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LA Film Festival

Los Angeles Film Festival Director On Diversity, Plus 10 Films To Watch

Reels up!

The 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival is kicking off Wednesday (June 1) with the premiere of its opening night film Lowriders directed by Ricardo de Montreuil, and produced by Brian Grazer and Jason Blum. The film, starring Eva Longoria and Demián Bichir, explores East LA’s car culture and the intricacies of inner city life. It also shines a light on the plight of choosing between traditional Latino values and West Coast street culture.

“It’s about family and culture, and it’s about trying to make your way through reality,” says the Los Angeles Film Festival’s Director, Stephanie Allain, over the phone from Vancouver. “It’s so beautiful and so LA.”

Since her foray in 2014, Allain’s been pushing for diversity by giving women and more people of color a chance to showcase their work. This year a total of 42 premieres will be debuted, of which 43 percent are directed by women and 38 percent by people of color.

You’ll see stories about undocumented immigrants crossing the border on films like Desierto directed by Jonás Cuarón, which will be shown during the festival’s closing night (June 9). You’ll also see the lived experiences of a black transgender woman fighting against a legal system that works against her in FREE CeCe! directed by Jacqueline Gares and produced by Laverne Cox.

In addition to films, there will also be an educational component to the festival. In a special event on Thursday (June 2), Nate Parker will share what it took to make his Nat Turner biopic, The Birth of a Nation. (Which garnered the Sundance Film Festival’s biggest distribution deal this year). The event will be titled Nate Parker’s Labor of Love: The Birth of a Nation Conversation. Cast members, including the likes of Gabrielle Union and Aja Naomi King, will be joining Parker.

Ava Duvernay (Selma) and her distribution company Array Releasing will be honored with the Festival’s annual Spirit of Independence Award on Saturday (June 4). Ryan Coogler, the director of the Rocky sequel, Creed, will also be in attendance presiding over a master class discussing the art and design elements of a film, and how they are put together. Creed’s sound engineer Steve Boedekker will co-host. The event is set to be sponsored by the Dolby Institute.

With the diverse line up, and prominent filmmakers of color in the house, Allain is definitely churning the proverbial melting pot at this year's festival. She hopes that the multiplicity present eventually will gain even more access to Hollywood. And by the looks of it, what she is doing is working.

“In the last couple of years the sales from the festival have exponentially grown,” she says. “Last year we sold like 25 movies out of the festival. The fact that 25 films found homes means those filmmakers now are on the map. They are in contention for new jobs coming up—they have a place to go to when they make their next movie; to me that is the most important work that we are doing. Enough with the diversity programs, I want jobs. That’s what going to make the difference in Hollywood: people being able to practice their craft and get paid for it.”

That said, here are 10 films you should definitely be on the look out for:

72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story?
Director: Raafi Rivero
"A charismatic teen is thrown into a crisis of life and love when he must decide whether to leave his rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn community to pursue a prestigious academic scholarship."

Like Cotton Twines
Director/Writer: Leila Djansi
"An African-American volunteer accepts a teaching job in a remote Ghanaian village and is ensnared in a battle between tradition and freedom when he is compelled to save one of his students from becoming a slave to the gods."

A Moving Image
Director/Writer: Shola Amoo
"In South London reality and fiction merge in this personal reflection on gentrification in Brixton, told from the perspective of a sincere, yet stifled, young artist who struggles with her own complicity as she confronts the changing landscape of her neighborhood."

Jackson
Director: Maisie Crow
"This doc explores a single mother, an abortion clinic director and fervent pro-lifer as they lay bare their stakes in the fight of one of the last remaining abortion clinics to stay open against the pro-life movement’s efforts to make abortions illegal in the Deep South."

Destined
Director/Writer: Qasim Basir
"A man navigates parallel realities: one as a hardened criminal who has spent years building his drug empire; the other as an ambitious architect who has been working his way up the corporate ladder. Ensemble includes Hill Harper and Lala Anthony."

