Finding Latinx representation anywhere in Hollywood is always a challenge. Despite the fact that Latinos currently make up 18% of the population (over 58 million and counting), we are still sorely lacking from our TV and film screens or from the writer’s rooms. Moreover, we’re rarely recognized as directors. There are some Latino men making headlines these days, like The Shape of Water’s Guillermo del Toro, Roma’s Alfonso Cuaron, and The Revenant’s Alejandro Inarritu, but Latina directors rarely enjoy the same kind of attention. That said, there are many Latina directors out there doing amazing things, so we’re celebrating them here! This is only meant to be an intro to some of the wonderful contemporary Latina directors out there but is in no way a full list (for e.g. Margot Benacerraf was an amazing Venezuelan director of the 1950s, while actresses America Ferrera and Gina Rodriguez both made their directorial debuts last year). Here are just a few of the amazing Latinas behind the camera today:
On the documentary front, Marcela Zamora is creating amazing films that reflect various aspects of the Latinx experience. With Maria en tierra de nadie, she depicts the experience of female immigrants making the journey to the US. In The Offended, Zamora focuses her lens on those who were captured and tortured during El Salvador’s civil war. And in el cuarto de los huesos, she tells the story of forensic anthropologists hoping to identify bodies in El Salvador’s mass graves. Clearly, Zamora is a director to follow as she continues to tell important stories from Central America and beyond.
Lisa Mendoza is an incredibly busy director — so much so that she has 121 directing credits on her IMDB alone. She began her career in the 90s on shows like Nickelodeon’s Roundhouse and the Chris Rock Show, but has gone on to write for a (very large) number of popular television series including The Bernie Mac Show, MADtv, and Scrubs. In more recent years, she’s also directed episodes for other popular shows featuring excellent Latinx representation, including Brooklyn 99, Ugly Betty, Superstore, Lopez, and One Day At A Time. She’s also worked on other more diverse and inclusive programs like the Mindy Project, All About The Washingtons, Black-ish, and Grown-ish. Mendoza is a powerhouse and definitely shows no signs of slowing down.
You might remember Patricia Cardozo from her biggest hit to date, Real Women Have Curves. It was a film that truly captured one version of the immigrant experience to a tee and it also introduced us to the amazing America Ferrera! Since then, Cardozo has worked on other projects including the made-for-television film Lies In Plain Sight (featuring a mostly Latino cast including Rosie Perez and Russian Doll’s Yul Vazquez) and El Paseo de Teresa (an off-the-wall comedy where an Alexa-like device is brought to live with a family in Bogota). More recently, she directed an episode of Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar and the pilot for the upcoming Tales of the City, starring transgender Chilean actress Daniela Vega.
It’s rare to find a spot-on representation of Latinx culture on television, but Gloria Calderon-Kellet’s remake of One Day At A Time seriously does it right. The writer, producer, actress —and yes, director — has been in the field for quite a while and knows what it takes to get things done in Hollywood — especially as a Latina. Calderon-Kellet’s previous credits include writing episodes for How I Met Your Mother and producing for shows like Rules of Engagement and iZombie, but it’s in ODAT that she’s been able to truly represent for nuestra gente.
Catalina Aguilar Mastretta is a director we all need to keep our eye on. She already has two Spanish-language films under her belt that touch on the Latinx experience without being tokenizing (a rom-com called Todos Queremos A Alguien and a heartfelt family film, Las Horas Contigo). Moreover, she’s directed several episodes of Vida, one of the most groundbreaking television shows currently on air that touches on Latinx identities that are rarely if ever explored (so many queer Latinxs!)
What do we know about Zetna Fuentes? While she might not have the biggest social presence, this directora from the Bronx has likely directed something you’ve watched. Jane the Virgin? Check. Pretty Little Liars? Check. Switched At Birth? Check. Shameless? You get the idea. Fuentes got her start doing PA work, and began her directing career doing popular daytime soaps like One Life To Live and Guiding Light. Check out her next TV film, Chiefs, about three female police chiefs hunting down a serial killer.
Aurora Guerrero is the queer, Chicana director and activist behind the film Mosquita y Mari— a film about two young Chicanas who discover their feelings for one another are more than just platonic. Guerrero has also worked on a number of short films as well as an episode of Queen Sugar (Ava DuVernay strikes again!) as well as an episode of Greenleaf. We’re really excited to see how Guerrero’s next project, Los Valientes, goes. It’s about an undocumented immigrant living in a conservative Pennsylvania town, and you know it’s the type of story we need to be telling in this day and age.