When looking through the films that have been directed by Latino filmmakers, it is very rare to see a Latina director in the independent film and motion picture industry. Our community of Latino filmmakers range from Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) to the rising successful director Youssef Delara, the director of Filly Brown — a Sundance Favorite and Jenni Rivera’s last performance. We have a lot of talented and renowned Latino filmmakers but where are the Latina filmmakers?
There are Latina filmmakers currently rising from different communities with an amazing gift of story-telling and beautiful sense of imagery in their films. A couple of Latina filmmakers that should be highlighted for their work and passion for filmmaking are Fanny Véliz, Sandra Varona and Cheyann Montiel Reagan. All three of these rising Latina filmmakers are working their way to the top as they create amazing film projects and take on many film festivals. These inspiring role models have high hopes of having major movie studios bring their films to the big-screen and of getting their names out there with other amazing film directors of our time!
Fanny Véliz is a very diverse award winning Latina filmmaker that has created brilliant short films. Not only does Fanny direct and produce her own work but she is also involved with writing and acting in some of her films! One of the amazing things about Fanny, besides the multiple roles she plays during the production of her films, is her desire to hire and work with an all Latino cast/crew. Her goal is to change the way Latinos are portrayed in films by creating very unique and groundbreaking stories about various types of Latino families. Fanny tells the National Association of Latino Independent Producers that she is “committed to helping transform the image of Latinos in the media by telling stories that are not usually told . . . We are all used to seeing stories of immigration, gangs and other stereotypes, this film shows another side of the American Latino. . .”.
Fanny’s latest project is her first ever feature film, Homebound, which tells the story of a young man who returns home to Texas and helps run his family’s bar due to his father becoming ill from cancer. The film has already screened at a couple of film festivals which include the XicanIndie Film Festival in Denver, Reel Rasquache in East Los Angeles and the Screen Actor Guild. Her film has been receiving praise from various audiences and the goal is for this film to be shown in more film festivals and eventually movie theaters throughout the country; thus, showcasing the Latino community and herself as a filmmaker. She is truly a great example of an independent filmmaker that started off by making short films and is now being featured in major film events and festivals.
Sandra Varona is also a rising Latina filmmaker who produces music videos, short films and feature films, including the Sundance favorite Filly Brown. For the film, she was the unit Production Manager who specialized in decision-making when it came to the film’s budget. Varona has produced over 20 music videos “for artists such as- El Roockie, Mexican pop band Kinky, R&B artist Vaughn Anthony (the younger brother and label-mate of John Legend), Grammy Nominated artist Eric Roberson and most recently rap artist Waka Flocka.” And she continues to skyrocket into various productions such as a documentary pilot about the roots of Latin HipHop and a Sci-Fi Documentary Pilot with Cheyann Montiel Reagan. Sandra also established a special film club at LACC (Los Angeles Community College) at the age of 19, to “provide students with film production resources and group tours to film related companies and art organizations such as Panavision and Cinegear.” Sandra is truly a great help and influence to the Latino community of Los Angeles and her role as a producer will go far in life.
Another great Latina filmmaker is Cheyann Montiel Reagan, who directs, produces, writes and stars in some of her film projects. Reagan has a couple of award winning short films (Salud and No Shelter Here) from various film festivals and is currently pitching a couple of feature films and TV pilots to major movie studios! One of her biggest projects was her first web series Off and Running, which tells the story of a young woman that is searching for her forever job with the help of her friends. One reason that Cheyann made this series was to influence viewers to find their forever job. According to the Off and Running’s Facebook page, “your ‘Forever Job; could be found and lived but when the next phase of your life happens you don’t quit, because your ‘Forever Job’ is your life’s essence”.
The series was released on Youtube last summer and has 15,000+ views for all seven episodes! The series has also toured in various schools and conferences to inspire students and figures in the Latino community to push for more Latinos to enter the arts and film world and to show their creativity and imagination. Cheyann spoke as the Influencer of Media Entertainment at the 4th Annual Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit in May to influence industry giants and others to push for a bigger impact for the next generation of Latinos to go into the arts and follow their ultimate dream job! Cheyann is another key influence for the number of young Latinas that dream of becoming a successful filmmaker!
These Latinas have created films that have influenced and showcased the Latino community by creating truly real and groundbreaking stories about struggle, hope and fighting for your dreams. These ladies push for a bigger impact for Latinas to express themselves through films as they represent themselves in film festivals. These ladies not only represent their films but they represent the future filmmaker and future influence for young Latinas that dream about becoming a director, writer or cinematographer. These ladies will continue to create more and more films in the hopes of becoming a known filmmaker in the film industry and every Latina should have the same passion and drive that these ladies have.
And don’t be surprised if you see any of these ladies at the Academy Awards in the near future! These ladies are some of the many rising Latina filmmakers that are making a name for themselves and there will be more Latinas that will be following right behind them.