May 28, 2021 5:32 pm

Facilitator, convener, instigator: A Q & A with Marángeli Mejía-Rabell

The festival director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival talks with Generocity about building community, co-creation, celebrating Latinx diversity and the importance of staying true to yourself.

(Courtesy photos)

Correction: The number of years Mejía-Rabell has been festival director has been corrected.. (May 28, 2021 at 7:05 p.m.)
Marángeli Mejía-Rabell is the festival director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, which is taking place virtually from Sunday May 30 through Sunday, June 6.

Now in its tenth year, the festival was founded by David Acosta and Beatriz Vieira to showcase the work of emerging and established Latino and Latinx filmmakers, including a number from Philadelphia. In addition to serving as the festival’s director for the past six-plus years, Mejía-Rabell is the co-founder an creative partner of AFROTAINO, where she does co-curates and executes programming and multidisciplinary projects.

Mejía-Rabell recently answered a few questions for Generocity via email about this year’s festival and about her experience as Latina cultural organizer in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.

Generocity:  Tell me a little bit about your role as festival director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival. How does the festival fit into the cultural landscape of Philadelphia? What do you think the festival means to the Latinx community of Philadelphia?

Mejía-Rabell: I would describe myself more as a facilitator, convener and instigator looking at our overall vision and grounding our strategies on our mission.

I am blessed to work with a team of extraordinarily talented creatives. My role is to connect the dots more like a conductor that wants to make sure all components get their own space to bring their own flavor to what we do. I am a firm believer that “if you shine, we shine.”

From our Partners

PHLAFF is a platform where creatives can build community and explore co-creation, with an approach centered on learning. The audience, filmmakers and PHLAFF team come together to celebrate the diversity in our Latinidad —where we come as we are and embrace each other with love, dignity and respect.

Generocity: Last year you had to pivot and the festival went online, what has that meant in terms of the org’s finances, or its audience? How has that pivot evolved this year? What’s your thinking about next year?

Mejía-Rabell: Last year was a loaded year and we opted to make PHLAFF 2020 our gift to the community —so we made all offerings free so no revenue was generated from ticket sales.

We executed the festival by getting a Vimeo Live Stream and produced it as a 7-day live stream: three days for filmmaker offerings and four days of film programming.

This year we are working with Eventive and incorporating PHLAFF apps to expand access points for audiences.

As far as 2022 goes, we are hoping to return to our in person programming but definitely keeping a virtual component and excited to see what new opportunities it would bring for us.

Generocity: Give us a sense of some of the films that will be exhibited this year? Which do you think will resonate the most in Philadelphia, and why? Are there specific insights or ways that the films speak to this particular moment in history in the US? In Latin America?

Mejía-Rabell: We are presenting over 150 films, including 123 selections from submissions representing 25 countries  — including 27 world premieres, 59 Philadelphia premieres, 27 East Coast premieres and 11 USA premieres.

I am confident that the films we are presenting will resonate with audiences based on the themes and experiences they explore, simply because of how they offer us a window to different perspectives while also touching on things we have in common that we can often forget.

Still from “La Receta de Alma” (Alma’s Recipe), a film by ¡Presente! Media‘s Gabriela Watson-Burkett, which will screen at PHLAFF May 30-June 1.

And absolutely, filmmakers are navigating changing landscapes in real time and bringing that to their work. Art is a reflection of  our lives, much more than an aesthetic.

Generocity: Tell us a little about yourself, not just your professional background, but your life.

Mejía-Rabell: I am a Boricua who relocated here in the late 1980s, a proud mother, cat lover and someone who enjoys people, the dance of life and how each day brings new lessons. Honored to be the Taina of AFROTAINO, a cultural organizer, a diehard El Gran Combo fan who loves to have a good time and support others the way that many have supported me. Always curious and open to what comes next. A big believer that challenges are opportunities and that when God closes a door, he opens a window.

Generocity: What advice do you have for other Latina nonprofit professionals and cultural workers?

Mejía-Rabell: To stay grounded on your values, to operate from your heart and to value relationships. To suspend judgment, and never compromise who you are for others since the only way you can offer your best is by being yourself, no hay otra.

Generocity: Is there anything I haven’t thought to ask you that you’d like our readers to know?

Mejía-Rabell: No, as always a pleasure. Join us for the festival, it’s going to be a great time.


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