Cross posted from my Media Justice column
This is the first in a series of interviews with various media makers who have agreed to share with us their motivations, process and hopes for the media they create.
It’s rare when film festivals are open to featuring the media created by young people. I can honestly say I can’t think of a film festival I’ve attended (New York International Latino Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, etc.) that has included a youth track of films created by youth in general. There are many films about youth at these events, but not ever a representation of youth as media makers. To say that it is rare is an understatement. When I was invited to the third edition of Youth Producing Change Film Festival presented by Adobe Youth Voices at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, I was too excited!
Looking at the list of films that were going to be featured I knew this was a phenomenal space to be invited to participate in. One film in particular, which was highlighted for me by festival staff member Sheila, also stood out because of the topic, was Espie Hernandez’s film MARIPOSA. Espie’s film was the only film that discussed aspects of sexuality and sexual orientation. Her film discusses the rite of passage of a Quinceañera, or as we may know it more clearly in the US a “Sweet 15.”
Espie documents her experiences preparing for her Quinceañera as a young Latina lesbian living on the west coast who has come out to her parents. She shares with us some of the challenges her family has experienced and continues to struggle with as her Quinceañera comes closer. We meet her partner and hear from her partner’s family as well.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Espie briefly after the film festival and she agreed to answer a few interview questions. Because she is always already fabulous she asked if it was all right that she film herself in NYC answering the questions I sent her. My analog-life-living self was too busy being amazed at her suggestion to say anything other than “YES!” Take a moment to watch her short film MARIPOSA and then check out her responses to my questions which I’ve tried to provide an accurate transcription for under each film.
Interview Questions and Answers:
Question 1: What were some of your goals in creating this film?
“Some of my goals were to get my message through and get people to understand you know what a teenager goes through and you know what a traditional family, how hard it is for htem to accept somebody. My main goal is to inspire people and to encourage tehm to do what I did. If I can do it anybody else can.
“Making this film has brought me closer to my parents ‘cause I was able to show them my real side, I was able to open up and be honest and truthful and by them seeing my video they came to an understanding and they’re being supportive. They are not as embarrassed because I’m coming to New York so the whole world could see my film at the film festival. And it’s going to be a success.”
Question 2: How do you go about choosing the theme and setting/scenery for this film?
“We chose this topic as a group. I worked with two other filmmakers and we all chose it together and about the scenery, we chose a nearby park near my house it’s called Hollenbeck Park, somewhere I could feel comfortable while they interviewed me and you know somewhere nice and relaxing shady. Also my Quinceañera so we can get a concept of what a Quinceañera looks like and me dancing with my dad.”
Question 3: What have been some responses to the film since you have shared it?
“I’ve gotten a lot of great responses. I’ve been doing a lot of good activities like being interviewed, I got it [the film] into the Human Rights Watch Film Festival here in New York. All my friends that watched it they really like it and I really, I actually had, I think he was a teenager, come up to me and ask me for advice during an interview for him to come out and you know I’ve just been helping people and talking to them and helping them through it and getting appreciated for what I did.”
Question 4: Will you share with us how you chose the title for your film Mariposa?
“We chose the name Mariposa for my film because “mariposa” is butterfly in Spanish and a butterfly when it’s in the cocoon is reaching out of it’s shell and it’s opening up and being free and just leaves and it flies just like a beautiful butterfly. So we named it after that.”
Question 5: Is the identity of media maker one that you embrace? Can you share with us how other aspects of your identities intersect with being a media maker (how does being a woman, Latina, etc. inform your media making)?
“I think it is good that I’m Latino because a lot of Latinos they have a lot of causes and by me you know getting out the film and speaking about the film it’s much better in my community. I can get a lot of help and support and I think it’s a better to get a lot of information out about my culture and everything else.”
Question 6: How do you see creating media as fitting into a larger social justice agenda you have?
“I’m an activist because of the film I’ve made and because all the kids who ask me for advice about gay rights. I help them, I talk to them about my story and my film. And also because of the Human Rights Watch film festival in NY I feel I’m an activist because I submitted my video and all of the press conferences I’ve been doing I feel like I’m supporting gay rights.”
Question 7: Will you share with us how you began creating films and media?
“I was a peer advocate and did volunteer work and it was on sexual education so I had some background on that and through a friend I found out about ImMEDIAte Justice and they focus on films about reproductive justice.”
“And in media justice I was taught by mentors who would teach me about editing and making a film and about making a point and getting your message through and many other things. I always wanted to be part of a program and do a video because I want to be a photographer when I grow up so I wanted to get used to the film and camera and all that stuff.”
Question 8: For readers who are seeking to create similar media for their communities, what would you like to share from your experience?
“I just want to tell the future film makers in media justice to be open to be free and comfortable. Mentors are great and they make you feel comfortable. Go to every the workshops you can to learn about editing, and all the ImMEDIAte Justice because there is a lot to learn. Have fun, really talk about what you want to talk about. Make a film about what you want, about a great cause about anything you think is now going on that is good you think of it and you do it and they will help you through it. And have a great time!”
You may find out more about ImMEDIAte Justice by visiting their website.
Many thanks to Espie and her mentor Sylvia for taking time out to answer these questions and sharing her insight with all of us. A huge thank you to Sheila at Human Rights Watch for reaching out to me and providing me with an amazing opportunity to witness and share the new media being created by our youth!