Homesickness can lead to tears, letters, and trips back home. But for Maria Osterroth, it led to a film festival. Osterroth founded the Portland Latin American Film Festival in 2007, just one year after she moved to Portland from Mexico City. "I had to adjust when I moved here, and I missed Latin American culture," says Osterroth. So, with husband Judah Sussman, she founded the festival as a way to bring a bit of that culture to Portland.
The festival is now in its second year, and Osterroth hopes the films will attract Spanish-speaking and English-speaking audiences alike. "Film is like a window to another world—it gives you an opportunity to meet new characters and see their lives," she says. Handpicked by Osterroth and Sussman, many of the 17 films in this year's fest were selected after the couple saw them at Mexico's Guadalajara International Film Festival—and they introduce lives as diverse as that of a poet in Brazil in the 1930s (Noel: The Samba Poet, screening Fri Oct 17-Sun Oct 19) and those of men, women, and children dealing with new and old love in Puerto Rico (Lovesickness, Fri Oct 17-Thurs Oct 23).
On Thursday, October 16, the fest's opening night features one of Osterroth's favorite films in the fest, Postcards from Leningrad. The film—which is Venezuela's entry for the best foreign film at the Oscars—is both whimsical and heartbreaking as it follows two kids in Venezuela who imagine the lives of their guerrilla parents in the 1960s. Also of note is Villa (Sun Oct 19-Thurs Oct 23) which explores life in Buenos Aires' ghettos through the eyes of teenagers, and which will be presented by its director, Ezio Massa.
For Osterroth and Sussman, this festival is a labor of love—this year, they had trouble procuring funding, and are paying out of pocket for the chance to show these films in Portland. Says Sussman, "I love Mexico. I love Latin America. It is so good to be able to share that culture here."