HARRISONBURG — The Hispanic Film Festival returns to Court Square Theater this week in commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Arts Council of the Valley hosts the festival each year from Wednesday to Sunday. This year, four films — two fictional and two biographical — were selected to represent Hispanic artistry and culture.

“Temblores” is a Guatemalan film that follows one man’s conflict between infidelity, homosexuality and Christianity. “Birds of Passage” is a Colombian and Mexican movie that shows how the relationships between indigenous Colombians (the Wayuu people), a rural farmer and Americans in the Peace Corps transform into a drug war between clans.

“Clean Hands” is a Nicaraguan documentary that follows a family over seven years as they survive life in poverty near Central America’s largest open-air landfill. “Yuli” is the Spanish and Cuban life story of Carlos Acosta, a ballet dancer who surmounts the odds to eventually become an internationally recognized talent.

For over a decade, James Madison University’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Committee has helped choose which movies to show from a selection and sponsored one particular film that speaks to topics the Harrisonburg and JMU communities are interested in.

Allison Fagan, the committee chair, said they decided to sponsor “Clean Hands” because students are increasingly more concerned about the implications of globalism and environmental racism.

“One of the reasons that we chose to support in particular ‘Clean Hands’ is because students were interested in things as wide-ranging as climate change, sort of global climate justice, as well as thinking about Central America ... kind of a space that’s been neglected,” Fagan said.

Mary Kauffman, a Harrisonburg resident, said she loves attending culturally enriching events in the city because it helps strengthen the community and instill a sense of pride in the area’s diversity.

“I like to think of Harrisonburg as a global city. And, you know, where we are, we are so fortunate that we live in a place like this, a city like this, where we can enjoy it, and we’re all better as a result of it,” Kauffman said. “[It] brings the cultures of our city and community together; we’re just all the richer for it. I think the film festival is a great thing.”

Court Square Theater manager Mark Finks said the festival originated 16 years ago as the Latino Film Festival, but was rebranded two years ago to be more inclusive since the term “Latino” has fallen out of favor and begun to be replaced by the gender-neutral term “Latinx.” Despite the name change, Finks said the heart and mission of the festival has remained the same.

“There was a big upsurge in the Latino-Hispanic community in Harrisonburg, and we wanted to put on a film festival to represent that community, bring Spanish language films to Harrisonburg. Kind of, you know, promote Hispanic culture and what’s going on as far as the film world and Hispanic world right now,” Finks said.

Gary Auerbach, a Winchester resident, learned Spanish after living in Venezuela for two years and has since continued to follow different cultures through film. As a former ballet dancer, Auerbach said he is most interested in seeing the story of “Yuli” and the various perspectives, scenery and talent that accompanies foreign films.

“I attend film events in Winchester and want to show support down the Valley,” Auerbach said.

A full list of screening times is available on the Arts Council of the Valley website. Guests can purchase a package for $30 to see four film screenings. Individual screening prices are $9.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors, and $5 for students. Shows before 5 p.m. cost $8. Tickets are available for purchase online or at the box office.

Contact Kathleen Shaw at 574-6274 or kshaw@dnronline.com. Follow Kathleen on Twitter @shawkareport

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