LOS ANGELES — The South LA art and activism nonprofit Crenshaw Dairy Mart (CDM) will hold its inaugural film festival this Saturday at the Miracle Theater in Inglewood, showcasing a diverse range of short films by 19 LA-based filmmakers of color. The selections include documentaries, narrative films, music videos, and works in progress, some shot on iPhones and others and others made with professional equipment, but all resonating with the CDM’s guiding principles of “Ancestry, Abolition, and Healing.”
“The intent is a local and community celebration,” Ashley Blakeney, CDM executive director, told Hyperallergic. All 19 films will be eligible for two prizes: a fan favorite award of $1,000 chosen by the public, and a jury award of $1,500 given by the selection committee and CDM staff.
For this year’s festival, CDM leadership, in conversation with local filmmakers, chose the overarching theme of “For the Love” with five sub-categories including “Ancestry and the Diaspora” and “Rest and the Political.”
The Garden of Edette (2023) is a Southern Gothic horror film “about a lonely Creole woman who has to choose between sacrificing herself or a newfound friend to her flesh-eating garden,” the film’s writer and director, Guinevere Thomas, told Hyperallergic — not the “typical narrative” associated with honoring one’s ancestry, she observed. The story draws on Thomas’s Louisiana Creole roots, a culture and language that are slowly disappearing.
“I use film as a way to reach out and touch my ancestors, trying to get closer and closer to the culture I’ve lost [and] as a way to immortalize my culture so no one will be able to take it away again,” Thomas said.
Alavaro Parra’s documentary Sonidero Metropolis: Mexican Sound Systems in Los Angeles (2023) focuses on Cumbia music and culture in LA, specifically in communities with roots in Puebla, Mexico.
“Diaspora is one of the foundations of this film, the connection to homeland through cumbia,” Parra told Hyperallergic. The documentary also highlights the numerous disparate communities that make up LA, distinct but intertwined strands of its urban fabric. “If you grew up in East or South LA, you hear these parties happening. Maybe you don’t know exactly what they are, but the sonics permeate the LA weekend air.”
In addition to the screening, the festival will also feature a panel discussion focused on “Abolition & Film,” featuring Question Culture founder, Richie Reseda, Question Culture artist, JJ‘88, artist and CDM Fellowship grantee juice wood, and Chanelle Elaine, founder of Kashif Incubator, an organization that supports supports BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and other underrepresented filmmakers, including those with disabilities.
Participants believe the CDM festival can offer different perspectives from those portrayed in more traditional industry-centered film events. Sonidero Metropolis, Parra noted, was rejected from several LA-based film festivals over the past year “even though it’s rooted in LA, with the constant criticism that there’s no famous cumbia people in it.”
“If ever there were a festival where this film would regionally fit in at, this is it,” Parra said.