HFPA Members in Conversation at Cartagena International Film Festival

Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) members Barbara Gasser, Gerardo Prat and this writer recently spoke on a panel at the Cartagena International Film Festival (Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de Indias or FICCI), in its 62nd edition at Cartagena, Colombia.

The festival, which is presented from March 22 to 28 this year, was also attended by HFPA members Barbaros Tapan and Ruben Nepales.

Titled “Conversatorio: Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” the event was held on March 24 at the Patio Central in Centro de Formacion de la Cooperacion Espanola (CFCE). FICCI described the talk in its program: “Diversity is an issue that has taken over the entertainment industry in recent years. How does the Hollywood Foreign Press Association promote a more inclusive and diverse industry?”

Moderated by FICCI senior programmer-film curator-consultant and producer Hebe Tabachnik, the panel was part of the fifth edition of NIDO, the Colombian Audiovisual Industry Convention. NIDO’s objective is to promote a space for the exchange of knowledge and networking for the different actors in the audiovisual industry.


NIDO has had more than 4,000 attendees, 40 panels and discussions, five workshops, and six master classes, with a total of 90 guests, including panelists, speakers, workshop leaders and moderators. It has the annual participation of important national and international media and leaders in the audiovisual industry such as Netflix, Caracol Television, YouTube, Dynamo Cine, Dolby and Warner Music, among others, making NIDO one of the most important FICCI events.

HFPA Board Member Gasser from Austria talked about diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry, the impact on the Golden Globes as well as the diversity reforms of the HFPA.

Gasser said, “It is an honor and privilege to go to film festivals around the world and it is more important to do so in recent years. Watching films is just the tip of the iceberg because going to film festivals like this and watching cinema from Colombia gives you a completely different and wide range of outlooks which enriches us and adds another layer from opening night to the present, and all are different.”

She updated and informed the panel audience about the diversity reforms that the HFPA has made in the last two years, the increase in membership as well as the various percentages of members who are Black, Latino, Asian, African, male and female voters.

She added, “This year, we will again expand and add more members around the world. Hopefully, there will be more members from Latin America to open our own eyes and culture. Right now, we have members from 62 countries with different languages, different cultures and different religions. Representation is very important to us.”

Argentinian HFPA member Prat, who also represents Bolivia and Dominican Republic, talked about developments within the Hollywood industry defining Latinos (Latinx, white Latino, Afro-Latino), the practice of quotas to fit Latinos in productions in the USA, and gave context and perspective to the internal discussions in Hollywood.

Prat said, “The ‘Oscars So White’ movement created a before and after when, in 2015, the Academy imposed that by 2024, the films that want to compete in the Oscars must meet certain ‘quotas’ that represent society in terms of ethnic groups, disabled, LGTBQ+, Latinos and other minorities. This immediately impacted the studios and streaming companies, which already operate with certain ‘unwritten’ rules: a movie or series must have 10% Latinos (from series regular and below). This is not the case with the protagonists. On the other hand, more purely Latino stories are needed (that are not about Narcos or the undocumented).”

He added, “Gloria Calderón Kellett (showrunner and producer) told me in an interview, ‘We are 5% of what is seen on TV, while we make up almost 20% of the US population! And I assure you that of that 5%, the vast majority of roles are gangsters, drug dealers, or crying mothers. This provoked a political issue in the groups of influential Latinos in Hollywood who began to ask themselves: who are we giving these places to? (There were critics about Javier Bardem playing a Cuban in Being the Ricardos, or Pablo Escobar in Loving Escobar). And they decided to define ‘What is a Latino?’

“So, there is a kind of ‘new glossary’ being molded right now. A year ago, there was talk of ‘Hispanic’ is one who was born in Spain or who speaks the Spanish language; ´Latino is someone who comes from Latin America (´Latinx´ is not used because that ´x´ is difficult to pronounce in Spanish). Today, studios are already talking about newer terms: ´traditional Latino’ (one with indigenous features); ´Latino White´ (one who comes from Spain or Latin America, but with a greater European ethnic influence); and the ´Afro-Latino´ (one who comes from the Caribbean).”

This writer from the Philippines, who is also an HFPA member, talked about the philanthropy of the HFPA, a non-profit organization.

We talked about the $55 million that the organization has donated over the last 28 years and the $5 million that the HFPA donated last year to over 90 organizations and educational programs. We also spoke about our film restoration support which funded the restoration of 128 classic films. We said, “For film restoration, the HFPA grants since 1996 have reached more than $9.5 million and include 155 films restored such as La Bestia Debe Morir, Los Tallos Amargos, No Abras Nunca Esa Puerta and Marito Perduto, Il.” We stressed the importance of preserving film history by continuing to restore films before they are lost and forgotten.

We told the panel audience about our donations and grants for social justice like the NAACP, Hollywood bureau in 2021 which will receive $2 million over five years, and the Urban Peace Institute which received $300,000 in 2020.

We added that HFPA has also been providing relief and humanitarian aid to disaster areas like Haiti and war-torn countries like Afghanistan, as well as local charities that aid firefighters in California.

Our discussion included the over $5 million the HFPA has donated to organizations that fight for press freedom such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Pulitzer Center, among others.

We added that some of our grantees include La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes Foundation, Las Fotos Project, and Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles.

Finally, we revealed, “We are also committed to supporting diversity and access for underserved and impacted communities, such as LGBTQAI+, Black, Latinx, Asian, female-led, and veterans’ programs.”

The Cartagena International Film Festival opened on March 22nd with the Fernando López Cardona-helmed film Memento Mori at the Adolfo Mejia Theater (TAM). The opening night screening was followed by the HFPA-sponsored reception held at the Huerta Historical Museum of Cartagena de Indias (MUHCA).