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LatinoBuzz: Elizabeth Gardner, Co-Director of NYILFF Responds to News of the Festival's Closure

by Vanessa Erazo
September 6, 2013 3:30 PM
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Calixto Chinchilla, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Gardner

Just a few days ago a story ran on Cinema Tropical's blog, TropicalFRONT regarding the murky status of the New York International Latino Film Festival (NYILFF). Speculations and rumors had been swirling for months. There was never an official announcement that the festival was not happening this year but August came and went and there was no news. Then Cinema Tropical ran its story, "NY Latino Film Fest Closes Shop After 13 Years."

The story cites several reasons for its closure. Calixto Chinchilla, co-executive director of the festival, was interviewed for the piece. He says the organization was in the midst of a "crippling financial crisis" and that, "the festival was simply no longer economically viable."

I have been on staff of the New York International Latino Film Festival in various capacities for the last seven years. To say the announcement was a surprise is an understatement. I knew the festival was not going to happen this year but I had no idea it would possibly never happen again. But, even worse, the story was an even bigger surprise for Elizabeth Gardner co-executive director of the NYILFF. She was not contacted nor advised of the fact that the article was being written nor that this information would be made public.

LatinoBuzz has given her the space to respond directly and tell her side of the story.

Personal Statement Regarding the New York International Latino Film Festival

By Elizabeth Gardner

I am enormously disappointed in Cinema Tropical's, specifically Andrew Vargas', article regarding the NYILFF, particularly because he did not bother to contact me, nor anyone else affiliated with NYILFF. It was especially shocking since we planned to release a joint, public statement.

Yes, it is true, Calixto Chinchilla and I together, as co-owners and co-executive directors, have decided it is time to dissolve the company and embrace exciting, new chapters in our lives. After 11 years of dedication to the organization and community, I chose to leave the NYILFF, and Calixto opted not to continue without me. To be clear, although the economy has been a challenge for all companies including NYILFF, this was not a decision based on economy, nor the company's financial status, which, in fact, is healthy; we end with neither debts, nor liabilities. We consistently worked with our dedicated team to find creative ways to remain efficient in leaner times, enabling us to make this decision. Nor is there a "dearth of Latinos in publicity and marketing". For the past 6 years, we have worked with the team at Reyes Entertainment, who secured festival coverage in The New York Times, The Today Show, The Los Angeles Times, and Time Out NY, among many other mainstream media outlets, and also have had the great fortune of partnering with such major media organizations as NBC, Telemundo, NY Daily News, Clear Channel, El Diario and The combined efforts resulted in hundreds of millions of media impressions in both English and Spanish.

The article also fails to thank or mention anyone associated with NYILFF. There are literally hundreds of people who worked tirelessly through the years to produce the best possible event. Therefore, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank from my heart all of our cherished corporate partners, particularly our outstanding friends at HBO, gifted filmmakers, staff, volunteers and film fans who learned of our mutual decision in this unfortunate manner. After the many years of your priceless commitment and support, you deserve better.

Moreover, I'd like to thank my many, dear festival friends, who continue to enrich my life each and every day. You are all brilliantly talented, passionate and compassionate artists, dreamers and doers, and are the true gifts of my experience.

The past 11 years have taught me much, most importantly always to remain honest and open, free of judgment, receptive to disparate viewpoints, generous of spirit and calm under pressure, for even the most challenging of circumstances serves a purpose and offers a lesson. I thank you all for allowing me to learn from, work with and honor you for 11 years. Let's keep inspiring each other to be the best versions of ourselves we can be.

Written by Vanessa Erazo. LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature on SydneysBuzz that highlights Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow @LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • Larry Silva | September 6, 2013 9:04 PMReply

    So finally someone says something! I guess the shit hit the fan!
    Shame on Elizabeth and Calixto for not letting it known before the
    date that the festival usually takes place. What ever the reason for the shut down,
    the press, the public and the filmmakers should have been notified some how months ago not after the fact. As the writer of this article Vanessa Erazo wrote: " Speculations and rumors had been swirling for months. There was never an official announcement that the festival was not happening this year but August came and went and there was no news. Then Cinema Tropical ran its story", Did Calixto and Elizabeth think no one would notice? It is a unfortunate display of pure arrogance, and a lack of professionalism. HBO has mud on its face too.....Some one's got some ssssss-plaining to do!!!!! Kudos to Mr. Vargas at Cinema Tropical. You made them address a very serious situation. LS

  • Jerry Martinez | September 7, 2013 9:38 PM

    Well obviously if they had no films, there was going to be no festival. So you are wrong, it has not been the last few days. They haven't answered any inquiries as to weather there would be a festival this year on all of the social media services. I am NOT a moron for supporting Latino film or a Latino business. Again you are wrong. You are only right about the fact that they did not know what they were doing. As for bitter less, that's bull. You are the only one here name calling and being ghetto. That's why white America laughs at us minorities. We'd rather fight amongst ourselves than support each other. Sounds like you may have some lower echelon position at HBO and had something to do with the festival. Making your opinion biased. I for one have done plenty, to support my Latino community, not just Latino film. I've also contributed way more than $12 to this festival. You at the end of the day are still an asshole.

