The first movie to successfully raise $80,000 through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign opens next week to nationwide audiences. But Mosquita y Mari (MyM) isn't your typical love story.
The film is a first-love story between two young women -- but it lacks one traditional staple of most queer love stories: a coming-out scene.
"I think there have been a lot of films that have put their attention on coming out. I respect that, and I think it's important, but I wanted to take it a step back in the process," says first-time director Aurora Guerrero.
A Xicana filmmaker who describes herself as an activist first, artist second, Guerrero says the film is "queer, though really universal in its theme of first-love experience."
The drama skillfully built throughout the film centers on the tension of discovery within the context of a same-sex relationship.
Mosquita, played by 17-year-old Fenessa Pineda, balances parental expectations while testing the waters of her new friendship with Mari, played skillfully by 20-year-old Venecia Troncoso. The camera follows these two girls, in their skinny jeans and screen-printed shirts, together and separately as Guerrero quietly lays down her story.
"MyM was inspired by a series of relationships I had growing up that were within the context of friendships," says Guerrero. "There was that energy in each one that really just bordered on romance. They were very meaningful, and really beautiful."
Guerrero shared her rough script with someone at HBO who, deciding there was something there, submitted it to the Sundance Institute.
"At that point everything changed. The possibility of it being made, of being in circles I never knew I would be a part of," Guerrero remembers.
She was accepted into the Native/Indigenous Fellows Program at Sundance and connected with director Jim McKay, who coached her patiently through the rewriting process. "Be organic. Be raw. But a rewrite means you need to be fearless," Guerrero remembers him telling her.
In 2011 Kickstarter partnered with Sundance and this time approached Guerrero to be one of the first fundraising projects to launch their new campaign.
With a green light on her first feature-length film project, Guerrero knew she needed $80,000 to make it happen. Sundance and Kickstarter hesitated over such an ambitious goal, unsure if Guerrero and her team would be able to raise the full amount. It had never been done before.
"Two days out from deadline, we hadn't raised the full amount; we were $35,000 short. The last 48 hours of the campaign, donations came in every other minute," Guerrero recalls.
Guerrero says the fact that the film was community-financed gave her the freedom to make the film she wanted to make. "With financial backers who don't care about profit, to go into production with that kind of support is so liberating. I was allowed to just be an artist. The only thing I was being held responsible for by this community was to make a good film."
There is no coming out in Guerrero's film, but there is beauty captured by an activist with a vision, a story with love, and a connection that transcends gender and politics. In MyM there are no answers, only the freedom to explore and connect in a world that is seemingly becoming more and more disconnected.
Mosquita y Mari plays Aug. 3 through 9 at Cinema Village in New York City.