Film

What Does Afro-Latinidad Mean in the Film World?

Four Afro-Latinas in the film industry discuss Black identity in Latin America and how it’s portrayed through their work.

Each year, the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival’s LOLA awards recognize filmmakers whose work centers around a specific theme. This year, that theme was Afro-Latinidad, or Black identity in Latin America. The 11th edition of the festival included five female filmmakers, four of whom participated in a roundtable discussion of their films and the overlapping themes present in each of them, in particular an affirmation of Black diasporic identity.

Monica Moore-Suriyage is an L.A.-based Afro-Latina filmmaker of Dominican and Sri Lankan heritage. She describes her film La Ciguapa Siempre as “a horror short about a young girl finding out she is one of the mythical Dominican creatures.” Montreal-based Christine Rodriguez is a mixed race, Afro-Trinidadian playwright whose first short film Fuego is a story about an Afro-Cuban man struggling to cope with his new life in Montreal. Interdisciplinary artist Shenny De Los Angeles is a biracial Dominican-American. Her experimental short and 2022 LOLA award winner The Ritual to Beauty was inspired by a one-woman play and discusses De Los Angeles, her mother, and her grandmother’s shared relationship to relaxing their hair, with spoken word and poetry as well. Finally, Black Colombian actress Loren Escandon directs Los Patines, which recounts her “mother’s childhood as a domestic slave in Colombia.”

Below are some of their thoughts on Afro-Latinidad and their films.

Affirming blackness & representation

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Music
Photo: Daniela Murillo.

Picós Sound Systems: A Nostalgic African Sound in Colombia

Barranquilla has become a catalyst of African rhythms in the Colombian and Caribbean coast.

On January 1 the annual pre-carnival festivities officially began for the carnival that will take place this year at the end of March in Barranquilla, Colombia. Picós (from the English for “pick-up”) are at the heart of these parties taking place in the streets, houses and venues in various popular neighborhoods in Barranquilla and Soledad (a city on the outskirts of Barranquilla).

These retro sound systems, also called turbos, are decorated with fluorescent colors. They have been a symbol and identity of the city for a long time. The ethnomusicologist and musician Andrés Gualdrón says, “The picó sound system was used to musicalize parties, festivals and Carnival festivities in Cartagena and Barranquilla.”

“The presence of records from the African continent started in 1970 in various picós along the Caribbean coast,” says Gualdrón, who has been studying the origins of champeta music. In Colombia these vinyl arrived mostly to Cartagena and Barranquilla thanks to music collectors.

“There were plenty of people bringing African vinyl like Osman Torregrosa and Donaldo García who made a lot of trips into Haití, Guadalupe, Curazao and bought these records in foreign languages,” adds Gualdrón.

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