We spoke to five Bolivian-American creatives who are expanding their narratives through varied forms of artistic expression within fashion, photography, music, film and art. Click through each page below for a different story.
RODRIGO BELLOTT // FILM DIRECTOR
“It’s hard to come up with certain goals when there isn’t a reference. That’s why visibility and other success stories are so important for people to know it’s attainable and see themselves in that possibility.”
Playwright, actor, casting director and filmmaker Rodrigo Bellott found few Bolivian role models to look up to as an aspiring filmmaker in his early teens.
“There [was] maybe one film being produced every 3-5 years in the country at the time,” he says. “So, it was really tough to make my case and prove that filmmaking is a viable career path.”
Bellott took it as a challenge and sought out whatever opportunities he could.
“A Bolivian filmmaker had never been nominated for an Oscar, been to Sundance, to the Cannes Film Festival, or ever won a major international film award. So, all of those things that didn’t exist became my goals.”
Bellott was able to achieve his dreams through what he describes as “Bolivian spirit and tenacity.” In 2004, his breakout film, Sexual Dependency was selected as Bolivia’s first Academy Award entry for ‘Best Foreign Language Film.’ That was followed by his more recent 2019 feature Tu Me Manques, which was the Bolivian entry for the ‘Best International Film Feature’ at the 92nd Academy Awards.
Both films depict an honest and introspective exploration of sexual identity that not only mirrors Bellott’s own experience but highlights a reality that often lacks screen time in the film industry at large, especially in Bolivia—one that grapples with notions of machismo and acceptance of LGBTQ people.
“When I started to become more comfortable presenting myself as a gay man, I started to encounter some resistance of what I can or can’t do…I realized that as someone who now has significant achievements, and is a role model in film, I have a responsibility to advocate and be the role model I never had for LGBTQ youth in my country.”
Bellott quickly recognized the importance of growing and diversifying Bolivia’s untold and multifaceted cultural experiences through film. He co-founded Bolivia’s first film school— which now operates in three Bolivian cities. As a teacher and mentor, Bellott feels optimistic about its growth. When he first started, Bolivia produced 1-3 films. They now produce 30-40 feature films per year.