library will showcase 10 films from Latin America and Spain as part of its annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration this fall. A featured event of the three-month presentation is an afternoon panel discussion with five young emerging Latino filmmakers, who are creating a splash in the film industry. All reside within the New York metropolitan area.

Every year the Library opens the special collections in its Sala Hispanoamericana to examine, through an exhibit, programs and special events, what it means to be Latino. This year, in its presentation of the exhibit, Reel Diversity: Film in the Hispanic World, the Library will explore the diverse histories and cultures of a variety of Spanish speaking countries through films and movies made in the last four decades.

"Film in many Latin American countries is both an agent and a reflection of change," said Ina Rimpau, curator of the exhibit. "The movies we have chosen to screen by Latino filmmakers represent themes related to national identity that also explore questions of international standing."

The Library will present films from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, and Argentina. The exhibit runs from Monday, September 15 through Saturday, December 20, with an opening reception featuring a lecture by Carlos Gutiérrez, co-founder and director of Cinema Tropical, on Thursday, September 18 at 6 p.m. in Centennial Hall, 5 Washington Street.

"We’ve extended the exhibit so that our patrons can fully explore the concept of culture and national identity in Latin America," said Library Director Wilma J. Grey. "This is an important exhibit that offers a very compelling view of Latino culture through the eyes of both its harshest critics and its most ardent supporters; its cinematographers."

The chosen films, some of which entered the mainstream of American culture and were nominated for Oscar consideration, all date from the last 40 years, a period of time when many Latino countries were reinventing their political identities and were struggling to establish both a national and international presence.

"Film, in many Latino countries, was an artistic form in the 1970s and 1980s and served as an agent of social cohesion and often an educational tool, a phenomenon no longer seen in North America," said Ingrid Betancourt, coordinator of Multilingual Collections and Services. She and Juan Enrique Cintron of the Sala Hispanoamericana collaborated with Rimpau in the development of the exhibit.

The films will be shown on Saturdays starting September 20 through November 15; with two films shown each Saturday in the auditorium of Main Library. Both will be from a selected country. In addition to the films, the curators have scheduled several lectures throughout the series showcasing emerging Latino filmmakers; a theatrical performance and several events for area youth.

The exhibit will also explore the world of the Latino telenovela, a phenomenon similar in some ways to American soap operas.

"This mini-film festival is one of our most important exhibits to date," Betancourt said. "Through these programs; the films, theatrical presentations and other special events, New Jersey residents can get a profound understanding of the Latino culture and heritage."

One of the first non-film events scheduled is the 21 Days of Clemente Essay Contest at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, September 16 in Centennial Hall. The contest is part of a national campaign to retire baseball great, Roberto Clemente’s jersey, number 21, in honor of his achievements both on and off the field. Finalists from the three participating Newark middle schools will gather at the Library for the final stage of the competition. Scholarships will be awarded to the contest winners. The program features music and dance performances and is presented in partnership with the Newark Public Schools and the Puerto Rican Statewide Parade of New Jersey.

On Saturday, October 4, the Library will present a panel discussion showcasing emerging Latino filmmakers in the New York Metro area at 2 p.m. in the auditorium of Main Library. The five filmmakers, who are currently producing features and documentaries in the United States, will talk about their inspiration and project creation and development. Questions and answers follow. The panelists include Sonia González-Martínez, Betty García, Edwin Pagán, Adel Morales and Francisco Bello. The moderator is Louis E. Perego Moreno the president of Skyline Features. The Library will screen the filmmakers’ current works.

The following day, Sunday, October 5, the Library hosts Segunda Quimbamba, a percussion and dance ensemble specializing in the Puerto Rican genres known as bomba and plena as part of the City of Newark’s Latino Family Festival on Bloomfield Avenue between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Stories & Songs of Latin American, a special event for families and children is scheduled for Saturday, October 25 at 2 p.m. in Centennial Hall. Part of the Library’s "Hooray for Children" series, the program will feature Felix Pitre, who will share many of the Hispanic traditions that were passed down to him from his own family, bringing to life the culture of Latin America with puppetry, stories, songs, instruments, and dance. Presented by Theatreworks USA, this program is performed in English interspersed with Spanish words and phrases.

The acclaimed theater piece written by Dominican artist Claudio Mir, Mondongo Scam, will be presented in Centennial Hall at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, November 1. This solo theater piece offers a humorous and insightful examination of the lives of immigrants living and working in the United States and depicts their struggles for survival.

The New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center Support Network will host a reception in Centennial Hall at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 18, featuring a presentation of the book Cuentos: Stories From Puerto Rico, edited by Kal Wagenheim. The book is a bilingual anthology of 12 short stories by six of Puerto Rico’s leading writers; each published in English and the original Spanish.

The Library hosts another youth event at 2 p.m. Saturday, November 22 in the auditorium of Main Library featuring the short films and public service announcements written and produced by area teens participating in Aspira’s Youth Filmmaking Academy and La Casa de Don Pedro’s Youth Program. The filmmakers will participate in a question and answer session at the end of the program.

The schedule for the films is as follows:

Saturday, September 20 - Mexican Films:
1 p.m. Como Agua Para Chocolate, 1992. 105 minutes
Like Water for Chocolate
Based on the novel by Laura Esquivel, Spanish with English subtitles.

3:30 p.m. Angelitos negros, 1948. 100 minutes
Little Black Angels
One of the gems of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. In Spanish.

Saturday, September 27 - Puerto Rican Films:
1 p.m. La Gran Fiesta, 1987. 101 minutes
The Grand Ball
The first feature-length film produced by the Puerto Rican film industry. In Spanish, with some English dialogue.

3:30 p.m. La guagua aérea, 1995. 80 minutes
The Flying Bus
A comedy depicting Puerto Ricans taking the notorious midnight flight from San Juan to New York City in 1960. In Spanish with some English dialogue.

Saturday, October 18 - Cuban Films:
1 p.m. Fresa y chocolate, 1993. 104 minutes
Strawberry and chocolate
This funny but serious film about difference and acceptance was a 1993 New Latin American Film Festival award winner and was also nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1995. In Spanish with English subtitles.

3:30 p.m. Memorias del subdesarollo, 1968. 97 minutes.
Memories of Underdevelopment
Based on a novel by Edmundo Desnoes chronicling the life of a middle-class intellectual caught in the middle of the changing social reality of revolutionary Cuba. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Saturday, October 25 - Spanish Films:
1 p.m. Volver, 2007. 121 minutes
Coming Back
Apparitions are made flesh and blood in Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, a dynamic blend of hilarity and drama. In Spanish with English subtitles.

3:30 p.m. El espiritu de la colmena, 1973. 95 minutes
The Spirit of the Beehive
An exploration of the world of myth and imagination that echoes the Spanish Civil War seen through the eyes of a small girl. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Saturday, November 15 - Argentinian Films:
1 p.m. Camila, 1984. 105 minutes
Directed by Maria Luisa Bemberg, this Oscar-nominated film is an engaging drama of both romantic and political clout. In Spanish with English subtitles.

3:30 p.m. La historia official, 1985. 110 minutes.
The Official Story
Set in 1980’s Argentina, the film follows the wife of a wealthy businessman who begins to discover that her own daughter, adopted at birth, may have been stolen from a family of 'los desaparacidos' (the disappeared ones). In Spanish with English subtitles.

All programs are free and open to the public. For more information, call 973-733- 7772 or visit the NPL on the Web at The Library’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.


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