News Column

Hispanic Film Festivals Grow in Popularity, But Landing Major Sponsorships Remains a Challenge

June 12, 2008

Hildy Medina--Associate Editor, HispanicBusiness Magazine

The HBO-sponsored New York International Latino Film Festival

Not long ago, the biggest challenge Hispanic film buffs faced was finding Hispanic films. Nowadays, their toughest job is trying to cram the now-copious number of Hispanic movies into their calendars.

Thanks to the growing number of festivals like the New York International Latino Film Festival (NYILFF), one of about a dozen major Hispanic film festivals in the United States, today's filmgoers get a chance to see hundreds of feature films, documentaries and shorts from Latin America, Spain, and the U.S.

The success of Latino films in recent years has made it easier to find enough Hispanic productions to fill the six-day festival, which kicks off July 22 in New York City. But landing big-ticket sponsors continues to be a challenge despite the NYILFF's growing popularity.

Even in the best of economic times, securing sponsors for an independent film festival is no easy feat. Festival organizers are often competing for the same sponsorship dollars. In the case of culturally-themed festivals, the range of sponsors can be even more limited.

"When the economy is down those dollars are definitely diluted," says Elizabeth Gardner, the festival's executive producer. "This year in particular, we're feeling the crunch."

To capture those coveted sponsorship dollars, the NYILFF, which bills itself as the "premier urban Latino film event in the country," hopes to capitalize on its expanding audience of second and third generation Hispanics.

Since launching in 1999, the film festival has attracted some major sponsors, among them, Heineken, Suzuki, Telemundo, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and the festival's founding sponsor, HBO. Among the newest sponsors to jump on board are Sauza Tequila and The Hollywood Reporter.

"Depending on the client we look for an idea that is perfect for each one," says Ms. Gardner. "We really take good care of them."

To keep sponsors coming back, NYILFF organizers customize the sponsorships for each backer. Sponsors can participate in various ways, including hosting VIP parties and music shows to branding awards. Last year, for example, Verizon presented "Cinema Under the Stars" an outdoor screening of various films that included interactive computers where audience members got to vote for their favorite film.

This year, NYILFF organizers are reaching out to new categories of sponsors.

"We're talking to some retailers and we'd like to have more relationships with consumer electronics (firms)," says Ms. Gardner.

Despite the sponsorship challenges, the NYILLF has had impressive growth. Now in its ninth year, the festival has had consistent revenue increases of more than 30 percent in the past four years. Film submissions have also increased in the last year to 500 from 250 the previous year.

"Sponsors obviously sponsor events for different reasons, but usually there is a strong desire on their part to support emerging Latino talent, and we're considered the gateway to that emerging talent." says Ms. Gardner.

The festival will feature some 90 films, including shorts, feature narratives and documentaries at four theatres across Manhattan from July 22 through July 27 along with industry panel discussions, musical performances and outdoor events.

For film listings and ticket information, go to

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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