Costa Rica brings “Viaje,” to the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival.

“He who hasn’t been able
to improvise in life,
hasn’t lived.”

With “VIAJE”, a film about love, coincidences and improvisations, director Paz Fábrega brings a candid, romantic story that will warm up the hearts of many, reminding us of those romantic stories once lived. Luciana y Pedro meet, and their lives will change forever. The film comes from Costa Rica, and it is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Screens Saturday, October 10 at 8:30PM at Smith Rafael Film Center
Screens Monday, October 12 at 3PM at Lark Theater

The 38th Mill Valley Film Festival is almost here, running from October 8  to October 18, 2015, presenting the best in independent and world cinema at theaters in Mill Valley, San Rafael and other Marin County cities. 

Content by Lupita Peimbert.


Telling Immigrant Stories Accurately.

By Lupita Peimbert.

Fruitvale is a predominantly Mexican and immigrant neighborhood on the East side of Oakland, California. Many of the families there hold tight to the customs and traditions of the country they originally came from. Food, for instance, has been kept authentic. One can easily find tacos, birria, menudo, huaraches, tortas ahogadas, and fresh fruit as one would find them in Mexico and other Latin American countries, but now you are on International Blvd., a business district where Latino restaurants and fruit carts have prepared and sold Mexican food for decades, a la Fruitvale.


Working-class, single mother Juana emerges from that setting taking a route different from the usual: she wants to become a sushi chef. To her family, that means she is departing from her roots, and to others, Juana may not be good enough not only because she is not Japanese, but also because she is a woman. Watch Juana, and see how far her determination takes her.

The film is called East Side Sushi because Juana lives on the East side of town, –that is where you often find minority and immigrant communities. I would have called it Sushi con Poblano Pepper. 

“It is a fictional story in a narrative form, documentary style, hand-held. A film to feel real,” says the film’s director and writer Anthony Lucero, who grew up in Fruitvale and is Mexican-American. “I didn’t want any stereotypes of any kind, and focus on the story of the underdog.”

The film was pre-planned to start slow, Lucero says, and it is meant to grab you at some point, keeping you watching, like the cinema in the 70s, and like many French movies.

East Side Sushi implies romance subtly. Juana becomes friends with Aki, the sushi chef at a Japanese restaurant where she works cleaning the kitchen; a connection develops between the two, and as you watch them interact you want them to kiss… (I won’t tell you what happens.)

East Side Sushi has won awards and special recognition at 16 film festivals the Napa Valley Film Festival among them.  It opens on Friday, September 18th at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, and at other art cinemas in California.

What I like best about East Side Sushi is that the film tells an immigrant’s story with accuracy, reflecting life beyond the usual stereotypes. It shows a single mother and her striving to raise her daughter. It shows a woman, a Mexican-immigrant family, and working-class people with dignity and respect. It presents aspects of the Japanese culture with a certain reverence, respecting its traditional views.


The main character, Juana, is played very nicely by actress Diana Elizabeth Torres, originally from Sinaloa, Mexico. Diana reminds me of Salma Hayek, and I appreciate her command of English and Spanish. The main sushi chef, Aki, is played by Yutaka Takeuchi, an actor originally from Gifu, Japan who you may have seen in The Last Samurai. Takeuchi is a good actor, and see his name getting bigger and bigger.

East Side Sushi is a beautiful immigrant story told with cultural accuracy. Anthony Lucero assembled a very good group of producers, actors, and film professionals –many of whom worked for free and achieved a film worth seeing and learning from. The music by Alex Mandel is quite good. The guy is seemingly caucasian but the music made for this film shows a Latin soul within him. -Dude, your music gets the attention ;-)!

East Side Sushi opens Friday, September 18th in several art cinemas in the Bay Area and beyond. I recommend it. ¡Hay que verla!

Look for East Side Sushi at the following theaters:

Grand Lake Theater, Oakland;
Camera 12, San Jose;
Kabuki, San Francisco;
C. Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael.

Also on Sept 18, look for this movie in Pico Rivera, Monterey Park, W. Hollywood, San Diego, Salinas, and Bakersfield.

@Lupitanews  #LupitaPeimbert


Exploring Class Differences in Brasil.