Kicks
Director: Justin Tipping
"After getting his dream pair of Air Jordans snatched, Brandon and his friends go on a dangerously epic mission through Oakland to get them back in this vibrant coming-of-age story bursting with magical realism. CJ Wallace makes his film debut."

Manchild: The Schea Cotton Story
Director: Eric "Ptah" Herbert
"One of the biggest mysteries in basketball’s history is why Los Angeles legend Schea Cotton, one of the most highly touted high school athletes of a pre-social media era, never made it to the NBA."

Jean of the Joneses
Director: Stella Maghle
"Stella Meghie delivers real black girl magic in her directorial and writing debut. Jean of the Joneses is a welcome breath of fresh air, offering a new modern depiction of Black family life anchored in the firm, albeit complicated, relationships of these dynamic women."

Play the Devil
Director: Maria Govan
"Bursting with confidence, style and vision against the lush landscape of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival, Bahamian writer/director Maria Govan’s sophomore feature complicates notions of masculinity, privilege and sexuality in this nuanced, yet brutal, coming-of-age portrait that deftly thwarts any easy moral judgments of her characters’ actions and desires."

They Call Us Monsters
Director: Ben Lear
"With unprecedented access to the juvenile facility, Ben Lear’s evocative and daring debut documentary allows audiences to get to know these young men through a screenwriting workshop in which they collectively fictionalize their lives and dreams. Lear delves into the lives of the victims of violent crimes committed by juveniles and follows legislative debates around bill SB260, which gives children a so-called second chance by allowing them parole eligibility after 35 years."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bad Bunny's "Mia" Causes Mass Parade In Streets Of Puerto Rico On 'Fallon'

Bad Bunny brought the party to The Tonight Show and to the streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico on Tuesday (Jan. 15) with Jimmy Fallon.Performing his new single "Mia" with Fallon and The Roots, the four of them walked the streets of Puerto Rico drawing in a large crowd of fans and followers behind them.

Opening on Fallon and The Roots walking through the streets of Puerto Rico, the video shows group as they stumble across the 24-year-old sitting alone. Bad Bunny joins them, taking them on an adventure through the streets. The late night host and his band march alongside the “Solo de Mi" artist with tambourines, timbale sticks and maracas while women and men dressed in streetwear and the best of carnival clothing dance behind Bunny and Fallon as they wave Puerto Rico's national flag. As the crowd of participants grew, the crowd eventually reached parade sized proportions.

This prerecorded segment features the studio version of "Mia" without the Spanish verse delivered by hip-hop's golden boy Drake.  The track aslo comes from the reggaeton singer's debut Long Play record, X100PRE.

Check out the full video of Bad Bunny with the boy from The Tonight Show above.

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Brian Ach/Getty Images for Universal Music Group

Luis Fonsi On Coaching ‘La Voz’ Competition And Long-Anticipated Album

With his international knockout "Despacito," Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Luis Fonsi had an explosive 2017. Multiple chart-toppers, like "Échame la Culpa," "Calypso," and his more recent success, "Imposible," helped him follow up with another overwhelmingly strong musical calendar last year. And if this month’s any indication, 2019 also belongs to the Latinx pop hitmaker.

After delivering back-to-back global hits over the last two years, Fonsi is ready to share some new-new with his fans. The 40-year-old singer is kicking off the año nuevo with Vida, his long-anticipated ninth studio album. A blend of the heart-tugging guitar ballads that started his career and the energetic pop jams that made him an international superstar, Vida, his first full-length project in five years, will show his worldwide fans exactly who Fonsi is.

“I think people will get to know, really, who I am,” the Grammy award-winning artist told VIBE VIVA during a phone interview. “I have that pop uptempo side but also this soft romantic side as well.”

Vida, which Fonsi teases is slated to release “very soon,” isn’t the only way fans will further acquaint themselves with the luminary in 2019. The seven-time Guinness World Records-holder is also a coach on Telemundo’s forthcoming La Voz. The Spanish-language version of the successful music competition reality TV show (The Voice), which premieres Jan. 13, will bring Fonsi and megastars Alejandra Guzmán, Wisin and Carlos Vives together to find and nurture the most promising Latinx vocalists in the nation, tasks he’s already undertaken as a coach on the show’s offshoots across Latin America and Spain.

