In this week’s edition of #HotSec Fridays where I spotlight a short film which reflects the Más American hybrid of bi-cultural life, I’m pleased to share this “Modern Mariachi Family” documentary, Canto de Familia by San Antonio native and current LA based, Lindsey Villarreal. Watchale!
Much like the feeling I get when watching Mexican Fried Chicken, Fireworks or Mosquita y Mari, I get a pang of nostalgia, deep and significant that has to do with proud kinship and connection to the rare reflection and relation of my unique identity. The Mata family teenage girls, who live in Boyle Heights, are so punk and cool because they are confident and comfortable in their own skin (I wish I would have been so sure of myself during H.S). My favorite part is Angie’s straight up way of calling out the “machista” attitude she encountered – typically found when females play mariachi since historically they have not been included. Through the family’s Mariachi Conservatory program they run after school it is clear the Mata’s are a tight knit unit, which is transmitted so well in the doc and makes it so unexpectedly moving!. Lindsey is currently finishing up her MFA in Producing at USC. Her creative storytelling skills across platforms and genres, not to mention her make-it happen-enthusiasm definitely makes her a Filmmaker to Watch. Here’s my quickie interview with her:
How did you get close to the family and how long did you shoot them for? Is there anyone family member you were most close to/bonded with?
The film was done for credit towards my MFA at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. I developed the idea over a spring semester in 2011 and shot the film in a fall semester that same year. I was looking into Mariachi programs in Los Angeles and they were one of the first that came up. I love the girls. I love them all but I love the girls! They remind me of my sister and I.
What did making this doc short leave you with? Nostalgia, fondness for tightknit family, the beautiful hybrid american latino culture? How invested did you become with their story?
Oh I was totally invested in it! It was rise and shine till late at night thinking about making that film. I think it left me with nostalgia for my own culture more than anything. I’m not a fluent spanish speaker but I understand and connecting with my language has always been on my ‘to do” list. I’m getting closer to that I think. I also just felt validation that Los Angeles is the right place for me to live at this point in my life. My dad was in town recently and we found that we spent most one of our days off together on Olvera street. Familiar sights and sounds just kind of permeate your heartstrings when you live so far away from your family. I spent some time interviewing and filming the Band “Mariachi El Bronx” which I’m sad we never used in the film. I thought their music and the idea of their band as a whole really embodied the spirit of my original concept for the film. I wanted to talk about culture being malleable and intertwined with having a life in a big urban city like Los Angeles. Look them up and you’ll see what I mean. In the end it was a short film and there was just so much to say about the family.
I can’t wait to see all your future work! What you got going on next?
Right now Im working on a short film called “Vimana” that’s about two Indian Astronauts en route to a new planet who must deal with the death of their captain during the journey. It’s partially in Hindi so Im very interested to watch our actors work on set. I work full time as a Producer’s Assistant/ PA on a show called Eagleheart (starring the gross(ly) funny Chris Elliott watch clips here) that airs in the Adult Swim time slot on Cartoon Network. In the fall I’ll go back to being a Producer’s Assistant on Season 7 of Mad Men. …I love being on the Mad Men set. I’m so lucky to be able to start my career on a show that inspired me to go back for my MFA in film in the first place. It’s such a great place to learn.
About working in both documentaries and narratives:
There’s something about directing documentaries that allows you to explore in a different way than making what’s on a script come alive. With documentaries I feel like the idea is always changing even while I’m in the middle of a scene, [but] with scripted I feel like it’s more of a controlled chaos. I come into scripted more prepared for all possible combinations of what could change on set. I’ve thought it through beforehand. With documentaries, I start the day hoping something will come my way I’m not expecting and then get ready to chase that idea. Both are equally fulfilling.
Find out more about Lindsey’s short film for which she successfully raised 16k on Kickstarter here.