Reflections of Past and Present: Puerto Rico Film Society’s Guillermo Vazquez

Guillermo Vazquez, Program Collaborator

Puerto Rico has fallen in love with Film Forward. On its first visit to Puerto Rico, in 2011, the program reached a wide audience, with a touch of fanfare and glitz. The first event alone attracted more than 700 people and featured a jazz player and a “red carpet”! That year, both in San Juan and Ponce, the public responded with great enthusiasm to the opportunity of viewing independent films and discussing them with each other and with our wonderful Sundance Institute guests.  

In 2012, Film Forward honored us with a second visit. That year, while still magical, the program developed more maturity and scope. The community became more directly involved, as organizations such as the College of Architects, Mothers Against War and the Association of Puerto Rican Adoptive Parents collaborated in the screenings. The issues explored in the films found dramatic echoes in our midst, and we were especially proud to integrate students from several universities in all of the events.  

The experiences we had on the first two years helped craft an ambitious program for Film Forward 2013. Thanks to the wonderful Sundance Institute team, our friends in Pimienta Film Co., and collaborators such as the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña and a number of very special non-profit organizations, this was our most diverse program yet.  

Most of the screenings were presented with the support of local non-profit organizations that helped shed light on the topics presented in the films. I won’t forget the lively discussion inspired by Josh Penn’s Beasts of the Southern Wild about the state of the arts in Puerto Rico or Musa Syeed’s comment that maybe the community he portrayed in Valley of Saints could benefit from some of the strategies that the Caño Martin Peña communities use to fight for a healthy environment.  

Diversity was key in the program this year. We talked about the environment and community involvement, about religion and feminism, about film production, civil rights and skateboarding.  The venues were varied as well. For instance, we held a screening in a small movie theater in a pediatric hospital in San Juan and another event in a Ponce library with a predominantly senior citizen audience. We reached high school students of a variety of backgrounds through our screening with Taller de Fotoperiodismo and engaged artists with the support of Beta Local and the theater group Y no había luz.  

Local filmmakers also benefited deeply from the discussions; and we felt privileged that the fantastic ShortsLab was also offered within the context of this special program.   

And so, in 2013, Puerto Rico fell in love, all over again, with Film Forward. On behalf of the Puerto Rico Film Society, I’d like to thank the Sundance Institute and its allies for making this wonderful romance possible. Gracias y ¡hasta la próxima!

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Alexis Chikaeze as Kai in 'Miss Juneteenth,' coming to digital platforms June 19

Channing Godfrey Peoples on a Bittersweet ‘Miss Juneteenth’ Release and the Urgency of Portraying Black Humanity on Screen

After premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Channing Godfrey Peoples’s debut feature is hitting digital platforms this Juneteenth—the day for which the film is named and which is very close to the director’s heart. “I feel like I’ve been living Miss Juneteenth my whole life,” she says.
The June 19 holiday—which commemorates the day slavery was finally abolished in Texas (more than two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was issued)—is celebrated in her hometown of Fort Worth with a deep sense of reverence and community, with barbecues, a parade, and a scholarship pageant for young Black women.

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