Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian This man drives his early day convertible from Main Street onto East Beach Street in downtown Watsonville.

The 12th annual Watsonville Film Festival will showcase a collection of films that organizers say challenge stereotypes while highlighting the diversity in the Latinx experience, from lowrider car culture to an indigenous soprano singer from Oaxaca, Mexico.

“This Festival was created to counter Hollywood’s often narrow and negative portrayal of people of Mexican and Latinx heritage,” says WFF Director and independent filmmaker Consuelo Alba. “Watsonville hosts the only film festival between LA and San Francisco that focuses on our stories. We choose films with universal themes told through the lens of Latinx filmmakers.”

At the head of the mix of short films, directed by local, national, and international filmmakers, is the featured film, “La Mission,” starring Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order) and Erika Alexander (American Fiction), which portrays a charismatic leader of San Francisco’s Lowrider community. The director is Peter Bratt, the award-winning director of Dolores about the legendary farmworker leader, Dolores Huerta.

Additionally,  “La Mission,”  was the spark for an upcoming art exhibit, “More Than Cars: Celebrating Lowrider Culture” co-presented by Pajaro Valley Arts at the Porter Bldg. in Watsonville. The show features five local car clubs, solo lowriders and  52 artists.

As part of the festival, three short documentary films  and a musical performance will be staged in Seaside at the Oldemeyer Center March 15.

Those films are: 

  • • “Living in Exile: Carlos Mejía Godoy,” a film directed by local filmmaker and founder of Migrant Media Productions, Jon Silver, delves into the life of Carlos Mejía Godoy, a legendary musician and poet of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution. The evening also features a musical performance by Godoy. (The film was canceled last year due to flooding.) 
contributed: Carlos Mejía Godoy is the subject of the film, “Living In Exile.”
  • • “Yo Soy La Reyna,” or “I Am Queen,” directed by Roberto Salvador Rodríguez, a film about a journey through the words of Mixe soprano María Reyna, from a childhood scarred by domestic violence and the ultraconservative views of indigenous communities in the south of Mexico. 
  • • “Maura,” directed by Gabriel Paez Hernandez, which focuses on 84-year-old Maura, the guardian of a very particular tradition in danger of extinction. She is a singer of amorfinos, verses full of humor that will disappear forever with her departure. 

The trio of films run March 15 at 6:30pm at 986 Hilby Ave., Seaside.

Other festival screenings will be held at CineLux Green Valley Theater from March 7-9 and online for the week of March 11-17.

The opening reception at the art exhibit is March 10 from 1-4pm followed by a cruise from 4-6pm. The free exhibit runs through June 30 with public events including video screenings, panel discussions, art activities for youth, and of course, more car shows.

Watsonville Film Festival runs from Mar. 7-17.

For the full festival schedule and tickets, visit watsonvillefilmfest.org/wff2024

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