March 10 2014 07:07 PM

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

Water & Power
Photo by Rafael Cardenas

1. From heavy to light

The San Diego Latino Film Festival is back from Thursday, March 13, through March 23 with dozens of screenings, parties, star appearances and speakers at UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas Hazard Center (7510 Hazard Center Drive) and Digital Gym Cinema (2921 El Cajon Blvd. in North Park).

Curated by the Media Arts Center, the films have been nicely categorized into various showcases—Cine Gay, Comedy Showcase, Cuban Film Showcase, Para la Familiar, for example—that allow audiences to more easily sort through and digest the many movies packed into this year's festival. One of the showcases, HBO U.S. / Latino Cinema, features some of the best and brightest established and emerging Latino filmmakers working in the industry today. As a whole, the films strive to more honestly reflect the Latino experience.

"My film is really looking at Los Angeles from the Eastside out and not the Westside in," says filmmaker Richard Montoya, whose feature-length movie, Water & Power, is screening twice at this year's festival. "I think a lot of films don't get that right."

Montoya is a first-time filmmaker and a member of the famed Chicano performance troupe, Culture Clash. Based on a play, Water & Power is a poetic, noir film about twin brothers on opposite sides of the law. Shot in 12 days in 2012, the film is set during one harrowing night and intimately examines the dark side of ambition and power.

Known mostly for his more lighthearted and humorous work with Culture Clash, Montoya says he put on his "big-boy pants" for his film.

"It's a big-boy movie with a driving soundtrack and an honest story," he says. "And I say that unapologetically. I'm not trying to make a cute kiddie film."

Montoya's film might be heavy, but there's plenty of lighter stuff showing at the film fest, too. Hit up for all the details.

2. Tijuana-tastic

Dig out your passport or land card, because from 1 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, March 15, you'd be silly to skip one of the coolest cultural gatherings south of the border. For the third year, Arts and Trees brings its art, music, clothing and crafts bazaar back to Tijuana, this time at Foodgarden (corner of Blvd. Sanchez Taboada and Mision de Santo Tomas), a hip sort-of outdoor food court that opened last year with outposts for cult faves like Tacos Kokopelli or Los Chilaquiles, which serves more than a dozen varieties of the traditional Mexican dish. There's a long list of independent vendors selling everything from jewelry and one-of-a-kind clothing to artwork and gourmet food. There'll also be some great live music, and admission is free to all ages. Search for "Arts and Trees" on Facebook.

3. Mucho mariachi

Apparently, we can thank the Spaniards for what we know as mariachi music—they introduced violins, guitars, horns and woodwinds to Indian and mestizo musicians in Mexico after they colonized the place. The Mexicans took it from there and developed the time-honored folk-music style we enjoy in so many Mexican restaurants today. You can get a whole day full of the stuff at the second annual Mariachi Festival and Competition, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at Pepper Park in National City. In addition to lots and lots of mariachi, there'll be traditional ballet folklorico and Aztec dances, plus carnival games, pony rides, a children's area, a food pavilion and a beer garden. Admission is free. Check for details, including shuttle and parking information. 

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email Kinsee Morlan.