"I don't want the film industry to label me as the 'one' Chicana filmmaker and expect me to be the only voice for our communities...No, no, no!"
It is undeniable that Latino voices are largely underrepresented and/or distressingly clichéd through the current perspective of American media, therefore it is rare that a filmmaker like Guerrero has the opportunity to share her voice through moviemaking, and perhaps more profound is that her voice is getting the recognition it deserves.
Sundance Institute strives to serve as the premiere forum for unique voices in independent film: "[A] discovery festival that is committed to representing the wide spectrum of independent cinematic work being made today." The Institute's featured event, the Sundance Film Festival, opens today in Park City, Utah, to an expected snow flurry of celebrities, filmmakers, filmgoers, industry professionals and more.
Mosquita y Mari is Latina director Aurora Guerrero's first feature film and it will premiere in the "Next" category of the Sundance Film Festival 2012, a non-competitive program the festival defines as "films [that] stretch limited resources to create impactful art." Guerrero's acceptance to the festival is an accomplishment; of the nearly 12,000 films submitted to the festival this year, less than 2% were accepted.
This won't be Guerrero's first time walking the Sundance red carpet; her short film Pura Lengua screened at Park City in 2005, and the filmmaker was accordingly snatched up by the prestigious Sundance Institute to participate in the Sundance Native/Indigenous Lab. Mosquita y Mari soon thereafter earned the Sundance/Ford Fellowship and the Sundance Institute/Time Warner Foundation Fellowship for Post Production.
In addition to receiving the abundant support of the Sundance, Mosquita y Mari has garnered the attention of prestigious film organizations including the Tribeca All Access Filmmaker Program, Film Independent's Producers Lab, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Latino Media Market, and the film project was the recipient of the Paul Robeson Development Grant, the SFFS/KRF Grant and the LG Cinema 3D Fellowship. The film was recently a Nominee for the Film Independent Piaget Producers Award for the work of the film's producer Chad Burris.
The film Mosquita y Mari explores the complexities of a budding friendship between two Chicana high schoolers in Los Angeles' Huntington Park as they struggle to recognize the sexual undercurrent in their relationship. The film stars rising teen talents Fenessa Pineda and Venecia Troncoso, and features supporting talent Joaquín Garrido, Laura Patalano and Dulce Maria Solis. The film was intimately photographed by Uruguayan cinematographer Magela Crosignani and both creatively and culturally designed by Production Designer Dalila Paola Mendez. The film was edited by Augie Robles and scored by composer Ryan Beveridge.The themes presented in the film are hot button topics for not only Latinos but society at large: Undocumented families and same-sex romance. Guerrero is not afraid to talk about these issues--
Having worked with a group of mothers in Boyle Heights, film director Guerrero has firsthand knowledge of the desire of the Latino community to address the issue of same-sex couples with their children, but they don't know how:
"I think immigrant Latinos and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people have been portrayed in [film in] ways that aren't accessible to people largely because they have been written from a place of fear and hate."
Guerrero's voice represents the complexity of the immigrant. Her identity is what she titles "Xicana Urban," a result of being born in the Mission District of San Francisco, raised in the East Bay Area, and maintaining a tight connection with her Mexican heritage, specifically to her indigenous grandmother and the town of Ayutla, Jalisco, where Aurora spent much of her youth. Add on top of that being a queer filmmaker:
"I feel that the Latino community is hungry for films that address LGBT issues...I hope to provide...an opportunity for Latino families to engage in dialogue about issues of desire and sex, not just the same sex, but desire in general. This is a theme that is constantly brushed under the rug and silenced in our communities and have a long-term impact on our lives."
"As a queer Xicana raised in the working class, I always felt invisible. It wasn't until I started reading Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua that I saw myself--a beautiful, smart, complex image of myself written in literature. Well, it's 2012 and that representation doesn't exist in American cinema today. We are nowhere to be found. And by 'we' I mean the queer, the female, and the undocumented."
Guerrero's online plea for support for the film via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in 2011 was a success, raising upwards of 80k in funding that allowed for the completion of post-production: "[I thought]: 'The gente has spoken. They want this film and I'm going to work my [expletive] off to make the best film I can.' Y asi fue."Guerrero's number one goal throughout the screenwriting, production and post-production process was to stay true to her voice and the story of the film:
"We kept it honest and we made sure that all the creative elements worked toward that vision. If anything rang false that's when I would reevaluate. I'm hoping that by focusing on the universal wonders of feeling love for the first time that my characters feel real to all audiences and that they can see themselves reflected in [the characters]. This could be a step towards dismantling the negative perceptions people have in their minds of what it means to be LGBT and/or undocumented. If Mosquita y Mari can challenge people's thinking about these issues, then I've done something right with this film."
