In 2016, Esteban Arango enrolled in Hola Mexico Film Festival’s mentorship program, Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today, with a short film — a coming-of-ager about two brothers from Colombia who love metal music and feel disillusioned by the American dream. Arango and his co-writer, Erick Castrillon, needed guidance on adapting the piece into a full-length project, and the pair found that support in the program. “Blast Beat” had its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and is available on Hulu. Now, Arango returns to Hola Mexico (which takes place in Los Angeles through Sept. 25) for a special screening of the film on Sept. 23.

“I always thought that the movies that Hollywood put out about Latino experience were victimizing. We were always portrayed in negative ways,” says Arango, who is based in L.A. “So the most positive thing that came from [Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today] has been creating that community of filmmakers sharing this journey with you. There’s not that many of us here in Hollywood trying to [improve Latino representation]. So knowing that there are people navigating those waters with you, it’s a great tool.”

Several people Arango met in the program became influences along the way, including Diego Nájera, a fellow mentee turned executive at Participant Media, who provided Arango with constant feedback. Festival and mentorship founder Samuel Douek connected Arango with metalheads, while filmmaker Celso R. García gave him a crucial pep talk, telling him, “As long as you know where each scene starts and where it ends, you’ll be able to find your way through the middle.” Arango has a lot on the horizon: He’s developing a TV series, writing another movie with Castrillon and considering directing a few scripts by other writers. But right now, he’s feeling excited about the “Blast Beat” screening at Hola Mexico.

For more information about the Hola Mexico film festival, visit holamexicoff.com.