Newark Public Library Salutes Emerging and Established Latina Filmmakers in a Two-Day Film Series

Puerto Rican-American Rapper Hamza Peres in New Muslim Cool

NEWARK — After a life of dealing drugs on the street, Puerto Rican-American rapper Hamza Perez turned his life around and became a Muslim in Pittsburgh. Perez’s story and the struggles that follow after the FBI raids his mosque following September, 11, 2001 are chronicled in a documentary called New Muslim Cool, which is among the films featured in a two-day film series at the Newark Public Library.

The presentation is part of the Library’s annual tribute to Hispanic Heritage, which this year features an exhibit and programming saluting Latina artists. The exhibit, Latina Voices and Visions, showcasing artwork, poetry, photographs and books will be on display from September 15 through December 31 in the second floor gallery of the Main Library.


The film series celebrates the work of emerging and established Latina filmmakers. New Muslim Cool, directed by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, will be shown on Saturday, September 25 at 2 p.m. in the 4th floor auditorium. Cynthia Lopez, executive vice president of the PBS series P.O.V., will be on hand to lead a discussion and answer questions. POV (a cinema term for “point of view”) is television’s longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. The main character: Hamza Pérez (Jason Pérez) and his mother, Dolores Pérez will be in attendance.

Taylor’s documentaries and films have been shown in theaters, on television and in film festivals and museums around the world. Her debut feature, the Spanish-language experimental documentary Paulina, won five major festival awards at the Sundance Film Festival. She recently completed work as the co-producer/co-director of Special Circumstances, a PBS documentary following a Chilean exile on his quest to find the people responsible for killing his friends after the 1973 coup.

Following New Muslim Cool’s debut in April 2009 a San Francisco Chronicle reviewer wrote, “This spellbinding documentary by San Francisco filmmaker Jennifer Maytorena Taylor gives us the full dimension of a Muslim American man who’s a rapper, educator, father, husband and idealist.”

“This captivating, contemporary & humorous film will appeal to Latino, Black and White audiences alike,” writes López.

On Saturday, October 2, the Library will feature a series of short films by Latina filmmakers. A Q&A session with the filmmakers will follow.

Film curator, educator and filmmaker Bienvenida (Beni) Matias will introduce a series of short films by emerging and established Latina film producers and directors. The films will be shown in the 4th floor auditorium.

Matias is a pioneering Latina filmmaker who has produced documentaries both for public television and independently. Her 1979 film ‘Heart of Loisaida’ was recognized by the New York Public Library as part of their film preservation initiative, “Twentieth Century Mirrors: America Through the Eyes of Independent Filmmakers.” Matías is a founding Board Member and former National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Coordinator. She was Executive Director of the Association of Hispanic Arts, Inc. (AHA) and the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF) in New York City.

Some of the featured film shorts:

Urban Lullaby –Sonia González-Martínez, director

Comedy films are hard to make. This is a wonderful example of how a short comedy can speak to any urban dweller who has been driven insane by noise.

Living In America –Camila Arévalo, director

With camera in hand, 13-year-old Camila Arevalo and 16 of her 8th grade classmates from Paideia School in Atlanta embark on a journey of political education to Washington, D.C.

Dirty Laundry –Cristina Ibarra, director

A humorous look at border culture, Catholicism, puberty and the hidden pleasures of the spin cycle. By including home movies, telenovelas, and a fictional narrative, Ibarra, as a young filmmaker, opens a door into a Latina’s family and its rituals.

The programs are free and open to the public. The Newark Public Library is located at 5 Washington Street in downtown Newark. For more information, call 1-973-733-7772 (Sala Hispanoamericana) or email

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