A film festival veteran is branching out with a new film fest for Washington Heights. Armando Guareno programmed the New York International Latino Film Festival for five years before noticing that the Dominican community in New York lacked a film festival of their own.
After years of planning, Guareno’s vision has finally come to fruition. The very first Dominican Film Festival of New York kicks off Thursday at Coliseum Cinemas on 181st Street in Washington Heights. The week-long festival of 32 films includes some hard-to-find classics – like “The Price of Sugar”, a documentary about sugar cane workers narrated by Paul Newman, and “Tropico De Sangre,” a biopic about life under the Trujillo dictatorship that has become a cult classic among Dominicans.
“The main mission of the film festival was to create a cultural bridge between New York City and the Dominican Republic,” says Guareno. “Not too many Dominican films have the opportunity to be shown here in New York City.”
After considering a midtown or downtown venue, Guareno says that he and the film committee changed course and decided to screen the films in Washington Heights. “There are plenty of film festivals downtown,” Guareno says. “Let’s bring the culture to the people.”
Led Black is the editor in chief of uptowncollective.com, an online magazine covering the arts and culture of upper Manhattan. He says the timing for the festival is perfect, because the Dominican film industry is becoming more international.
“Dominican cinema is in a very good place right now,” Black says. “It’s transitioning from being something that was only for local consumption, where only Dominicans would get it, and its becoming something that goes beyond its borders. Dominican cinema is finally ready to be bigger than just the island.”
The Dominican Film Festival runs through March 17.
Check out a trailer below from the opening night film, “Hermafrodita” below.