Beginning in October, Spanish language films by Chicana filmmaker Lourdes Portillo will be shown at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
September 23, 2002 GENEVA, N.Y.—Mexico-born Lourdes Portillo's films have focused on the search for Latino identity, in forms ranging from television documentary to satirical video-film collage. The Hobart and William Smith Spanish and Hispanic studies program will show several of Portillo's films on various dates throughout the fall semester, beginning Oct. 2. All films are in Spanish with subtitles, with some English, and will be shown at 7 p.m. in Smith Hall Room 212 on the Colleges campus.
Portillo's interest in filmmaking was sparked when she helped a friend in Hollywood make a documentary. She apprenticed at the San Francisco National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians before becoming a camera assistant and creating her own pieces. Her 1993 film “Columbus on Trial” was selected for the 1993 Whitney Museum Biennial. In 1994 she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for her contributions to filmmaking. Portillo has collaborated extensively with noted directors Susana Muñoz and Nina Serrano, Academy Award-winning editor Vivien Hillgrove, and renowned playwright Maria Irene Fornes. Her current work includes a National Endowment for the Humanities project on 16th century Mexican nun, poet and intellectual Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, and two narrative films: the story of a teenage Chicana in the 1950s and a “stylized lesbian detective story.”
The schedule is as follows:
• Wednesday, Oct. 2: “Life” (1989) and “After the Earthquake” (1979)
“Life” is a short (18 min.) narrative film that depicts the struggle of a young Latina woman in New York coming to terms with the dangers of AIDS. “After the Earthquake” (23 min.) is the story of a Nicaraguan refugee working as a maid in San Francisco.
• Wednesday, Oct. 23: “Body: A Home Movie About Selena” (1999)
The movie is about Selena, a singer, who confronts Yolanda Saldivar, the manager of her clothing store. There have been financial improprieties, and Selena's family has advised her to fire Saldivar. The film opens with the images that first brought Selena to the attention of many English-speakers: gritty shots from Spanish-language news crews of her killer, Yolanda Saldivar, in a stand-off with police after the shooting.
• Wednesday, Oct. 30: “The Offering: Days of the Dead” (1988)
In the guise of a documentary, “The Offering” is a comparative study of Mexican and Chicano celebrations in remembrance of the dead on November 1 and 2. Widely critically acclaimed, “The Offering” was Portillo's most serious attempt to challenge the notion that, as she says, “documentary is always associated with injustice.”
• Wednesday, Nov. 6: “The Devil Never Sleeps” (1994)
In “The Devil Never Sleeps,” Portillo explores the Mexican psyche with an autobiography–she returns to the land of her birth to find out exactly who her uncle was and to investigate the circumstances of his death. The filmmaker's beloved uncle Oscar Ruiz Almeida has been found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in Chihuahua, Mexico. His widow has declared his death a suicide. Most of his family, however, cry murder and point to a number of possible suspects.
• Wednesday, Nov. 20: “The Mothers of Plaza De Mayo” (1985)
The film focuses on the resistance of a group of women to terror in Argentina. The result of a three-year collaboration with writer and director Susana Muñoz, “The Mothers” was nominated for the Academy's Best Documentary in 1985, and it received 20 other awards internationally.
• Wednesday, Dec. 4 “Missing Young Woman” (2001)
“Missing Young Woman” tells the story of the over 200 kidnapped, raped and murdered young women of Juárez, Mexico. The murders first came to light in 1993 and young women continue to disappear without any hope of bringing the perpetrators to justice. The documentary moves like the unsolved mystery it is, as Portillo poetically investigates the circumstances of the murders and the horror, fear and courage of the families whose children have been taken.