Cine Acción, a Window into Latino Film History

September 26, 2017
Adan Griego
Cine Accion 2004

San Francisco Bay Area cinephiles can enjoy an ongoing series of film festivals throughout the year showcasing a variety of themes (animation, film noir, LGBT, silent film) that supplement mainstream commercial productions. Latino movies are no exception.

In 1980 Cine Acción was founded in San Francisco “on the principle that Latin American cinema must be promoted in the United States and that Latinos in the U.S. must be actively encouraged to produce media.” It became one of the pioneering independent film festivals in the United States and for over 25 years Cine Acción captured a creative energy that provided a space for unheard Latino film voices.

The 1994 festival (already the Second annual event) showcased 14 programs of new film and video, with Braziliance, a special focus on Brazil. The festival was held at the Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens in downtown San Francisco, expanding to locations in Berkeley and as far as Sacramento in subsequent years.

Cine Accion 1994 program
Opening night in 1998 featured a tribute to legendary Broadway and Hollywood actress Rita Moreno and a special screening of West Side Story, for which Ms. Moreno received an Academy Award in 1961. Proceeds from the event were to benefit a local Bay Area high school dropout prevention program, a testament to the Cine Acción's grassroots commitment.

Cine Accion 1998 program

As with many independent, non-profit organizations, lack of funds often leads to the inevitable, and Cine Acción folded in the mid 2000s.  Sometimes those closures come with a loss of a vibrant history as groups move out of storage space or material housed in member homes is discarded. In the case of Cine Acción, that history has been preserved.  Meetings with organizers over the years made them aware of the importance of documenting and preserving their own history.

The Cine Acción records, 1982- 2008, at the Stanford Libraries contain 72 boxes of original material (festival programs and posters, press clippings, minutes of meetings, etc.) and give researchers a window into film history in the United States.

Cine Accion 2000 program

One of the first scholars to review the collection came from Germany in 2010 as part of her research on "California Latino film festivals" and had been referred by a University of California-Davis film studies faculty who knew the Cine Acción collection had been acquired by Stanford.  She was thrilled to find such a rich resource for her project.

Cine Accion 2001 program
These collections are part of a broader set of archival materials that document the Mexican American experience in the United States, from political groups to visual artists and writers. Collectively, they are well-known to scholars in the field. On any given day the Special Collections reading room hosts local researchers and users from other research institutions. Items from these collections have also been loaned for museum exhibits, as is the case of the current set of Los Angeles art exhibits Pacific Standard Time: La/LA 

Cine Accion 1997 program