In spite of ongoing waves of gentrification, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick has been a predominantly Latinx neighborhood since the 1970s. A community I’ve lived in or adjacent to for the last four years and counting, Bushwick remains one of the few places in New York where you can still reliably find fresh baked sweet breads, homemade tamales, and palo santo within a few blocks radius, courtesy of local panaderías, street vendors, and botánicas. It feels fitting then that the neighborhood will soon play host to the second annual edition of region(es), a free performing arts series highlighting artists with roots in Latin America and the Caribbean. Running August 5 through 8, this year’s edition, CENTRAL, invites artists and speakers for four days of workshops, artist talks, and screenings, most of which will be presented virtually.
Following a Caribbean herbalism workshop in honor of the recent full moon, the program will kick off in earnest with an afternoon of artist talks on August 5. Featuring interdisciplinary artists Jonathan González, Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow, and Zwoisy Mears-Clarke — all of whom work with performance and touch on concerns related to place, migration, and political engagement — the talks will conclude with a conversation moderated by Charmaine Warren, a performer, curator, and historian.
Another highlight of this year’s edition is a short film program and panel organized by Brooklyn-based film curator Natalie Erazo (who we interviewed in June), featuring films by Cristóbal Guerra, Anna Pollack, and Joiri Minaya. Guerra’s Farifo (2014) layers text and footage from old home movies shot during the filmmaker’s childhood in Puerto Rico. Hazy Mini DV footage is juxtaposed with the stark lettering of homophobic slurs in Spanish, pointing to the ways in which shame and nostalgia can exist side by side in one’s memory, particularly when you repress your own queerness.
Pollack’s Jamaica Tapes (2019) is likewise shot on Mini DV, producing a low-res but poignant travelogue shot during the filmmaker’s first visit to the island, where her mother grew up before leaving for the US at age 21. Playfully edited (Pollack’s faulty camera died every 10 minutes) with an infectious sound mix, Jamaica Tapes features a selection of vignettes that conjure a family reunion of sorts — but one planned by your cool older cousins, rather than your aunties. Footage of beaches, the Blue Lagoon, and chatty, mischievous family members sit alongside comical conversations about conspiracy theories, celebrity crushes, and the absurd musings of a wanna-be rasta.
Minaya’s Labadee (2017) is also a travelogue of sorts, shot during a Royal Caribbean cruise stopover in Labadee, Haiti — a trip she had dreaded but took at the behest of family. The film, which has stuck with me for years, since first working with Minaya, acts as a sharp rebuke of the extractive nature of tourism in the Caribbean. As is common for the artist, who grew up between the Dominican Republic and New York, the film inflects the lush imagery of the Caribbean landscape with a critical, decolonial approach that even draws from Christopher Columbus’s travel diaries. All three filmmakers will join curator and scholar Naiomy Guerrero for a panel about their work on August 7 at 7pm.
For local viewers looking to get out of the house, region(es) will also be hosting two “park hangs” at Bushwick’s Maria Hernandez Park on August 6 and 8. Each event will feature live screenings of the films, free food, and DJ sets by DJs Mickey Perez and Donis Almanza, respectively. Organizers will also be on hand to distribute free masks, copies of the festival’s first print publication, and to enforce social distancing.
When: August 5–8, various times
Where: Online and at Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick, Brooklyn
See region(es) for more details.