(Francisco J. De León/The Collegian)

Latin American Film Festival welcomes diversity in spite of current events

The film, “Road to La Paz” by the Argentinian writer and director Francisco Varone, provided the Latin American Film Festival audience at Fresno State with insight and a better understanding of the Muslim community.

The film showed members of the Muslim community while they did their actual rituals in their daily lives.

“There are no actors. That’s the real Muslim group,” he said. Due to the actual footage, Varone sometimes refers to his film as a documentary inside a film.

Varone said that before filming took place, he knew little about the Muslim community and its faith.

“What I knew at that time about Islam was very different than what I saw at that moment in the newspaper, television and films,” Varone said.

Varone, not being a Muslim himself, was concerned that his film might offend or could possibly be disrespectful to the members of the Muslim community. But after receiving good feedback from Doha in Qatar and having a good reception in Palestine, Varone was relieved.

After the screening a Muslim audience member at the Latin American Film Festival said, “It’s really well done,” Varone’s concerns were put at ease, he said.

Like other directors and producers who have had their films screened at the film festival, Varone traveled thousands of miles to join the audience to show the diversity of the region and Latin America, said Dr. Annabella España, a coordinator for the festival.

One audience member said, “This is an extraordinary first film. The cinematography was great. Your [actors] were great. I appreciated the education of the Muslim faith.”

Jessica Bustos, another audience member, said, “It showed a mixture of someone who is Muslim and someone who really didn’t know much of the faith, that was really important to have especially at this time when our nation is very divided with race.”

Continuing the film’s Q&A one religious community member added, “There’s a lot of hate towards Muslims right now,” almost coming to tears. Earlier that day, he had been part of a peaceful protest at Fresno City Hall, after Mayor Lee Brand said Fresno would not be a sanctuary city to its undocumented population.

“This particular film, it just so happened to work really well, in some ways unfortunately because of what’s going on in the U.S. today,” said España, referring to the correlation between the film screening and the current political tensions. “We can have a much more positive conversation where we can learn from each other and walk away having learned something new, not only about the other person but also about ourselves.”