From Nov. 7 to Nov. 14, the Macmillan Center at Yale hosted the 12th annual Latino & Iberian Film Festival, or LIFFY. 

This year’s festival took place in a hybrid online and in-person format following last year’s all-virtual festival. LIFFY 2021 included more than 70 films from 19 different Latin American countries, all of which were focused around the theme of “Unidos y Fluidos,” advertised in English as “United in Diversity.” The festival also included three Q&A segments with filmmakers on its opening and closing nights, two panel discussions with the films’ directors and producers and an awards ceremony held on Nov. 14. 

Awards were given in nine different categories. The full-length feature winners were: Fiction, “Bantu Mama;” Debut, “Los Fuertes;” Documentary, “Los Índalos;” Best Director, “Ata tu Arado a una Estrella;” Best Performance, “Pólvora en el Corazón.” The short film winners were: Fiction, “Los Coleccionistas;” Documentary, “Santi 17;” Animation, “War of the Worlds” and “Nuevo Rico.” 

According to Margherita Tortora, LIFFY executive director and founder, the selection committee tried to pick films that emphasized diversity.

“We highlight the struggle for acceptance by various groups, and the topics that they want to communicate to the audience,” Tortora said.

As examples of the festival’s theme, Tortora pointed to films including two shorts focused on Argentinian and Mexican women’s fight for safe abortions titled “Vía Ruta” and “8mty,” a love story of two gay men in rural Chile titled “Los Fuertes,” a story about a trans woman fighting for her rights and acceptance in Argentina titled “Me Llamo Marian” and a Dominican feature film exploring the intersectional complexities of an Afro-Latinx identity titled “Bantú Mama.” 

Last year, undeterred by COVID-19, the Yale Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies (CLAIS) created a virtual platform for the event. This year, the event’s organizers adopted a hybrid format, which consisted of two in-person screenings alongside virtual access to the festival’s entire library.

This year’s hybrid format allowed the festival to reach beyond New Haven, bringing together people across the world to embody its goal of promoting cultural diversity and awareness through contact and understanding. As of Nov. 11, exactly halfway through the festival, LIFFY had more than 1,400 streams from across the globe — many of which came from within Latin America. Leon Kuo ’25, who served as a translator for LIFFY, said the online platform allowed him to “share films with friends and family back home.”

CLAIS Program Director Asia Neupane said that LIFFY’s new hybrid model has been an “incredible success” and is part of the council’s new focus on hybrid programming aimed at reaching a broader audience with both “local and global outreach.” 

The virtual catalogue further allowed LIFFY administrators to add a new level of organization, tagging and categorizing films to make it easier for viewers to find films on subjects of specific interest to them. 

The festival held two in-person screenings, but for the first time in the festival’s history these screenings were only open to Yale students, not members of the New Haven community. The first screening showed the film “San Telmo Tapes,” a joint Ecuadorian and Argentinian film focused on artist Gato Muñoz by filmmaker Leandro Bartoletti. The second featured two Chilean films, a short by Belén Abarza and “Los Fuertes,” a feature-length film by Omar Zuñiga.

While the online format had its own benefits, attendees of the in-person screenings said that nothing compared to attending in-person screenings. 

“Having been to the two in-person screenings that were offered this past week, I would say that being in a theater with a crowd that is enthusiastic and interested in Latin American independent film is something that we unfortunately cannot recreate in an online format,” Kuo said. 

Tortora agreed, adding that while she is grateful for the necessary innovation of the online platform, “it cannot replace the excitement, warmth and camaraderie of a real in-person festival.” In future years, LIFFY organizers hope to return to a mainly in-person format to bring back the communal experience of enjoying films together with audiences composed of both Yale students and the greater New Haven community, but still plan to keep a few online screenings of short films to reach a broader audience. 

After more than a year of social distancing and isolation, LIFFY organizers aim to use films focusing on the beauty of diversity as a uniting human factor to bring people back together.

Tortora, reflecting on the impact that film has had on her own life, said that she views the medium as a way to fight hatred.

 “I truly believe that we cannot hate another human being once that person becomes familiar to us,” Tortora said. “I dream of a time when xenophobia no longer exists.”   

LIFFY screenings were free of charge, with all films shown in their original language with English subtitles.

Correction, Nov. 15: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the names of the films Tortora recommended.

ISABEL KALB