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Winter Edition
Volume 97, Number 3

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Professor’s Latino film festival promotes cultural understanding

Julian Gutierrez-Albilla brings Latino movies to Harrisburg

Though often viewed only as entertainment, films have the capacity to promote unity and reconciliation. They have a unique way of coaxing us into looking through the lenses of others, and the result is that often we cannot help but come to a greater understanding—and appreciation—of different perspectives.

That’s just what Julian Gutierrez-Albilla, assistant professor of Spanish, sought to accomplish with the Latino film festival he organized this fall. The festival, held in November at the Midtown Cinema in Harrisburg, featured five movies from Latin American, Spanish, and U.S. Latino filmmakers.

Sponsored in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Latino film festival included movie discussions led by respected Spanish professors from area colleges and universities.

“One of my goals was to promote recent Latino film productions. There is a lack of distribution of these films in the States,” Gutierrez-Albilla explains. “I also hoped to create an understanding of Latino cultures through cinema. When you create an understanding of a culture, it might help to change certain stereotypes.”

The films, set in countries such as Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, and Spain, addressed a wide spectrum of issues from immigration, the media, and the Spanish Civil War, sparking thought-provoking discussions between the enthusiastic moviegoers. Although there was no formal theme uniting the films, many of them dealt with the notion of migration. “There’s a literal and symbolic way of understanding this idea of crossing the border,” Gutierrez-Albilla says. “It is in that process of crossing borders that allows you to perceive and understand another culture.”

The film festival was well received by Messiah students and educators as well as by the Harrisburg community. And while some who attended the film festival still may be discussing this year’s films, Gutierrez-Albilla is already busy planning for next year’s Latino film festival—a custom that he hopes to continue for years to come..            
Dulcimer Hope Brubaker ’04

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