Carving out some time from his excitingly busy new year, Fonsi discusses the making of Vida, what fans can look forward to on La Voz, the abundance of young Latin musical talent and key lessons on persistence that every creative dreamer can gain from.

VIBE VIVA: The Voice is one of the most successful singing competitions in the country. Why do you think a Spanish-language version of this show was needed here?

Luis Fonsi: There’s so many ways of answering this question. First of all, because we are part of the music culture, because we’re part of the music equation because our talent level is incredible. Latinos, we breathe music, we speak with rhythm, we dance when we walk. Music is in our blood, so it was absolutely needed.

There are so many young kids who have either recently moved to the U.S. or maybe have been born here and are of Latinx descent and want to be able to share their talent with the world, so to have that opportunity to sing, whether in English or Spanish, because the show, while it’s called La Voz and is on Telemundo, we’re going to have plenty of people out there who will sing in English, is great. And we’ve seen in the NBC version of the show how many Latin contestants have gone the distance, and some have sung in Spanish.

It’s part of the equation, so to be able to make it more formal and celebrate the differences between our Latin culture, by having someone from Mexico sing una ranchera, have someone from Puerto Rico sing something more Caribbean, have someone from Colombia sing something more vallenato. This format gives us the space and those parameters to be able to do that.

La Voz has been successfully exported to multiple Latin American countries including Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, and Spain. How will this U.S.-based show be different from those?

I’ve been a coach in many of these different formats, in almost all of them. Right now, for example, I’m doing simultaneously La Voz Spain. The biggest and most obvious difference is when a contestant is done singing in Spain, I ask, “Where are you from,” and they tell me the city, “Madrid, Seville.” Here it’s like, “Hey, where are you from,” and they can be from a completely different country.

They could be from New York and their parents are from Mexico and moved here 40 years ago or you can be from the south of Argentina. Culturally, although we are speaking the same language and although we’re in the States, culturally we’re so dramatically different versus being from the same country and just a different city. So that in itself already gives it something different; the accents, the styles, it gives it such a different vibe.

You were the first one to join the show as a coach. Why were you eager to participate in the U.S. version of La Voz?

I love the format. I truly believe in the format. I’m one of those guys that I’m grateful. I remember where I come from, who opened the door for me and also who closed it. But I’m very grateful for the people who have gotten me to where I am today. When I entered this industry 20 years ago, there weren’t any reality shows like this. And if I would have had that opportunity, I would have probably auditioned for one, because very early in my life I knew that I wanted to be a singer. I actually went to college and got a music degree, that’s how serious I was about music.

It wasn’t about being famous; it was about being a musician, to me. I always think that reality singing shows are good. They’re good for everybody. It’s good for music. It’s good for the judges, or, in this case, the coaches. And I have to say sincerely, by far, my favorite format is The Voice. It’s a positive, family show. It’s all about giving constructive criticism.

It’s not about putting them down but rather about lifting them up, even if they don’t get through the first round. Everybody leaves with their head up and wanting to keep learning, keep singing, and to keep experiencing life, and that’s something that is much needed.

Latin music, in no small part due to your own megahits, has taken over the globe with new talent and viral songs appearing almost every day. Why do you think it’s enticing a universal audience?

You’re right! Right now, Latinx music is in a really good place. Latinx music is global. We’ve seen how so many — and I’m not talking about my songs, I’m talking in general, I’m looking at it with a way bigger spectrum — we’ve seen how many Latinx songs and how many Latinx artists have had success worldwide singing in Spanish. I really do believe that the world is coming together and that this was long overdue.

As a judge, what are you looking for in contestants? What's going to make you turn your chair?