Aurora Guerrero won't be alone while bringing Latino themes to the movie screens of Sundance's film festival, which opens today. Of approximately 200 films that will screen over eleven days, 18 are Latino and/or Hispanic in some aspect. In addition to the Latino powerhouse feature Filly Brown, which premieres tomorrow, January 20th, in the U.S. Dramatic category, and a handful of short films, only six films represent Latino and Hispanic filmmakers and/or Latino/Hispanic themes in the World Cinema Dramatic and Documentary categories:
Award-winning Spanish helmer Rodrigo Cortés will screen his most recent picture Red Lights in the Premieres category. The film stars Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones and Leonardo Sbaraglia.
Father's Chair (Brazil/World Dramatic; Director Luciano Moura; Writer: Elena Soarez; Producers: Fernando Meirelles, Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Bel Berlinck) On the weekend of his 15th birthday, Pedro takes a trip and disappears. His father goes in pursuit, and in the process of tracking him down, is he himself transformed.
The Last Elvis (Argentina/World Dramatic; Director Armando Bo; Writers Nicolas Giacobone & Bo; Producers Steve Golin, Hugo Sigman, Patricio Alvarez Casado & Victor Bo) In the unique world of the Buenos Aires celebrity-impersonator scene, Carlos has always lived his life as if he was the reincarnation of Elvis Presley. As his forty-second birthday approaches, his future appears empty. However, an unexpected tragedy interrupts Carlos' plans and forces him to grapple with his real-world responsibilities.
Gypsy Davy (Israel-U.S.A.-Spain/World Documentary; Writer/Director Rachel Leah Jones; Producers Philippe Bellaiche & Jones) This documentary shares the story of David Jones from the perspective of his five women and five children, one of whom is the film's director, Jones. Shot over a ten-year period in five countries and across three continents, it features some of the finest "old-school" Gypsy Flamenco artists, including Inés Bàcan, Concha Vagas, Miguel Funi, as well as some of the hottest names in American and Spanish alternative rock.
Madrid, 1987 (Spain/World Dramatic; Writer/Director: David Trueba; Producer: Jessica Huppert Berman) On a hot day in July 1987, in the vacant city, Miguel, a feared and respected senior newspaper writer, sets up a meeting in a café with Ángela, a young journalism student. From the first instant, there develops between them an unevenly matched duel that encircles desire, inspiration, talent and professional perspectives. Forced to remain together on a very particular day, both will try to survive the emotional friction.
Violeta Went to Heaven (Chile-Argentina-Brazil/World Dramatic; Director: Andrés Wood; Screenwriter: Eliseo Altunaga; Producer: Patricio Pereira) This film tells the story of famed Chilean singer and folklorist Violeta Parra, tracing her evolution from impoverished child to international sensation and Chile's national hero, while capturing the swirling intensity of her inner contradictions, fallibilities and passions. The film is a Goya Nominee for Best Foreign Film in the Spanish Language.
Young & Wild (Chile/World Dramatic; Director: Marialy Rivas; Screenwriters: Marialy Rives, Camila Gutiérrez, Pedro Peirano, Sebastián Sepúlveda; Producers: Juan de Dios Larrain & Pablo Larrain) Daniela is a teenager raised in a strict and well-to-do evangelical family in Santiago, Chile. Her raging sexual drive is difficult to reconcile within the orders of her religion. With no outlet for her desire, Daniela taps into an underground network of other horny teenagers through her sexually charged blog.If you can't get a hot ticket to see one of the aforementioned films at the festival, catch the work of Los Angeles native and Latino artist Nonny de la Peña, who makes her first visit to Sundance with the New Frontier Artists installation titled Hunger in Los Angeles. New Frontier is a celebration of the "convergence of film, art, and new media technologies as a hotbed for cinematic innovation." Peña's project utilizes game-development, a body-tracking system, and a head-mounted google display, along with live audio....to construct a full immersive simulated world." Think journalism in 3D. Peña, a former Newsweek correspondent, comments on her relevance as an artist:
"[My goal is] empathy...[As a Latina], my sensitivity to the issue offers me an opportunity to reflect on the circumstance which might otherwise not be as visible to those from less affected communities."
Sundance Film Festival opens today and runs through January 29th, 2012 in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah. Learn more about the festival and view the scheduled events at Sundance Film Festival 2012.
Follow S.J. Main, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/latinofilmfund