Editor’s Note: This Friday March 3, Latino USA and Remezcla will collaborate on a special one-hour episode about Latinos and film. In anticipation of the show, we are republishing a part of Vanessa Erazo’s February 17 Sundance piece. An audio version of this piece will be featured on Friday’s show.
Latinos born in the United States come up against a unique set of challenges compared to directors working in Latin America who often have access to government funding for their projects. The glaring differences are evidenced in the vast disparity between the amount of Latin American movies circling the globe at Class-A festivals compared to Latino ones. If you glance over the lineup for Cannes, Berlin, or Venice you’d be hard pressed to find even one Latinx filmmaker on the list. Meanwhile Mexican, Chilean, Brazilian, and Argentine productions are racking up awards at these same fests. Sundance, with its ever-growing content categories and a concerted effort at showcasing diverse voices, offers only slightly better odds for US Latinos.
Acceptance into a prestigious film festival like Sundance is a badge of honor for directors. It’s fiercely competitive with only a small fraction of the projects submitted granted acceptance. Once you do make it, it’s a pandora’s box of managing interview requests, reading your good and bad reviews, perfecting the art of schmoozing, and maximizing party invites while surviving below-freezing temperatures. For any first-timer it’s an overwhelming experience, but what’s it like for a Latinx director, writer, or producer to step into Park City’s winter wonderland of snowy mountain caps and mostly white audiences?
Amidst the madness of inauguration day, we gathered a group of American Latino creators who’d been accepted into the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for a frank conversation on the obstacles they face — financial, social, and political — when telling their stories.
Marvin Lemus, the director of Gente-fied, a gut-busting web series that illuminates the diversity inside of Boyle Heights’ Latino community and screened in the Short Form Episodic Showcase, was joined by his writing partner Linda Yvette Chavez. They shared the joys of working with Macro Ventures, the production company that funded their series and gave them free reign to make as many references to Juan Gabriel or Walter Mercado as they felt necessary. (Spoiler alert: there’s lots of ’em.)
William Caballero, writer-director of the heartwarming stop-motion animation short Victor & Isolina, and his producer Elaine del Valle spoke openly about how the new President will (or won’t) affect the work they create. Both also emphasized the importance of building a ride-or-die creative team.
Antonio Santini, one half of the directing duo behind the gorgeously shot and tender documentary Dina, opened up about the difficulties of finding commercial opportunities for his previous film Mala Mala and why he thinks this new movie has a better chance. As it turned out, Antonio and his co-director Dan Sickles took home the top award in their category — the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary — and less than two weeks after its world premiere Dina was picked up for distribution by The Orchard.
Peter Bratt, the only filmmaker in the group at Sundance for the second time, revealed the name of the angel investor who bankrolled his cinematic homage to activist Dolores Huerta. Containing a treasure trove of archival footage of Latinos fighting for equal rights throughout the decades, the documentary — simply titled Dolores — played in the US Documentary Competition.
Get a bunch of Latinos together and you’re guaranteed to have a lively and heartfelt chat. For this one, no one held back. They spilled it all. There were hearty laughs and even some tears. It got real emotional y’all. Here are highlights from the discussion.