Benedictine University Mesa to host Ibero-American Cinema Festival for local community

October 11, 2017

Mesa, Arizona ~ Benedictine University Mesa will host the Cine del Sur/Cine do Sul Ibero-American Cinema Festival in conjunction with the Pragda Spanish Film Club November 2-4. Per a grant from Pragda, BenU Mesa will screen five titles designed to familiarize students on a range of topics pertaining to Latin American culture and politics. 

“More than half of our students are of Latino origin and our proximity to Mexico makes this a good fit for us,” said Assistant Professor of Spanish Tony Cella, Ph.D.

When Cella brought the idea to his colleague, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts Laurelann Porter, Ph.D., she had some ideas to grow the event.

“We decided to expand its scope to include Brazil, the world’s largest Catholic and Lusophone nation. We applied for the grant last spring and received a 40 percent discount on the screening fees – the highest percentage offered,” Cella said.

“The entire community is invited to this festival. We are especially interested in students of both Spanish and Communication Arts as well as community members who have an interest in Latinx culture. Some of the films deal with mature topics such as government corruption, cultural trauma from violence and the troubles facing educational systems in Latin American countries,” Porter said.   

“We both feel very strongly that a festival for and about our Latino/Hispanic community members is especially important in this time of such complicated emotions and opinions about immigration and migrant rights,” she added.

The Spanish Film Club is an initiative created by Pragda, an independent organization that promotes and distributes Spanish cinema to universities, movie theaters and film festivals. More than 100 schools have participated in the program so far.

“Our goal is not to simply screen the films, but to use them as a starting point to delve into conversations about current events in Latin America,” Cella said. 

“We wanted a mix of both documentaries and fictional narrative films to focus on addressing concerns of justice and human rights,” Porter explained. “We also wanted to include a mix of films from different countries. We have chosen films from Mexico and Brazil, as well as several films that were transnational collaborations between different countries in Europe and the Americas. 

“These films are excellent cultural texts for opening up dialogue about the concerns facing humanity across several borders, both national and metaphorical in nature.”

“[The films] are specifically relevant to our student population, since many of them are Dreamers or immigrants who have family members on both sides of the border. This ‘inbetweenness’ can be enriching, although it is almost always perplexing. We hope these movies will help others understand what it means to live in the Borderlands and have family members both North and South — in close physical proximity, however immersed in vastly different circumstances,” added Cella.

Porter and Cella hope this festival serves as the beginning of a yearly event for the community to enjoy.

“We feel that as a Catholic liberal arts university our mission is to make students aware of topics that pertain to our community – which includes our neighbors to the South,” Cella said. “We also really push for our students to become global citizens and to learn Spanish. It is a mistake to consider Spanish a foreign language when more than 30 percent of Arizona’s population speaks it!”

The Ibero-American Cinema Festival will be held at Benedictine University Mesa, 225 E Main Street, Mesa in the Gillett Hall Community Room Thursday, November 2 featuring “The Empty Classroom” at 6:00 p.m.; Friday, November 3 featuring “Here and There” and “Eternal Amazon” at 5:00 p.m.; and Saturday, November 4 featuring “Tempest” and “Neruda” at 5:00 p.m. 

A reception and talkback session will take place before and after each screening. For more information, contact Cella at (480) 878-6702.


Benedictine University Mesa is a branch campus of Benedictine University, an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine was named among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017 by Forbes magazine. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( For more information, contact (602) 888-5500, or visit

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