Only 1 in 1,335 Directors is a Latina

September 25, 2019 3:13 am Published by Leave your thoughts

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Why We Need Latina Stories

For five years my dear friend Barbara Ann O’Leary has inspired film lovers to organize screenings of films #DirectedByWomen during the month of September. Thanks to this global movement, thousands are able to see the world through women’s eyes every September and hopefully seek out more women-directed films during the rest of the year. A week before September arrived with its glorious request that we celebrate women’s films, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released its first “Latinos in Film” study in which Stacy L. Smith and her co-authors examined the 2007-2018 1,200 top-grossing films for representation of Latinxs behind and in front of the camera. They found that only 48 of the 1,335 directors working on the films they studied identify as Latinx. That makes up 4%, an alarmingly low number. Of those directors, however, only one—Mexican director Patricia Riggen—is a woman.

I don’t even want to figure out what percentage that is. It’s something minuscule, which is a pity because Latinxs make up 16.7% of the US population, a number that’s projected to keep rising. A director steers the story and how that story and its characters show up on the screen. Directors, for a few minutes or hours, invite us into a world they’ve created and whether we see them on screen or not, that world reflects their experience. Audiences get to momentarily live inside that director’s body, navigate her thoughts, and glimpse the hidden corners of her heart. That experience then shapes—sometimes slightly, sometimes emphatically—how we see ourselves and the world around us. We need a lot more than one Latina telling the stories that mold our worldview. There are still quite a few days left in September. Go seek out some films and TV shows directed by women and lose yourself in their magic, and please throw a few Latinas into the mix. You’ll be surprised by how and what we make you feel with our vision.

We Are Returning to Editing the Film in November

weeping season photo, Alex with two kids in front of a horse statue
My editor Cristina Carrasco and I are finally ready to return to editing The Weeping Season this November. We both felt we needed to spend some time away from the story in order to return to it with the generative perspectives that taking breaks bring to a project. Once we have a sense of the film’s new direction, we’ll begin applying to grants again and hopefully get the funds we need to complete the film.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

two women sitting at a table being filmed
Growing up in Venezuela, I watched countless films on TV after school. Most of them were dubbed and then butchered in order to make room for commercials, but I was still infatuated with the power of the cinematic image. It embedded itself in my brain, reverberating for years and helping me figure out the kind of person I wanted to become. Although I did my share of acting in my teens, it never occurred to me that directing was an option. I was 31 by the time I figured out that women could and should direct films. I had little training in making the images that had consumed my childhood dreams, but I hired a mostly female and of-color crew for my first feature documentary and set out to tell the story of four immigrant women living in New York City. On our first day of filming, we wanted to capture Teboho, a South African NYU professor, having tea with a friend.

A now long vanished restaurant kindly allowed us to come in before they opened so we could create a moment of quiet intimacy in the middle of a hectic Manhattan afternoon. As I watched the conversation unfold, I tried to figure out how much direction I should be providing Shanele, my cinematographer, about how to frame the scene, and whether Joseph, my sound person, needed any kind of encouragement. I realized that I had no idea what directors were supposed to do and that directing was not the right kind of occupation to learn on the job. But the journey had already begun and I didn’t know what I was doing, so learning on the job was my only way to make it through the next month of shooting. Sometimes when you break into professions that aren’t meant for people like you, you have to take the plunge and hope for the best. I, at times, still feel like I’m suspended somewhere above the water, bracing for the fall.

My review of María Alché’s A Family Submerged published in Directed by Women

still of a woman smoking with a man on top of a roof in the city
Not only did Barbara Ann O’Leary originate the #DirectedbyWomen screenings, but she is hosting the Crucial 21st Century Cinema initiative, in which, over the course of a year, different authors write about the films directed by women that are particularly meaningful to them. Check out my review of Argentinean director María Alché’s feature debut A Family Submerged and the brilliant films other fellow authors have written about for the initiative.

Screening of Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché for #DirectedbyWomen

Earlier this month, I organized a screening of Pamela B. Green’s transformative documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché at MSU as part of the #DirectedbyWomen Fifth Worldwide Film Viewing Party. Be Natural, which is available streaming on various platforms, tells the story of French filmmaking pioneer Alice Guy Blaché and how she fought to keep her astounding legacy alive, even though the film industry tried to erase her.

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This post was written by Tiffany McIntyre

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