Hispanic Heritage

Business administration sophomore Shruti Shah, 18, adds to the Hispanic heritage poster at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art’s Museum Nights: Hispanic Heritage on Thursday night.

Kelly Logan, Alligator

More than 250 people attended Thursday’s kickoff of the eighth annual Gainesville Latino Film Festival — necessitating a second screening of its first film showing.

The first of five free screenings opened with an hour of Museum Nights at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., attendees watched an interactive fashion show of festival guest director Nicole Di Rocco’s swimsuit line, featuring six models and various photos of the swimsuits shot in Cuba.

Free wine and Latin foods like green plantains, croquettes and Cuban pastries were served.

After an introduction from Di Rocco, “PastPort: Cuba — The search for Nicolita” was screened in the Chandler Auditorium.

Ten minutes before the 7 p.m. showtime, the auditorium reached capacity, and a second screening of the 45-minute film was added for 8 p.m. to accommodate about 50 extra attendees.

For the fourth consecutive year, the museum is hosting almost all of its screenings in collaboration with the Latina Women’s League, a local nonprofit that started the festival eight years ago.

The festival used to take place in the Hippodrome Theatre.

The league’s president, Victoria Condor-Williams, said a year’s worth of planning goes into producing the festival. It costs about $20,000.

“When we finish this year’s film festival in October, we will have already started planning next year’s,” she said.

UF’s Center for Latin American Studies provides funding for the festival from a state Department of Education Title VI program grant.

UF’s Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, the Center for African Studies and the Center for Jewish Studies also sponsor the festival, which marks the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

“It’s wonderful to see so many Latinos and Latinas in one place,” said Eric Castillo, the director of UF’s Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures. “This is a very small town, and sometimes we can get lost.”

Political science and international studies sophomore Bobby Brito, 19, came to Thursday’s event because his family immigrated to America from Cuba.

“If your family came a long time ago like mine, it’s hard to get a cohesive picture of what life was like then,” he said.