    On one last note. I don't know what your affiliation with Liz or Calixto is (if any), but you aren't making them look any better by insinuating people shouldn't be upset. Or that people owe them some debt of gratitude for all the time involved in running a project that cost over $500,000. If people's $12 aren't appreciated, they will be more hesitant to support an "Elliot Speaks" or Hispanicize. You may be doing more harm than good.

  • Francot | September 7, 2013 1:45 PM

    The DECISION was made in the last few days. why would they ask for films if they didn't know what they were doing?! Yes you are a moron for going back for 13 years even though they have done very little professionally. Glad we agree on one thing. What am I? A bitterless man who knows what type of work goes into an event that costs over $500,000 each year and this is the thanks they get?! Your $12 doesn't even put a dent in that cost. you know what - it lasted 13 years for a reason and with HBO's (mudless face) since day one - what have you done to contribute to the Latino film community for that long except be an uninformed idiot. Here's a spoiler; Nada. You should've stopped going since day one, shouldn't you?

  • Jerry Martinez | September 7, 2013 1:25 PM

    Francot, obviously it didn't happen in the past few days because submissions were never asked for. I didn't call out LA Latino because I never attended their event, or even knew they had one (probably the reason they shut down). You are right about one thing. I am a moron. I'm a moron for expecting an organization that has done little professionally for 13 years, to all of a sudden care about the people that have contributed with time or monetarily to the cause. Yes I'm a moron, but you are defending them. So what are you?

  • FrancoT. | September 7, 2013 11:54 AM

    Larry and Jerry, you are morons. NO company releases any statement based on speculation if they dont have an answer to give. what are they supposed to do say "we may or may not happen. we may or may not sell" this, looks like it should happened in the past few days AND obviously they have made a statement! Festivals change dates all the time. LA Latino took sumissions(!) before cancelling a month before - did you whine then and call them out? No. This is some unresolved bitterness on both your parts. HBO doesn't give a rats ass for you. They will live through your trolling. And I'm sure a notice will be posted. It looks like they have their own unresolved issues internally that are none of your business. That hack at cinematropical didnt "make" anyone address anything. Calixto went to them. "serious"??? to who?! Again didnt this just happen?! On with your lives. NYILFF ending will not end yours.

  • Jerry Martinez | September 7, 2013 10:31 AM

    I couldn't have said it any better myself Mr. Silva. A statement on the website advising and thanking fans and volunteers would have been too easy I guess. An unfortunate end to say the least.

  • Emanuel Diaz | September 6, 2013 5:45 PMReply

    Blah, NYILFF was one of the most transparently corrupt Film Festivals in New York. Good riddance.

  • JaySee | September 6, 2013 6:02 PM

    let me guess emanuel, your film got rejected? what exactly is transparently corrupt? fortunately i've had a film i made play there as have thousands of other filmmakers.

  • Andrew S. Vargas | September 6, 2013 3:54 PMReply

    It's unfortunate, Ms. Gardner, that you felt the need to address this article directly to me; and furthermore I believe it flirts dangerously with bounds of professionalism. My assignment was simply to "break the news" regarding NYILFF's dissolution, accompanied by an interview with Calixto Chinchilla. The article was not intended to be an in-depth, investigative report.

    There was an error upon the article's initial publication, crediting Mr. Chinchilla as 'Founding Director' that has since been rectified. As to your other point, I think it goes without saying that a short article intending to break news about a festival's closure is in no position to 'thank' the many people that without a doubt worked tirelessly to make the festival a success.

    Your problems with the other points raised in the article are evidently differences in perspective between you and Mr. Chinchilla, as the article is based directly upon an interview I carried out with him a little more than a week ago. It's clearly not appropriate to air those differences in this context as though they were somehow related to flaws in journalistic integrity.

    Please feel free to contact me if you wish to continue this discussion.

  • Señor Black | September 15, 2013 4:59 PM

    Andrew, having worked with the NYILFF family on several festivals, I'd say that the festival itself was a glorious entity for the Latino artistic community on an international scope. Therefore, I thank the creative visionaries of this former organization. Adding to Terracino's thoughts, a savvy journalist should uphold the social responsibility attached to the profession, just as 'journalistic integrity': fact checking, sourcing, and one's personal biases. Calixto Chinchilla got the chance to express his sentiments with your interview on CinemaTropical's blog, and Elizabeth, much owed in her right, countered her disposition professionally. It appears that you took Elizabeth's message on the angle of being attacked, while I believe she simply cleared the air for you and those following the news. On your rebuttal to her statement, you provoke readers and audiences alike to think that Elizabeth had problems with Calixto. Your approach in trying to slyly convey that idea to us is tactless and bears the weight of a prima donna. Perhaps in your article, you could've expressed to Elizabeth alike with Calixto, your sincere sentiments about the dissolution of NYILFF. I'm sure you and your crew were 'gifted' perks during NYILFF's festivals. And as a member of this artistic community as an active journalist, Andrew, the least you could've done is extend your gratitude to Elizabeth for clearing the air and giving Cinema Tropical [and you] an opportunity to blog about the buzz in Latin cinema over the years.

    In closing, instead of you inviting her to further add salt to the wound in discussing her disposition, I believe an apology to Elizabeth is due.

    Man Up!

  • terracino | September 6, 2013 4:01 PM

    Mr Vargas did not do his job or adhere to a basic tenant of journalism: check and double check your sources and quotes. What he is saying is "someone told me something so I printed it." That's not journalism; that's relaying gossip.

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