Jacksonville ‘newcomer’ plans first Hispanic film festival

Eugenio Maslowski

Eugenio Maslowski

Riverside resident Eugenio Maslowski has biked over 20,000 miles in the past two years since moving to Jacksonville. He’s quickly becoming a fixture in the community, frequently seen around town on his motorcycle or bicycle.

“Motorcycling and bicycling allows me to touch experiences,” explained Maslowski.

His dream is to travel through Europe on motorcycle, writing about art galleries, artists’ lives and urban murals.

For now Maslowski is focusing on Jacksonville, planning the nation’s first Hispanic Film Festival to debut downtown later this month.

It’s been an interesting road to get here, he shared. From his birthplace in Venezuela, Maslowski’s life unfolded in unexpected ways, including living in the Soviet Union and then in Miami for many years before claiming Jacksonville as his hometown in 2017.

Back in the 1980s, his first career at Monsanto transferred him to the Soviet Union.

“I was there at the beginning of the Gorbachev era. It was an interesting time,” said Maslowski.

After experiencing communism firsthand, back in Venezuela when he had the chance to speak to Hugo Chavez in 1998, alarm bells went off. He realized Chavez had similar goals attempted by the Soviet Union and decided to immigrate to the U.S. immediately.

Maslowski and his wife settled in Miami. Being a native Spanish speaker, the predominant Hispanic culture there reminded him of his roots.

In 2017 when they decided Miami was getting too crowded, Maslowski traveled around looking for a new place to settle in Florida.

“When I arrived here, and I saw the river and I saw the beaches, my wife and I fell in love with Jacksonville. This is a great quality of life,” Maslowski explained.

He began working in real estate in town and got a good view of where the city is headed. When he saw the Downtown Investment Authority’s plan for 2020 he decided to do his part to contribute to making downtown more vibrant.

After living here a few months, he brought the Afro-Venezuelan drum group Betsayda Machado to Hemming Park. The after-party lasted until midnight, with about 150 people dancing in the park. “It was really a ball,” he said.

For his next project, Maslowski was inspired by the history of Jacksonville as the original Hollywood during the silent film era. Over 20 major film companies had settled here, but in the 1930s they all ended up moving out West.

Combined with the fact there is no official Hispanic film festival in the U.S. Maslowski created the Hispanic Culture Film Festival, which will be held Sept. 21-23 and 27-30 at the Jacksonville Main Library downtown.

Maslowski’s goal is to educate residents about the individual cultural beauty of each of the 20 different countries that fall under the definition of Hispanic. “Just think of the music. For example, there is tango, salsa, merengue, mariachi – when you start to consider that variety, you have such a source of talent that makes the Hispanic community a really valuable resource in the U.S.,” said Maslowski. “The important thing is to establish the links that join the people.”

This year is just the launch. In 2019 he plans to have a panel of judges select films for a real festival with awards. Similar to Sundance or SXSW, Jacksonville will have a premier film festival to boast and bring tourism and filmmakers to Northeast Florida, Maslowski hopes.

“Jacksonville is the crossroads of Florida. Here we really are a melting pot, I love it,” said Maslowski, noting in the past year about 50,000 Hispanic people have chosen to move to Jacksonville. “When you consider that, you start to say, ‘Something is happening.’”

By Patricia Larkin
Resident Community News

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