Filmmaker Natalia Almada Reflects on the Power of Latinas Uplifting One Another

More and more talented Latina filmmakers are making it into the spotlight. Known for defying the odds, they bring their unique cultural perspectives to the film world. Remezcla recently feautred a strong pool of talented Latina filmmakers to keep on your radar. It includes a list of 20 Latina directors who have earned Oscar nominations and prestigious awards from highly-regarded film festivals around the globe. Their works differ in subject matter, style, and the countries they come from, but what they share is a passion and incredible talent to succeed by having their works seen and diverse voices heard.

In an interview, HipLatina got close and personal with Latina filmmaker and photographer, Natalia Almada (one of the few on the esteemed list) known for her many award-winning documentaries, as well as her highly recognized first feature film,Todo Los Demás, starring acclaimed Academy Award-nominated actress Adriana Barraza.

Born in Mexico, Natalia Almada is a dual-citizen. Her work centers on Mexican culture, history, and politics, in thought-provoking films that push the limits of how the documentary form speaks to social issues. She is a 2012 MacArthur Fellow and the first Latina filmmaker to win the award. The MacArthur Fellow award is also known as the “Genius Grant,” a prize awarded annually typically to a small group of individuals, working in any field, who have demonstrated “extraordinary originality and dedication” in their creative pursuits and are citizens or residents of the United States. 

HL: How does it feel to be included in the “Top 20 Latina Filmmakers to Know?”

Natalia: Lists bother me. I feel the competitiveness and definitiveness in it. The sense that there is only so much space. We need women, more diverse Latina voices that continue to set us apart, yet be inclusive – not exclusive.

HL: What makes you stand out as a filmmaker?

Natalia: I like to make films that people will find interesting, keep them thinking. Films that people will resonate with. I notice different things and try to integrate meaning and layers of understanding into my films. I like creative challenges, and don’t look for universal appeal but distinct ways to connect the audience to my films. In Todo Los Demás, I wanted to look at bureaucracy as a form of violence, and go beyond that.

Todo Los Demás is a compelling film that follows a government worker and her invisible life. For thirty years, she attends to frustrated and indignant citizens to whom she is nothing but a lifeless bureaucrat. She returns every night to her a solitary apartment, and to her cat, the only family she has until one day, it too dies. Todo Lo Demás is a masterpiece in solitude and contemplation, as well as a study on social issues experienced in the every day.

HL: How did you get to where you are today?

Natalia: Most of the help I’ve gotten is thanks to Latinas. In early 2000, I had a short film playing at the Sundance Film Festival. I was beginning. I bumped into Cynthia Lopez, television producer, high up at P.O.V. and she said, “Call me, make an appointment, and I’ll teach you everything.” I went to her and she laid out everything for me. She boosted me up.

Lordes Portillo was my role model. She was remarkable with her generosity. I followed in her footsteps. And film director Christina Ibarra, she helped me with grants, with my work. She is someone to watch on this list. There is this saying, “Te toca apoyar a lo que sigue.” So, if I do well, other Latina directors will also.

HL: Who is your inspiration?

Natalia: My father. He believed in taking risks. He valued passion. He’d say, “Go out and live your life. Do what you love.”

HL: What advice would you give aspiring Latinas?

Natalia: Keep a fidelity to self. Trust what is inside of you. People who need to paint, paint. People who need to write, write. Follow your calling.

Natlalia Almada’s films include El Velador, El GeneralAll Water Has a Perfect Memory, and Al Otro Lado. Her work has appeared at the Museum of Modern Art, the Sundance Film Festival, the Guggenheim Museum, the Munich International Film Festival, and the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. She won the 2009 Sundance Directing Award Documentary for her film El GeneralTodo Los Demás has toured the film festival circuit last year, and continues into 2017. It will be commercially released in Mexico at the end of the year.

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