Magic, that wow moment, that feeling you get when you get excited that you don’t know how to describe it. When the hair on the back of your neck stands up. You’ll see it. You’ll see me. I can’t stop moving when I hear that voice, and all of a sudden I’m like, “What is this?” I get antsy. I get up from my chair. Sometimes, I hit that button without my brain processing it, it’s like my hand just moves. It’s just like an instinct, a reflex. And it’s not about perfection or a specific genre.

It’s not about a specific country or whether you’re young or old, male or female. It’s about that “wow moment,” that thing that you get when a voice moves you. I’ve pressed my button for contestants who haven’t had perfect auditions, but they had something I connected with. And it’s the same the other way around.

We’ve had contestants that have not made it to the next phase and have had a solid, amazing audition, but for some reason, there was something there that didn’t connect with us coaches. And that’s the toughest because it’s tough to explain to them that, “Hey, you did amazing, you have an amazing voice, it was a perfect audition, you didn’t screw up, but we didn’t turn our chairs.”

It’s horrible, but at the end of the day, it’s life, and that’s what music is all about. Sometimes you can be in your car driving and you hear a song and it’s an amazing voice, but there’s something about that performance that you just don’t connect with it and you don’t identify yourself with it, and that’s exactly how it is to be a coach. It’s fun, and I think people are really going to enjoy it.

 

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As a coach, what do you hope to offer mentees?

Just a little piece of me, what I’ve learned as a professional singer in a 20-year career, the mistakes that I’ve made, the goods and the bads, all of them. I’m going to put it out there in hopes that they could use it toward their journey. What I’ve learned as a musician. I’ve been studying music since I was eight years old. I’ve been studying guitar and piano. I have a degree in vocal performance, a formal classical degree. So I can speak to them as a musician, not just as a recording artist. And you know what, sometimes it’s not even about the technical part.

It’s about having a conversation with them and making them feel comfortable, choosing the right song. Every contestant is different. Sometimes you have to get really technical with them, and sometimes it’s a little bit more about the psychology behind it. The talent is there, but you have to make them believe in themselves.

That actually leads right into my next question. For non-Spanish-speaking folks, you came into the scene in 2017 with "Despacito," but the truth is you've been putting in work for years, from your boy band as a high school student in Orlando, to touring with Britney Spears to your own early megahits like "No Me Doy Por Vencido," "Llegaste Tu" and many more. Sometimes, when you've been putting in work for a long time and not seeing the results you hope for, it can be discouraging and debilitating. What do you think you can teach these contestants about persistence?

It’s about knowing where you want to get to and believing in your craft and knowing that to get to that point it’s not always going to be a straight shot. It’s not always going to be right there in front of you. You have to go out and get it. You’re going to fall, and you’re going to make mistakes. I have never heard an artist say, “Every song I’ve put out has been a hit. Every album I’ve made has gone platinum. I never made a mistake. I never had crappy performances.” It’s all part of the deal.

It’s like falling in love. We have to get dumped, make mistakes, we have to have a broken heart to appreciate our perfect person when they come along. That’s music. When I’m making an album, I write hundreds of songs, sometimes two songs a day. I wish I can say every song I’ve written has been recorded and has been a hit. Absolutely not! I had to write hundreds of songs to get to “Despacito,” to get to "No Me Doy Por Vencido," to get to "Aqui Estoy Yo," to get to “Échame La Culpa.” It’s an ongoing journey, and that’s what I tell them.

We talk a lot about this on the show. It’s cool to hear the other coaches’ stories because it’s something that you don’t hear every day. We see Carlos Vives and Alejandra, and to hear how many times people have completely shut the door on us, but you have to be resilient and have to believe in yourself. And we also have to be a little stubborn sometimes. You have to say, “I know I have it.” Be humble about it, but also believe in what you have to offer and keep fighting for it. That’s what it’s all about, having that hunger.

Talking about the coaches, this year the team includes you, Alejandra Guzmán, Wisin and Carlos Vives — all megastars. Describe the energy among you all on the show?

Wow! The dynamic between the coaches is incredible. We all love each other. We all make fun of each other. There’s so much honest respect. It’s crazy. You’ll see.

I want to switch gears to you and your own music. I know you are dropping an album this year, your first in five years. What can you tell us about this?

