In its fourth year, the four-day OLA Fest still doesn’t register a clear identity with the average city-dweller. The full name of the event, the Orlando Latin American Film & Heritage Festival, drops a few clues, but overall the picture remains fuzzy.

So we sought out organizer Nelson Betancourt and asked for a simple explanation of what was going on where and when, and how attendees could best make a plan of attack. He claims there is no easy way to sum it all up, and after talking with him, we agree that it’s a challenge. To the side, we’ve included an abbreviated schedule of the dominating film portion of the festival.

But first we present our interpretation of unexpected highlights at the multiday, multifaceted OLA Fest that brings music, art and education to the community, funded by Awakening Art & Culture. The nonprofit’s mission is to develop, integrate and promote initiatives in the arts, education, filmmaking and sustainability.

Basically, Orlando Fashion Square is festival central. Throughout the duration, films will be screened at the Premiere Cinema 14 on the second floor of the mall, while musical groups perform continuously on the center stage on the first level. That’s where the live painting exhibitions by a variety of local artists also take place.

Feb. 14 OLA Fest kicks off on Valentine’s Day with a romantic scenario: Just as the sun sets over Lake Eola Park, the Argentinean pop tango band Otros Aires takes over the Walt Disney Amphitheater for a free concert, joined by experienced practitioners of the “forbidden dance,” second in its scandalous nature only to the waltz (that’s another story). Like everything else that’s fun to do, the Argentinean tango started in the streets and was thought to be quite crude and common with its passionate heartbeat rhythm, body-to-body embraces and wild hip thrusts. Imagine the tangles of the tango-frenzied caught up in the music, backdropped by the motion of the fountain and swan boats. Bring snack baskets and blankets to snuggle into and make a night of it. (7 p.m. at Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola Park; free)

Feb. 15 Influential actor, writer, filmmaker and cultural icon Jacobo Morales will be front and center at his own tribute, presented by La Asociación Borinqueña (the Puerto Rican Association). “He is a hero to the Puerto Rican people,” says Betancourt. “This is a big night.” Morales has a lengthy résumé that goes back to a 1971 acting credit in Woody Allen’s Bananas and a 1972 portrayal of Fidel Castro in Up the Sandbox with Barbra Streisand. His latest film, Ángel, released to critical success in 2007, is a suspenseful thriller set during the politically tumultuous 1980s in Puerto Rico. It makes its North American premiere at the festival 8 p.m. Saturday. There are a thousand stories to be told about what happened in between those efforts, and this is the night for sharing them amidst much clapping and praising.
(7:30 p.m. at La Asociación Borinqueña; $15; 407-380-8886)

Feb. 16 Originally from Venezuela and now an Orlando resident, singer and cuatro player Juan Carlos Salazar takes over the music stage for a not-to-be-missed concert. The cuatro is a descendent of the four-string Spanish guitar that disappeared in the 16th century and which some compare to the ukulele, but with very different tones and capabilities. Expect Venezuelan traditions to blend with American sensibilities for an intense cultural exchange. (2 p.m. at the music stage, Orlando Fashion Square; free)

Feb. 17 The wrap party at Tanqueray’s is where OLA Fest concludes and where special guests, musicians and filmmakers from all corners of the festival gather to mingle, network and revel in the simpatico spirit. (10 p.m. at Tanqueray’s; free)

The following is the alphabetical lineup of films plus show times; tickets $6.50 per screening

• 107 Street
1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. Friday

• 3 Americas
12:30 p.m. Sunday

• 5 Fabricas
6:30 p.m. Friday;
12:30 p.m. Saturday

• Ahora Todos Parecen Contentos
9:30 p.m. Saturday

• Al Final del Espectro
7:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m. Friday

• Ángel
8 p.m., 10 p.m. Saturday; noon Sunday

• Antes y Despues de Besar a Maria
9:30 p.m. Saturday

Argentina: Hope in Hard Times
Noon Saturday;
3:30 p.m. Sunday

• Asalto Al Sueño
12:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. Friday

• Bala Perdida
2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Saturday;
1:30 p.m. Sunday

• Before Take Off
4:30 p.m. Saturday

• Beijo de Sal
9:30 p.m. Saturday

• The Borinqueneers
5:30 p.m. Thursday;
3 p.m. Sunday

• Carnival Blues
3 p.m., 7 p.m. Friday

• Cocalero
3 p.m., 9 p.m. Friday;
4:30 p.m. Sunday

• Cuerpo del Delito
8:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m. Saturday

• Dios los Cria II
1 p.m. Saturday

• El Paradiso de Hafner
8 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. Sunday

• El Prado las Estrellas
2 p.m., 4 p.m. Friday

• El Ultimo Bandoneon
5 p.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. Friday

• Escape From Suburbia
2 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

• Greenpeace: Making a Stand and Cannikins Wake
6:15 p.m. Saturday

• Juanito Bajo el Naranjo
9:30 p.m. Saturday

• Las Cruces
9:15 p.m. Thursday;
11:30 a.m. Friday; 5 p.m. Sunday

• Las Vacas Tambien Lloran
4:30 p.m. Saturday

• Linda Sarah
11 a.m. Saturday

• Lo Que le Paso a Santiago
3:30 p.m. Saturday

• M’Appelle
9:30 p.m. Saturday

• Made in L.A.
2:30 p.m. Sunday

• Muñeca
6 p.m., 8:30 p.m. Saturday

• Nevando Voy
5:30 p.m. Saturday; 5:30 p.m. Sunday

• Paris, Illinois
4:30 p.m. Saturday

• Pequeña Habana
2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. Friday

• Poison DUst
4 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m. Saturday

• Primera Comunion
4:30 p.m. Saturday

• Quiéreme
7:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m. Thursday

• Salsa Lessons
1 p.m., 5 p.m. Friday

• Shut Up and Do It
6 p.m., 8 p.m. Sunday

• Soñar No Cuesta Nada
5:15 p.m., 7:15 p.m.
Thursday; 7:30 p.m. Sunday

• Suite Habana
5:45 p.m., 9:45 p.m. Thursday

• Tatuado
10:30 p.m. Friday; 1:30 p.m. Saturday

• The Cliff
4:30 p.m. Saturday

• The War on Democracy
11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday

• Todo es Cuestion de Trapos
9:30 p.m. Saturday

• Un Buen Dia Lo Tiene Cualquiera
Noon, 6 p.m., 10 p.m. Friday

• Who Shot My Brother
10:30 p.m. Saturday;
6:30 p.m. Sunday

More by Lindy Shepherd


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