Mambo Legends Orchestra director and bongo player Johnny Rodriguez, left, and Crane Latin Ensemble bongo player Matt Christy.

Mambo Legends Orchestra director and bongo player Johnny Rodriguez, left, and Crane Latin Ensemble bongo player Matt Christy.

The critically acclaimed film “The Hunting Ground,” which focuses on sexual assault on college campuses, is among those coming to the St. Lawrence International Film Festival this week.

According to information from film festival director Michael Coty, the film is a “startling expose” of sexual assault on U.S. campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families.

“(Writer/director Kirby) Dick and (producer Amy) Ziering chronicle the horrors faced by assault victims after they survive what they thought was the worst ordeal of their lives. In raw and emotional interviews, rape survivors and their families testify to a real-life horror story that has become all too common. Those brave enough to report the crimes face disbelief, apathy, victim-blaming, harassment and retaliation from both their fellow students and the administrators whose job it is to protect them,” reads a synopsis provided by Adam Paul, executive director of the festival.

One of the film’s executive producers is St. Lawrence University alumna Sarah E. Johnson, who was also an executive producer of the Oscar-winning film “Birdman.”

Also showing at the festival will be “For the Love of the Mambo,” which will be followed by a live performance featuring Mambo Legends Orchestra leaders John “Dandy” Rodriguez, Mitch Frohman and Jose Madera.

The film has a local connection, as members of Latin Ensemble from SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music help share the “history and aesthetics” of the mambo, and will also take part in the post-screening performance.

“The film traces the lives and careers of the originators of what is known by many names: Salsa, Mambo, Latin Music. Labels, as we learn in the film, are meaningless. These musicians reflect upon their experiences, principally with Tito Puente, but with others as well as they helped create and define a musical genre,” film director Doyle R. Dean said in an email.

Mr. Dean said the film started off as video recordings of workshops the Legends of Mambo attended along with Crane students.

He said after the musicians began to trust the filmmakers, they began conducting interviews and recording performances. Mr. Dean said Marsha Baxter, who produced and directed the film and facilitated the workshops, was the one who saw the potential for a feature film.

“Her energy and dedication to celebrating and teaching this art form is unmatched,” he said.

Mr. Dean said the experience of making this film opened his eyes to something he thought would not suit him. He said he hopes the film helps people realize that a music’s culture should not define whether or not you enjoy it.

“If you like it, it’s for you. This was made abundantly clear through the interviews with the musicians involved. They are from all walks of life, come to this music from many different directions, but share a genuine and equal love for it,” Mr. Dean said.

“The Hunting Ground” will be screened at 2 p.m. Saturday at SUNY Potsdam. “For the Love of the Mambo” will be screened at 3 p.m. next Sunday in the Snell Theater at the school.

On Friday there will be a block party hosted in Canton’s village green from 6 to 9 p.m. sponsored by SUNY Canton. Park Street will be blocked off to accommodate the numerous events of the block party, including local musical talent, film trivia, prizes and food and refreshments. The block party is free and open to the public.

The St. Lawrence International Film Festival runs from Thursday to Sunday in both the United States and Canada. Tickets can be purchased at the American Theatre or at the TAUNY Center in Canton. A three-day ticket package costs $75 and allows entry for films in both Canton and Brockville, Ontario. Tickets for individual films can be purchased at the theater at the time of the screening for $10 on a first-come, first-served basis.

Read the article in the Watertown Daily Times: