LOS ANGELES -- When he looks at Panama, his home, the irony isn’t lost on Carlos Carrasco. Life sure does come full circle. 

“I had to leave because there’s no filmmaking there and now I get to go back and partake in the film industry there,” he said. 

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With memorable roles in films such as Speed solidifying his place in Hollywood, Carrasco wanted to create a bridge between the entertainment industry he’s a part of in L.A., and the emerging film industry in Panama.

That bridge became the Panamanian International Film Festival in Los Angeles, which he created five years ago. It features works by LatinX filmmakers from Panama, the U.S. and around the globe. 

Creating this spotlight is important to Carrasco, now more than ever, with a recent USC Annenberg study showing a low representation of Latinos in film.

But Carrasco wants to focus on how far the industry has come, saying the quality of roles has improved even if the quantity still needs work.  

“In my early days the roles were narrow, mostly bad guys and maids for the ladies, and gardeners,” he said. 

Now, he watches TV and reads about new roles with pride. 

“There’s wider representation now, a wider scope of characters being written for Latinos. I see the young kids up and coming and they’re playing medics, techs and doctors on CSI," he said. 

The festival, now called PANAFEST, is celebrating its 5th year. Carrasco is in charge of programming, another example of change he’s seen – with hundreds of submissions sent to him this time around. He watched submissions with pride, loving how much content is out there. 

“More Latinos behind the scenes, and in the boardrooms and the story rooms. Now we are bringing our sensibility to the table and writing rooms. It starts with a script. If you don’t have a script you have nothing,” he said. 

So he’ll celebrate the growth, with festivals like the one he created, pushing films from his culture in hopes it helps us see more LatinX actors on screen. 

For tickets and information visit: PANAFEST