A heartfelt story of British Latino siblings

Nestled away beneath a railway bridge in the heart of Southwark, a small Catholic church became the host of 150 glamorous guests for a Latin American film gala – Film Locos, writes Claudia Lee.

On November 10, people crammed inside the hall to watch the screening of a new short film, Beto & Nena, for the annual gala.

The film explores the life of Beto – played by Victor Rios.

Beto is a devoted older brother born in Bolivia but raised in London, who sacrificed his dreams to care for his younger sister, Nena – portrayed by Emylie Flores – who was born in London and is an aspiring dancer at the cusp of adolescence.

Actor and founder of Film Loco, Victor Rios, 35, from Streatham Hill, said: “It was phenomenal. “Beto and Nena is really a story of two siblings who are second generation British Latinos living in South London dealing with the lack of opportunities many of us have faced.

“The community has been growing. We need representation for people who live here and something that people can be connected to. That’s what these galas are for.”

The gala night featured traditional Latin American dances by groups in glamorous outfits; right, Victor Rios presented the screening of Beto and Nena. Picture: Ely Esdras Photography

The film features a number of spots across South London that are recognisable to the community, like Tooting Common and bar Bola 8, in Elephant Road, adjacent to Elephant and Castle railway station – a focal point for the vibrant British Latino community in the area.

Mr Rios said: “When we started making the film we wanted young people to connect to it. “There are a lot of British Latinos in South London who are hungry to engage in the media so they can be heard.

We are here but we are still invisible.” The gala night also featured a series of eight other short films, alongside dances and performances from reggaeton artists.

Film Locos formally became a production company this year after five years of filmmaking, and aims to bring community stories to life by involving people from the area and providing opportunities for young talent.

Film Locos works with schools across South London, including Saint Gabriel’s College in Camberwell, to recruit its actors, and aims to challenge stereotypes and celebrate diversity.

Mr Rios said: “For this film we focused on the Bolivian community, but included many other Latinos as well as other characters from Polish and Spanish backgrounds.

“We’re trying to show different cultures on screen that people don’t usually see on TV.”

The Latin American community is one of the fastest growing migrant communities in London.

It increased nearly four-fold between 2001 and 2011 and continues to grow each year.

By 2013, there were a quarter of a million Latin Americans living in the UK, and the majority live in the South London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.

But the Latin American community is still not recognised by the Census.

The community also faces high rates of discrimination.

Reports by Queen Mary University found that 45 per cent of the Latin American community endured workplace abuse, and that one in five experienced wage theft between 2011 and 2016.

Mr Rios said: “I don’t use the term Latinos, it keeps us foreign – I say British Latinos because it creates a connection to the place we live and have grown up.”



Picture: Victor Rios presented the screening of Beto and Nena. Picture: Ely Esdras Photography

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