By Rula Al-Nasrawi
Diversity Reporter

A troubled transsexual with an ultimatum, strategic ways to kill Fidel Castro and a 10-year-old drug-dealing pimp is only a fraction of what is to be expected at the 2008 CíneMaíZ film festival this weekend.

MEChA and Centros Americanos Unidos (CAU) collaborated to create CíneMaíZ five years ago. However, in 2006 the organizations pulled out, leaving the CíneMaíZ committee uncertain of the festival’s future. This fairly new festival is approaching its fifth year at UC Santa Cruz, and festival committee members are waiting for the three- night event to begin.

“This is the first year where all of the original founders have graduated and we are basically a new generation of committee members,” said Leonardo De Haro, one of the four main co-signers of CíneMaíZ.

With the help of El Centro interns, the four new signers have been able to increase their publicity to attract more of an audience. Alondra De Haro, a second-year student at UCSC and CíneMaíZ committee member, explained that this year publicity is their top priority.

“Before this year, we didn’t really communicate with the community,” De Haro said. “With the help of El Centro, we now have advertisements reaching as far as Watsonville and Capitola.”

The film committee consists of 10 people who decide which films make the cut each year. This year the critically acclaimed film “El Violin,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, will be shown along with eight other Latin American films that depict various ongoing social and political issues.

Returning CíneMaíz organizer and third-year student Stephanie Torres discussed the benefits of using film to raise cultural awareness.

“Theater can break barriers, and this is a good way to break stereotypes of Latin America,” Torres said.

The committee members confirmed that CíneMaíZ has not been widely publicized in past years. Leonardo De Haro referred to the film festival as a “kind of hidden gem,” explaining that with the increase of funds and publicity this event will eventually receive the recognition it deserves.

Students will prepare and sell food at CíneMaíZ, including elotes, boiled corn on the cob that is sold in Mexico and after church services. The films and the food will contribute to the overall environment, giving UCSC students the opportunity to learn about Latin American culture. The nine films promise to be controversial, humorous and heart-wrenching works that will inform and inspire.

This committee has dedicated a great deal of time into producing CíneMaíZ since the beginning of fall quarter. With the help of the Committee of Ethnic Programming (CEP), college provost and Core Council sponsorship, the film committee avoided serious budget and funding issues.

The primary goal of this event is not only to raise socio-political awareness, but also to help the art of film thrive. CíneMaíZ will be held at the Media Theater from April 18 through 20, and admission is free for UCSC students.

Torres explained that attending cultural events like CíneMaíZ gives the public the opportunity to see Latin America from different angles and perspectives.

“We have the opportunity to challenge people’s assumptions,” Torres said. “You can’t grow if you don’t open up your circle.”

_The CineMaiZ film festival will open its doors at 5:30 p.m. this Friday and again at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday._