Local Latina filmmaker tells community stories
Aurora Guerrero grew up in San Francisco’s Excelsior neighborhood, studied Chicano studies at UC Berkeley and then moved to Los Angeles for 12 years where she studied film. She currently splits her time between both cities.
I first learned about Aurora through internet social networks, where she was raising funds for her film. There was a lot of buzz about her first feature, “Mosquita y Mari,” a film she made for less than $500,000 and that is being shown this week at the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival, presented by the SF Film Society.
It paints a heartfelt, intimate portrait of the relationship between two girlfriends who meet in school and develop a strong friendship. The film feels honest and personal, with a well-constructed script, archetypical characters and an expository style in which the setting has prominence.
An activist first, then a filmmaker, Guerrero made three shorts—“Pura Lengua” (2005), “Viernes Girl” (2005) and “Pandora’s” (2008)—and was assistant director on Peter Bratt’s “La Mission” (2010).
You grew up in the Excelsior, San Francisco, but decided to set “Mosquita y Mari” in Huntington Park, Los Angeles. Why?
A few years back when I was looking to shoot the film in the Mission, I discovered that my budget would be too high in comparison to filming in Los Angeles. At that point it became about getting the film made rather than making it in the Mission. I don’t feel my story was compromised at all by setting it in Los Angeles. I was looking for an immigrant context, so in that sense, Huntington Park delivered. I had to adjust to the rhythm and landscape of Huntington Park, which is a bit different from the Mission, but in the end I think it better served the story in a way that was symbolic of the relationship between the girls.
Most of your crew was Latino. Why?
It’s important to open doors to Latinos, especially women and youth, behind the camera. These kinds of hands-on experiences help build a community of trained Latina/o artists that can go on to help each other on future projects.
Did the diversified nature of your funding compromise or inform your vision? Would you do it again?
When crowd-funding came around, and I had no previous funding come through, I certainly jumped on the opportunity to put the fate of this film in the hands of my communities. If I could do it again I would most definitely go that route. It affords me autonomy that, as an independent filmmaker, you pray for. It also sends such a strong message to me as an artist that my financial backers believe in my vision and potential and aren’t looking to change it.
You were an activist before a filmmaker. How did that shape your approach to making films?
I learned quickly that making films as a form of entertainment is a luxury. The arts were introduced to be within a social justice context, so for me film is an art form that has the power to create space for dialogue, education, healing…
Does the collaborative nature of filmmaking make it a community type of art?
Filmmaking is inherently a collaborative art form that lends for a great opportunity to create as a community of artists. But not everyone honors that element of filmmaking. Unfortunately many directors/producers approach it hierarchically or often take full credit for the film without acknowledging the team of people it takes to put it together. I love the collaborative aspect of filmmaking. I enjoy building on an idea with others. It’s amazing what people can create together.
How controlled are you on the set? Or are you more guerrilla-style?
I set parameters for the actors, which is the script that I have written. I tell them that we can play within the world that has been written. But that said, I always try to create a space where ideas are welcomed—of course, the actors are artists and they often know way more than I do! I think my guerrilla filmmaking comes more in the visuals and the sound of the film. I’m inspired by place and always draw from the world the characters live in to help me create atmosphere.
Tell us about your next project.
I’m working my second feature film, looking at an immigrant Latino man caught between his sister and his growing attraction for his sister’s husband.
Aurora Guerrero’s film “Mosquita y Mari” will be shown at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco as part of the SF International Film Festival on Thursday April 26 at 9:30p.m. & Sunday April 29 at 6:30p.m.
Guerrero will teach a class on how to market and publicize a film on August 8. More info: http://www.sffs.org/content.aspx?catid=927,1032&pageid=2878