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Latinx Sundance

Reporting from the red carpet

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By Ana Estrada 

Eugene Hernandez Egyptian Theatre Marquee - 2025 Festival.jpg

Latinos shine at the Sundance Film Festival, the ultimate gathering of independent filmmakers and movie lovers that that occurs annually in January at Park City, Utah. Ever since its founding by Robert Redford in 1984, the mission of the festival has been to showcase independent films by creating a platform for artists working outside the Hollywood film industry to show their work.

Presenting new work at Sundance is a phenomenal opportunity and hard won, since only about 130 films were chosen out of 17,000 entries this year, but it’s clear that the Sundance Institute isn’t just about the festival. Throughout the year, the Institute offers fellowships, workshops and online education for independent filmmakers that are designed to support their careers at every level of development, programs that were originally conceived years ago to prioritize and deeply nurture artists from historically marginalized communities.

The festival program presents dramatic and documentary features, short films and episodic content. This year Latinx independent filmmakers were invited to contribute to every category, including nine feature films, two of which won Grand Jury Prizes. There are also panels and launch parties happening throughout the festival, many of which celebrate Latinx artists and their accomplishments at Sundance. The Latinx House, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by Monica Ramirez and Olga Segura, joined the festival for its fifth year, setting up a community hub at the top of Park City’s Main Street. Anyone could drop by and connect with other moviegoers, artists and filmmakers, and attend panels meant to elevate not only Latinx creatives, but all minority communities and people of color. Collaborating with Native and Black houses, they hosted illuminating conversations on issues that divide us and unite us, and how representation and equity is crucial for the upliftment of diverse voices.

Alessandra Lacorazza, a queer Colombian American writer/director, utterly astonished attendees with her feature In The Summers that won her both the Grand Jury Prize for the U.S. Dramatic Competition and the Directing Award. This touching story chronicles the poignant moments between two sisters as they navigate summer custody visits with their often volatile father. The sometimes devastating and complicated relationship between the girls and their father may never completely heal, but a deep acceptance and resiliency is forged throughout their formative years as they never give up on each other. Lacorazza’s work deals with personal and cultural memory, and incorporates themes of migration, alienation and community. 

Another highlight was the premiere of Carla Gutierrez’ brilliant documentary Frida, a sumptuous portrayal of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Gutierrez’ meticulous editing, using rarely seen archival footage and animation, won her the Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award and gave us a fresh perspective on this monumental artist’s life, passion and work. How can anyone create anything new about Frida Kahlo at this point? We know so much about her already, but Gutierrez did it by allowing the artist to speak for herself, through her own words. The narrative of the film follows Frida’s own writings from personal journals, letters and essays. New technologies in animation were also implemented to capture our imaginations and hearts with the magical renderings of surrealist imagery. Gutierrez is a documentary editor/director who immigrated to the United States from Peru as a child, and she shares that her Latinx heritage gave her a deeper understanding of the Mexican culture that Frida embodied in every way.

2024 marked the 40th edition of the festival, as well as the introduction of its new director Eugene Hernandez, who was previously at Film at Lincoln Center where he served as the Executive Director of the New York Film Festival. In 1996, Hernandez co-founded Indiwire, a digital platform that started as an AOL chat room and went on to become the leading news, information and networking site for moviegoers, independent-minded filmmakers, and the industry for decades. Hernandez is Mexican American, born and raised in Southern California where he attended UCLA. He recalls how his career got started, “What interested me most about movies was watching a lot of them. I loved talking about movies, connecting with the artists that made them, and curating film programs that I presented to student audiences.”  In 1993, Hernandez went to Sundance for the first time, and it was an eye opening experience to realize that the movies that were most meaningful to him came from independent storytellers. These artists came from very distinct and specific places, with different perspectives and backgrounds, and shared stories that you wouldn’t necessarily see in mainstream theaters or Hollywood.

 One of the most impactful films he saw at that festival was Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi, a Spanish language film shot mainly with an amateur cast in a Mexican border town on a very low budget. The movie blew him away with all its ingenuity, creativity and sense of humor, and then “Rodriguez was on stage talking about wanting to make movies and not having the money and all he had to do to make it happen, and I got to meet him.” Seeing a filmmaker from his own community thrive and be supported in this way was extraordinary. He had found his path. Movie lovers and filmmakers alike will always find this vitality at Sundance, ignited by the fascination of discovering new voices, the excitement of seeing or presenting a film for the first time, and connecting artists with their audience, all of which makes the experience so special for everyone. 


The Sundance Institute is known for its trailblazing efforts to embrace a wide array of storytellers, and historically, there’s been a particular emphasis and focus on uplifting Latinx voices. As Festival Director, Hernandez says “it’s important to continue to prioritize not only stories from my own community, but stories by people from all different backgrounds, perspectives, and abilities.” The Institute has a powerful mission initiated by Robert Redford since the beginning to champion stories by all people of color, women, and LGBTQIA+.  Inclusion means a lot of different voices and a lot of different stories, and the most important concept instilled in the artists participating in any of their educational programs and filmmaking labs is “your voice matters.” Telling your own story is important, as someone who does not have your insight or lived experience simply won’t have the capacity to authentically tell it for you. 

Aitch Alberto is a trans Latina writer/director of Cuban heritage who was recently awarded the 2024 Momentum Fellowship. Now in its sixth year, Momentum’s mission is to foster professional growth for mid-career artists and the fellowship specifically targets those from historically marginalized backgrounds, offering them tailored support and resources. Alberto was previously an Episodic Lab Fellow and has won acclaim for her 2022 feature film Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe that she wrote and directed. Although she is a self-taught filmmaker in that she didn’t go to film school, she has received support in cultivating her craft from Sundance at key stages in her career and her success represents what the Sundance Institute is all about.

In creating Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Aitch Alberto recalls that some of the higher ups she was accountable to for her financing were a bit challenged by the fact that the father in her story was so loving and accepting of his queer son because it may not be believable. The audience might just be more comfortable with the usual disapproving Latino father, but as a trans Latina, Aitch refused to alter her bold vision, “There’s a need for stories that go beyond the struggle and rejection that may come around sexual and gender identity. By choosing not to lean into the trauma point of it all, the story can transcend and even transform the collective mindset on these topics, unlocking compassion and tenderness.”

Programming has already begun for 2025. For more information on Artist Programs, the online Sundance Collab and the Festival visit

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