Our History

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CLA began in 1997 as a Cuban film retrospective presented at the Mexic-Arte Museum. While programming the initial event, the organizers realized that although Austin was building its reputation as an important city for producing and showcasing independent film, films made by and about Latinos were largely absent from the community's cultural landscape. The overwhelming success of the first festival proved that there was an audience for these under-represented voices. With support from the City of Austin and the Texas Commission on the Arts, as well as the local Latino community, CLA made a commitment to become a vehicle for the inclusion of films from all of the Americas, and since 1998, the annual Cine Las Americas International Film Festival has steadily grown to become an internationally recognized event.


In 2001 CLA incorporated as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. Soon after, a partnership with the Austin Independent School District (AISD) established educational and mentoring programs to support the District’s Dropout Prevention Campaign. During this time students also began producing Emergencia, a Youth Film Exhibition Program. To this day, Emergencia works in collaboration with High School teachers and students previewing film entries received from around the world and curating an exhibition program that forms part of the Film Festival screening schedule. The selection of works is screened for free and Audience Awards are issued each year for the best participating film.

 
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In 2002, Eugenio del Bosque joined CLA as Programming Director, curating the film program and including works made by or about indigenous peoples the Americas, with the goal of creating a truly Pan-American experience for festival audiences. Competitive program sections were established in 2003, granting jury and audience awards, and bringing Austin to the world map of Latino and indigenous film festival destinations.

 

By 2005, Cine Las Americas had presented more than 300 films at its annual film festival and at various screenings across the state of Texas, collaborating with institutions such as The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and the South By South West Film Festival (SXSW). During this time, the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival has established itself as one of the most prestigious of its kind in the country, consistently growing its sponsorship and audience base, and offering artistic excellence, business opportunities and cultural exchange to audiences and film professionals alike.

 

In 2006, Mr. del Bosque moved on to serve as Executive Director. In 2009, Ms. Jean Lauer joined CLAIFF as Film Programming Chief, offering professional continuity and enhancing the festival’s international presence and diversity, with a strong focus on artistic excellence. Also in 2009, CLA established collaborations with local cultural centers and Universities, offering an average of 15 free year round screenings per year, including series and retrospectives of repertoire and new films. In 2011, CLA partnered with the Alamo Drafthouse to present monthly screenings of new films, expanding the opportunity to offer theatrical releases to films that otherwise will not screen in Austin. Often, the Signature Series is presented with in partnership with other local, statewide and international film and arts organizations.

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Over the past 17 years, CLA has presented more than 1,600 films in Austin and at various screenings across the state of Texas, becoming one of the most prestigious Latino film organizations in the country. CLA remains a community-oriented organization, offering diverse opportunities for culture, education, professional development and entertainment.