San Francisco is a city famous for foggy landscapes, hilly streets, sourdough bread, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Film, not so much. When people think of the movie industry they naturally think of Hollywood. As a result, the Bay Area’s southern neighbor, that smoggy city filled with celebrities steals the spotlight, leaving S.F in the dark.

The Cine+Mas San Francisco Latino Film Festival is thumbing its nose at the idea that L.A. is the only city that can make quality movies. With their Made in San Francisco Shorts Program they highlight homegrown talent. Here we introduce you to the Latino filmmakers showing off their work, made in the Bay.

1

Patricia C. Ovando

Director of Eyes That Do Not See / Ojos que no Ven

Where are you from? I am from Santa Ana, El Salvador.

What city do you call home? Home is San Francisco, La Mission and part of my heart in El Salvador.

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

About nine years ago, I wanted to tell stories, about Latinos, specially of our youth, stories from our own experiences and our own point of views; we are very complex individuals and share many similarities and have some differences and we cant fit in a box; I was tired of seeing just the Latino stereotypes on TV and the big screen, so I decided that I wanted to write and produce our stories to show the richness of culture and heritage through my characters so I made the decision to change careers from a youth counselor to a filmmaker.

Did you formally study film?

I started taking evening cinema classes at San Francisco City College. After two years, again, I took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles to continue my classes. I worked during the day and went to school at night at Los Angeles City College. Currently, I’m in the process of applying for my Master’s in Film and Television Production.

How did the idea of this film come to you?

Since I started working with youth, I always wanted to tell stories that represent us in a more diverse setting. I started writing ideas and when I took my first screenwriting class, I went back to SF and interviewed some of the youth I had worked with who are now adults. We need to have an open dialogue about Latino LGBTQ issues. The lack of representation of Central Americans and Salvadorians also inspired me to write about a mother and daughter dynamics.

What was your biggest challenge in making this film?

One of the biggest challenges making a movie is money; getting permits can be expensive and challenging as well when you are on a shoe string budget.

If you could make a film with any actor (living or dead) who would it be? Why? What would be the plot or story?

Rosario Dawson would be one of my choices for an action thrill movie. She is very talented and would love to work with her. Need to see more Latinas as heroines.

What is a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like?

An Affair In Havana. I like John Cassavetes and the fact that Celia Cruz sings in that movie is a hidden treasure.

2

John Jota Leaños

Director of Frontera! Revolt and Rebellion on the Rio Grande

Where are you from? Born in Los Angeles, Inland Empire

What city do you call home? I lived most of my life in SF and call the City my home.

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

I am an interdisciplinary artist who has done installation, public art, media art and now animation. I am interested in documentary animation which uses cartoons and music to tell “real” stories.

Did you formally study film? No. I have an MFA in photography.

How did the idea of this film come to you?

The film is about the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The late Native historian of the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, Joe Sando, called the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 the “First American Revolution.” Although this event remains mostly unknown to a mainstream America, the Pueblo Revolt is a living history in throughout the US Southwest borderlands, continuously evoked and remembered today in Native, Pueblo and Chicana/o communities as a seminal moment defining contemporary Pueblo autonomy and indigenous cultural sustainability. Frontera! Revolt and Rebellion on the Río Grande is an animated documentary retelling the history of the first colonial entradas in what is now New Mexico and Arizona, Spanish reconnaissance and settlements that have marked the US-Mexico borderlands even today. With animated characters and a documentary sensibility, Frontera! narrates unresolved historical moments when the Pueblo people orchestrated the unthinkable: a pan-Indian uprising successfully expelling its occupiers from the entire Rio Grande region leading to an indigenous cultural and social renaissance.

What was your biggest challenge in making this film?

The story is sacred to the indigenous Pueblo people of New Mexico. I had to consult with Pueblo leaders, artists and community members about the history and issues of representation. There were many opportunities to do this film wrong. So the biggest challenge in making this film was getting Pueblo “buy-in” before, during and after the making of the film. I worked with an amazing group of Native artists from New Mexico and San Francisco to make the film and am happy that the film has been well received in the Pueblos.

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 do animation! I guess, I’d like to do an animation with Jose Guadalupe Posada… porque no?!

What is a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like? no sé???

3

Yvan Iturriaga

Director of Beep

Where are you from?

I grew up in a handful of countries all over South America, but I moved to the US from Chile in 1995 and have lived mostly in the Bay Area since.

What city do you call home? Oakland, CA and Santiago, Chile

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

I was undecided when I went to Occidental College in LA, but by my junior year, after trying out political science, econ and philosophy, I decided film was my weapon of choice.

Did you formally study film?

I graduated with a BA in Film and New Media from Occidental College, however I believe that in film you learn by doing. I’ve been lucky to be able to work steadily in film and video for the last eleven years, wearing many hats and always learning.

How did the idea of this film come to you?

