31st Chicago Latino Film Festival 2015 and the Art of Volunteering
It all started with an Uber drive. Yes ya’ll when I moved to Chicago last year I wanted to desperately be involved with the community one way or another and the film industry has always interested me in some capacity. The Uber driver and I started talking about The Chicago Latino Film Festival and he advised me to check it out. I got really excited and when I got home I went to their site and accessed the volunteer section. The orientations were being held soon and I attended. The rest is history.
I got involved in the logistics aspect of it. I started helping out the media and personality coordinator and work was very minimal. I was not able to assist much because of my work schedule but I did get free film vouchers for every 4 hour shifts that I worked. This year came along and I wanted to be involved in a different capacity. This year I wanted be involved as an interpreter. I am the kind of person that loves being involved and loves to challenge myself and learn. I grew up fearing getting up in front of the classroom and would rather take zeros before I had to get up in front of the class. I was like that all the way up to college. How I wanted to be an actress? I have no idea. I got over those fears when I transferred to a university. I got really involved in clubs, organizations and even theater. I have come along way from fear of public speaking. I get it every now and then and opportunities like these is exactly what I need to keep me on my toes.
When I went to the interpreter orientation we had a practice run and I completely flopped. I mean, I literally asked myslef, “Where am I from again? Am I really Mexican?” I was really nervous but the festival coordinator asked us not to be discouraged and offered us a myriad of suggestions and links to better help us prepare for the real deal. I signed up for the films I wanted to do the Q&A for and I got the email confirmation soon after.
I had printed information on “Seguir Viviendo”, film I was going to be interpreting for and researched director Alejandra Sánchez. I wanted to be prepared for the big moment. Finally the day came and I had not eaten anything all day because of my public speaking anxiety. I do not know how I lasted that long and when I got to the theater the coordinator told me her flight was delayed and I was not going to do the Q&A. I was disappointed yet ecstatic because I felt like I had done all that research for nothing and ecstatic because I did not have to go up in front of a multitude of people and possibly embarrass myself. My other option was to shadow another interpreter and attend another film. Okay! I watched “Contigo, Pan y Cebolla” by director Juan Carlos Cremata and was able to watch the Q&A and learn from my colleague. At the end of the session we debriefed and I felt more at ease because it really is a very comfortable setting with you and the director and the audience. When I exited the theater, the festival coordinator let me know that Alejandra Sánchez had arrived and we were going to be able to do the Q&A. Ehem, WHAT! The movie still had about an hour to go and in the meantime I could talk to her and get to know her. I was about to faint at that moment.
I admire independent women, professionals in a male dominated career and women that go after what they want. When I met Alejandra it was like standing in front of a role model I had looked up to all my life. She exemplifies exactly that. Her devotion to her career and to her art and to her students is praiseworthy. We got some nachos and popcorn and got to know each other a little better. I asked her questions about the film. I asked her what she thought she would get asked. I gave her a brief summary about my life and how I got involved with the festival. I told her it was my first time interpreting and to be patient with me. She was wholly understanding. An hour went by and we headed towards the theater. “I’ll catch up,” I said, while gasping.
I am so glad I was able to interview with her before this. I have no idea how everything would have come out if we had not. I introduced myself and I had to mention it was my first time and to be patient with me, comment I think I should not have said, but that is over now. Show time! Alejandra was very thoughtful and paused often so I could translate. I had to hear the question, translate it into the opposite language, let her answer and then translate it back to English. It was much easier than it sounds. I was tormented all day for something that I had to rip off like a band-aid. Definitely no regrets. I am feeling very content that I signed up for this and altogether proud of myself.
Today I was prepared. I did my research for “El Cumple de la Abuela” by director Javier Colinas. I knew a lot of the actors from the movie because I had seen other works by them. I felt really good. I met the director, saw the movie (which was incredibly funny) and had taken some notes. I saw the ending credits and there I went again with the gasping. Nerves, nerves please gather yourself! He welcomed everybody and started the Q&A. I started to really listen and started taking notes. Everything was going smoothly. His answers were quite long but that gave me enough time to jot down the key points and I made sure to translate them. The audience was very engaged and participated a lot. We all were very appreciative of the fact that the movie had not been previously released in México, rather he decided to release it commercially at this year’s festival. The Q&A lasted a good thirty minutes. The director and the audience were very refreshing. I had a couple of audience members congratulate me at the end and that just made my night.
Will I do this again?
This is an experience I definitely want to be part of again. Being involved with the community has always been a part of my life. The Chicago Latino Film Festival is an amazing organization that showcases films from many Latin countries by experienced and up and coming directors. If I am able to support in any way, I am glad it is by volunteering. Foreign films are a huge interest of mine and it made sense to be a part of something so enriching. If you are a student, a working professional or even someone who is retired, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting involved. It is an opportunity to meet new people, watch movies you would not normally be able to have access to, gives you the advantage to network, maybe even meet someone special. The only negative out of all of this is that now I will have to find time to watch twenty-five other amazing films. ❀