Jonathan Menendez is a digital renaissance man. He’s a pioneer of the multimedia age except unlike Google or Facebook, he uses his powers for good. He’s not in this business to make money. Instead he has one singular mission: to promote and elevate the work of Queer artists of color. He founded the Latina/o Queer Arts and Film Festival, directed the documentary Gay Latino LA: Coming of Age, and collaborated on Qulture.org a collective of bloggers, artists, filmmakers, photographers and activists that create multimedia content for the site, providing an outlet for Queer and Trans voices.
Ahead of the Latina/o Queer Arts and Film Festival’s opening night in Los Angeles we caught up with the L.A. native to talk about the fest, his documentary and his dream of making a Queer comedy starring Cantinflas.
Where are you from?
I was born in Santa Monica, raised between Venice and Culver City and carry an equal amount of Colombian and Ecuadorian blood, first generation to be exact.
What city do you call home?
Los Angeles, I’m involved in a love relationship with the city.
When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?
My father handed me a family video camera in Hawaii when I was in 4th grade and I have been making movies for school projects since then.
Did you formally study film?
I did not, which is probably why my craft still requires some work. I hold a Multimedia Productions BA from the school of Communications and Arts at California State University Northridge. My area of interests lies in digital media: the intersection of video, websites, music, sound and moving graphics.
What’s a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like?
I really love Mean Girls. It’s pretty silly but whenever I go on a vacation, I stream it on loop while my boys and I hang out.
If you could make a film with any actor (living or dead) who would it be? Why? What would be the plot or story?
I would make a film with Cantinflas and probably hope that it could be a queer comedy. During his time, it was impossible to produce a film that dealt with gay content, and so this film would probably be a lighthearted comedy about a gay army that is far more productive fighting with love than with guns. I don’t know, something along those lines. I would have to develop it a lot more.
How did the idea of this film come to you? What was your inspiration for this story?
This film came from the difficulties of growing up gay, Latino and not having enough role models and information to support my coming out. From the frustration of being in a heteronormative society that lacks ethnic diversity in its theaters.
What was your biggest challenge in making this film?
The lack of funding, focus and freedom to tell stories.
What is next for you? Any new projects?
I started the Latin@ Queer Arts and Film Festival and want to develop this non-profit into a sustainable yearly event that highlights the art of Queer Latin@ artists throughout the world. I also want to fuel the Queer People of Color community of bloggers that share their photography, stories, poetry, new reviews and art on Qulture.org, a multimedia online publication.
The Latina/o Queer Arts and Film Festival runs April 10 – 13 in Los Angeles. Visit LQAFF.com for more info.