“I have been fortunate to be able to work in schools, libraries, community centers, hospitals, youth centers,” said Olmos, who has a deep and long-standing commitment to reaching young students.
The film festival is now under the Latino Film Institute, which is also home to the Youth Cinema Project (YCP). YCP is now a program in dozens of school districts in the state of California.
“The way the Youth Cinema Project was set up is that we realized that the cavalry was not coming. No one was going to save us, so we had to save ourselves,” said Rafael Agustín, TV writer and CEO for Latino Film Institute.
Two professional filmmakers guide students who can enroll when they reach fourth grade.
“It’s the whole school year, and they’re learning to do all aspects of filmmaking and storytelling,” Olmos said.
Kimberly Mendiola Leon from Bell Gardens, California – now in high school – attended the program, boosting her confidence and reviving her pursuit of storytelling.
“Since I was young, I really liked writing. I remember I used to write short plays and make puppets like old socks and put them on for my family,” said Mendiola Leon, who said she stopped thinking she was not “good enough.”
“When I joined YCP in middle school, I remember we had to write a manuscript, and one of the mentors told me that he really liked my writing and that I should continue, and he sees my he sees me as something in the film industry, “she said. “That was what really made me go back to movies again.”
Previously undocumented immigrant aims to change deception in television, movies
Rafael Agustín, now a US citizen, credits his immigration challenges to get him to pursue a career as a television writer. He aims to change the misrepresentation of undocumented immigrants.
“I always knew we were immigrants. I did not know we were undocumented immigrants,” Agustín said. “In high school, I was an overzealous immigrant student. I was the class president, the gala king, the top 10% of my class. Then I applied to go to college and discovered I was undocumented,” said Agustín, who thinks a more appropriate expression is “undocumented American.”
“Many years later I asked my mother why she did not tell me straight up. She said this line, I steal from her all the time: ‘We did not want you to feel different because dreams should have no boundaries,’ ” he said. “I’m grateful for all my immigration problems because that’s how I ended up in the arts. I was in community college with no direction without knowing how long I would be in this immigration limbo.”
Agustín said he saw a study that found undocumented immigrants on television are less likely to keep jobs, less likely to be educated, and less likely to commit crime than their U.S. citizens.
“It just shows us that the narrative of undocumented Americans on television is completely skewed,” Agustín said.
“I think Congressman Joaquin Castro said it best when he said that the mass shooting in El Paso changed everything. If people do not see us as Americans and as loving members of society, [but] see us as the other or as invading aliens, then things like mass murder happen. And that’s the exact reason why it’s so important to see ourselves represented, ”he said.
Investment in lifelong students
“One day I will not have to do a Latino International Film Festival. It will be the happiest day of my life because everyone will see films from all over the world. They will celebrate contributions from Latinos, African Latinos, Africans, Asians, natives,” he said. Olmos.
“Our goal is to create lifelong students,” he said, referring to the Youth Cinema Project.
Agustín said the project also aims to send every student they work with to college.
“The icing on the cake would be anyone who wants to work in the entertainment industry that we create these pipelines and platforms for them,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do as an institute, as a Latino Film Institute. We’re trying to create the pipeline, the platform and the launch pad from our community to the entertainment industry.”
From actors to activists, people share stories of celebrating their heritage, expressing their identities as Latinos, Latinos or Hispanics, and representing and embracing their different cultures. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with “Our America: Todos Unidos” on ABC-owned television stations streaming apps and Hulu.
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