Wow. My last album was in 2014. So we’re talking about five years. A lot changes in five years, and when we talk about pop music, it has completely shifted in five years. The cool thing about this album is that by the time the album comes out, I have released five singles, four of them I can humbly say have been hits. “Imposible” is on its way; it’s already Top 10. And my first three singles have been No. 1 songs, “Despacito,” “Échame La Culpa” and “Calypso.”

To be able to drop an album already having this success on the charts is such a blessing because it’s usually like you release one single and then you put the album out there. People already really know the essence of the album, and it makes it that much more exciting to hear the other songs that are there, that tell so many stories, the ballads, for example.

I’m always happy to hear about ballads. With the major success of uptempo hits like "Despacito," "Échame La Culpa" and "Calypso," why return to ballads?

I’ve never abandoned it. I’m a pop artist. I love the dance tracks and the reggaeton-infused tracks, but I also love a guitar ballad. That, to me, is just as powerful. There's a song in there that I wrote for my son, similar to what I did for my daughter with “Llegaste Tu,” a song I did five years ago with Juan Luis Guerra. You can put a little bit of that personal touch in an album that you can’t just do with a single. You have more room to be able to tell stories and different stories. It’s cool. I think people will get to know, really, who I am.

And how would you describe yourself as an artist?

I’m bad at explaining who I am as an artist, because, again, I have that pop uptempo side but also this soft romantic side as well. That’s who I’ve been ever since I started my career in 1998. It’s not just now. I’ve never been that sort of clean-cut balladeer who wears a suit as they’re singing. I’ve never been that clean-cut crooner. And, again, nothing wrong with them. I love the Luis Miguels and the Michael Bublés. I’m a fan of those guys, but I’m too hyperactive to wear a suit for a full show. And I’ve never been a super crazy pop act that all I do is dance and dance. I have those two sides. I love to grab my guitar and just sing as well.

Hearing you speak about this album is very exciting. When can fans expect to listen to it?

I have a release date, but I can’t share it. What I can say is that it will be out very soon. I’m excited. I definitely think it’s going to be the most important album of my career. And I think people are going to be surprised. I hope people are going to be surprised.

Returning to La Voz, why should Latinxs tune into Telemundo to watch this program?

They should tune in because we’re celebrating who we are. I always say, Latinos, we have music running through our veins. We speak with rhythm. We dance as we walk. Music is such a huge part of us, so to be able to celebrate that with the most important music competition format in the world, when we finally bring it to the biggest stage in the world, the U.S., it’s time to celebrate who we are. For those who don’t know to see how much talent there is out there. And I’m going to tell you, they’re going to flip. They’re going to be so surprised to see how much talent there is out there. I’m really excited. I’m hoping that it’s going to be a very big show for Hispanic television.

La Voz premieres Sunday, January 13 at 9 p.m./8 c.t on Telemundo and its digital platforms.

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Bryan Steffy

Latin Albums Are Now More Popular Than Country Records In The U.S.

Latin artists dominated in 2018, and all of their hard work is starting to show some real results. According to a new-year report from data, music consumption company BuzzAngle, Latin music consumption is now more popular than that of country music.

According to the report, Latin music accounted for 9.4 percent of all album listening in the United States in 2018. It was reportedly measured by combining the physical and digital sales, song downloads, and on-demand streams. The growth in music consumption surpassed country music consumption, which only accounted for 8.7 percent of all album consumption in the U.S.

The prior year, country music accounted for 8.1 percent of album-listening, while Latin music clocked in at 7.5 percent.

Individual song-listening has also increased in popularity. In the past year, fans have increased their consumption from 9.5 percent to 10.8 percent. Country music is still behind at 7.8 percent. Latin artist video views have also increased to 24.3 percent from 21.9 percent.

While country music still dominates on the radio, the Latin music genre is reportedly closing in on R&B and rock, which are tallied at 11.2 percent and 11.7 percent respectively.

The music industry better look out because Latin music is bound to keep climbing the ladder in the new year.

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