A few years ago, I was working at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley and I kept seeing a poster that read: “Part of all art is to make silence speak.” It’s very difficult for me to think of short stories; all my ideas are too big, too many characters, too much dialogue… so I decided I would challenge myself and tell a story with no dialogue. At first I thought it would be completely silent, then I decided that the main character could be a sound. A sound that we all know way to well and that is in many ways controlling our behavior. That was when the Beeps began…

What was your biggest challenge in making this film?

Playing the lead in my own film was very difficult. Also planning the shooting schedule, taking into consideration access to locations, and the fact that I had to film the story backwards and cut my hair in stages as we went along.

If you could make a film with any actor (living or dead) who would it be? Why? What would be the plot or story?

Javier Bardem. I think he would be perfect to play Tio Lucho in my next film. Tio Lucho is an ex-revolutionary from Chile living as an exile in Oakland, California in the summer of 2001. He inspires his nephew and his friends to keep up the good fight. Somebody tell Javier to call me please.

What is a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like? The Princess Bride

4

Eugene Rodriguez

Director of The Sample

Where are you from?

I am originally from Oxnard, California. It’s about an hour north of Los Angeles on the coast.

What city do you call home? I have called San Francisco home now for 27 years.

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

I took a Film Criticism class in the ninth grade (Mr. Penhallow, bless his heart, I will always be thankful to him for changing my life) and I grew up watching old movies on TV after school. But it wasn’t until graduate school when I took my first photography class and then I began reading film theory and started to practice. I began making experimental shorts and caught the bug — then I knew, I wanted to make films.

Did you formally study film?

I am self taught. But I have an amazing co-producer, Angel Vasquez, that if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be making the types of films that I am today.

How did the idea of this film come to you?

The story of this film, The Sample, was originally going to be a short narrative only. But at the end of filming I wasn’t happy with it so I let it sit. Then Angel prompted me to look at it again and suggested a documentary. So we shot three interviews and put the two together — sort of a memoir-mentary. What was your biggest challenge in making this film? The biggest challenge for this film was how to complete it. Over the course of beginning to end, my interests of what type of film I wanted to make changed.

If you could make a film with any actor (living or dead) who would it be? Why? What would be the plot or story?

Without a doubt — Charlie Chaplin. His genius is an inspiration for me. In fact, he is in my next film — well an actor will portray him. I love Chaplin because he was able to make films about all facets of life — love, politics, social relations, technology — and yet always stay connected to the human experience and most profoundly, the underdog.

What is a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like?

I am not embarrassed to admit all the films that I love — from comedy to horror to romance to sc-fi… I love them all.

5

Melissa Suncin

Director of Uno, Dos, Tres / 1, 2, 3

Where are you from? What city do you call home?

I was born and raised in San Francisco, a city I am proud to still call my home.

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

I fell in love with films as a child. My father has always had a huge passion for film that he has passed down to my brother and me. When we were kids he always took us to see popular films in theaters, but made sure that our film knowledge was broadened by showing us films from Hitchcock classics to obscure comedies to sci-fi thrillers. I realized I loved watching movies, but didn’t decide that I wanted to make them until I was in high school, when I took a Religious Themes in Film course. This class allowed me to look at film from an analytical standpoint and gave me a deeper understudying and appreciation for the art form. Did you formally study film? I studied film theory and production at San Francisco State University, graduating with my B.A. in 2010.

How did the idea of this film come to you?

The idea came to me one day when I was thinking of a topic for my Screenwriting class at SF State. My brother and I were having a conversation on the way to school about how when we were young, people often told us that there were drugs in the popsicle carts that circled Dolores Park. The story just sort of evolved from there and characters were inspired by the people in my life.

What was your biggest challenge in making this film?

My biggest challenge in making this film was working on such a tight budget. I was very thankful to have the help and support of my family and friends for providing the funds (and food!) needed to keep this production going. I was also very grateful to have such a wonderful cast and crew that dedicated their time to help bring my vision to life.

If you could make a film with any actor (living or dead) who would it be? Why? What would be the plot or story?

If I was able to make a film with any actress, I would choose to work with Lucille Ball. I think it would be fun to make a modern, dark comedy with Lucy’s classic comedic stylings. I am a fan of I Love Lucy and have always enjoyed how her comedy has been able to maintain its freshness after all these years. She took risks, she was a leader, she portrayed strong, opinionated female characters. The film that I’d make with her would show her with all of her iconic traits, but in a modern world where she is an agoraphobic that leaves the confines of her home to go on a road trip with her smart-alecky granddaughter.

What is a movie you are embarrassed to admit you really like?

Though it may not be on the list of “1001 Films You Must See Before Your Die,” I am not embarrassed to admit that I consider Spice World to be a cinematic gem.

 

The Made in San Francisco Shorts Program screens on Saturday, Sept 20 at 5:00 pm.

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