"All We Carry"

The Latin Xperience

April 3, 2024
Mary Grace Gallagher

Last year, the Annapolis Film Festival gave audiences a glimpse of one of the most tense fringes of America; its border with Mexico. There, “Las Abogadas” took us to the front lines of the migrant crisis, telling the story of a handful immigration attorneys working frantically to help desperate refugees.

This year, the festival is broadening its focus on the growing impact the Hispanic population is having on America, with its “Latin Xperience” showcase.

“We have a large–and growing–Latino, Hispanic community and we are connected in so many ways here, but not so much in the arts,” said AFF co-founder Patti White. “We haven't seen their presence in our festival, I think because we didn’t program for it. But 12 years ago, when we started the festival, we were intentional with our Black programming because we wanted the Black community to be a big part of it. And it actually happened.”

The Latin Xperience kicks off at 12:30 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club with a directorial debut by Cady Voge. “All We Carry” picks up where “Abogadas” left us, at the Mexican border, where a young family who were fleeing persecution in Honduras is stuck at a detention facility, surrounded by barbed wire. But from there, the film sweeps them up, onto a bus to Seattle, where they are drawn into the warm embrace of a sanctuary synagogue.

The documentary, which is executive produced by Oscar-winning actor America Ferrera, follows Magdiel, Mirna, and their son Josh as they are given help finding jobs, housing and even clothes, toys and marriage counseling while they await their asylum hearing. With a combination of home videos and cinematography, the family shares their story of persecution and learns, at the same time, about the members of the synagogue community similarly traumatic migrations.

“The whole time, they are waiting for asylum, there are so many ups and downs and you don’t know whether they’ll get it or not and it’s really heart-wrenching,” White said. “In the end, it shows how people can thrive and become a big part of the community through some transformative change.”

The second part of the Latin Xperience plays right after “All We Carry” at 2:45 p.m. in the same space. The documentary feature “Musica” shares the journey of a group of high school students at the premiere music conservatory in Cuba on a trip to New Orleans. The first part of the film focuses on some of the students at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory of Music, where the musical instruments, like most other machines in the isolated country, are in constant need of repair. It then introduces the students to volunteers from Horns to Havana, a nonprofit that, since 2010 has been sending artisans to Cuba from New York to teach instrument repair and underwriting cultural exchanges between the countries.

The Oscar-winning directorial team of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman then follow the students to New Orleans, where the young musicians collaborate with American musicians at the Preservation Jazz Hall.

“It builds up into a really uplifting story,” said White, who will also share a short film that she and festival founder Lee Anderson made about another group of young musicians growing up in Cuba. “We think these are all special films.”

All told, White hopes the Latin Xperience will be viewed as the kind of intentional programming that has built audiences for the popular AFF showcases in sailing, the environment, and the Jewish experience. These showcases often led to crossover experiences, like this year’s “You Will Not Replace Us,” a documentary short that examines the sometimes fraught historic relationships between Jewish and Black communities.

“We love to see blended audiences,” White said. “We know a lot of people want to go to see the films in the Jewish experience; in the Black experience. We want to bring in this culture and these people in the community. And to make that happen, we need to carve it out. Time for it has to be actually written in stone. We are starting it here. Hopefully we will see it grow.”