The Second Mother is a film coming up soon to San Francisco; it explores class differences in Brasil; storytelling about the daughter of a housekeeper who comes to Sao Pablo to live with her mother, and refuses to surrender to class issues. I can tell you, it is a film worth seeing.

Content by Lupita Peimbert. @Lupitanews #Lupitanews

Take a 5-Minute Break. Early, Please.

For all of you romantics of the world. This is the cutest short film, and the most romantic five-minute break. A great way to start your day! Film by Pixar, of course.

Para todos los romanticos del mundo. Este es el mas bonito short-film, y el descanso de 5 minutos mas romantico del mundo. Una excelente manera de empezar tu dia. El filme, claro, es de Pixar.

Sin Visa – Would You Do It?

No papers. Sans Papiers. Sin Papeles. The story of many people: living in another country without a visa. But when their skin is brown, it is more noticeable. Immigrants without authorization become third class citizens in that country to which they have arrived.  “Immigrant,” becomes a synonymous for poor, uneducated, less-than, undesirable, and even stupid.  A misperception, because it takes guts to move to another country without a job, rights, or any other basic guaranties.


Zarco Films’ SIN VISA, gives a light to the humanity of Latino immigrants. Produced and written by Bassam Kassab,  and directed by Ana Simões, SIN VISA takes a fresh look to an issue often misrepresented in the media.

While I write this and while you read it, thousands of immigrants will be somewhere in that intent, crossing the border between Mexico and the United States of America. Walking in the desert, running, being chased by patrols or anti-immigrant groups, sexually abused by the Coyotes (the human merchants who get paid to cross people illegally), hungry, afraid, lost, facing death at every step.

Some will be able to reach their destination. But, What happens after they have arrived? What are the specifics of their current struggles? Who is giving voice to their sufferings and victories?

 SIN VISA attempts to do that with passion and fervor, in a somewhat uncommon context. SIN VISA tells the story of Marco, an undocumented young man who works to send money to his mother and siblings in Mexico.

His life seems to loop within a cycle of poverty, lack of opportunities, and mistreatment, often from people who hablan Español. As it can be common in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the gay population is large and powerful, a gay couple helps him out, developing an uncommon friendship.

 I will tell you how it ends a little later, but first, what is remarkable about this production is that the majority of actors and extras are amateurs, and worked on this film voluntary. Crew members and other professionals also volunteered their work, moved by the relevancy of immigration, and the stories that need to be told. And they did all did a very good job.

Among other situations, it shows what happens to someone without documents when the police stops them or when friends realize they are not US citizens, just to give a couple of examples.

Now and then, one can see just a few limitations in acting and production, but the story is so compelling, the dialogues very real, and the combination of it all well done, that the power of the story and the energy that it exudes takes over, making it a film that leaves you feeling and thinking deeply.

SIN VISA achieves its goal: it raises awareness. It shows that immigrants are people, and that others often mistreat them by ignorance and bigotry.

 The end of the film, in my opinion, could have been a little more detailed. Marco may stay in California or he may come back to Mexico. If he goes back, he may never come back. If he comes back, he may never reach his destination, or what else. I would have prefered a little more digging into those possibilities, a little more showing of what happens to a human being when facing such choices, if any. Yet, the film does a great job and I highly recommend that everybody sees it.

I had the film shown to me in exclusive, and I am grateful to the producer for such privilege. Every time shown in a big screen, SIN VISA may come with one or more shorts shown prior to the film; very interesting work as well.

Lluvia Fría. 13 mins. (Cold Rain), is about teenagers, a handgun and bad decisions, by Alex Perdomo. Memorias Perdidas (Lost Memories), also by Perdomo, shows what Alzheimer’s disease can do to a father. Bi.Das, by Kassab, is about a taboo subject in many communities: bisexuality, and how it plays in the life of young men.

 Again, this production leaves you feeling and thinking; add to that the fact that it is an independent movie, made with people who did it for the love of it, and the result is a film worth seeing. The films are in Spanish, with English subtitles.

Utilizing the power of social media and with the intention to support the viewing of this film, I am recommending that the person who is reading this, aka you, get your group, organizations or company to have a screening, and a conversation after that. With the producer’s permission, I am sharing his contact information:

 You may take a look at the trailers: