A Discussion on Latinx Representation in Film

November 1, 2021
Malinalli Lopez

Malinalli Lopez

Addison Smith

Recently, an informational seminar was held to discuss film consumption through an anti-racist lens. It was facilitated by Malinalli Lopez, a filmmaker, writer, and professor at Sonoma State. This conversation was open to the community.

Professor Lopez started the conversation by discussing what a film should look like in the first ten minutes, “You should be introduced to the protagonist, something interesting should happen to the main character, and you must understand who the protagonist is and how he fits into his community.” It was an interesting discussion on how that is seen in most movies, but not all ensues which leads into the discussion of white or Anglo filmmakers making films for BIPOC individuals.

“It makes it seem like we can’t stand up for ourselves or have a voice in something that concerns us.” This has been an issue for years; many BIPOC individuals felt they weren't properly represented in media and in the past few years the film industry has gotten better with representation.

One of the main reasons for this discussion is to center around the professor’s film. “A Beautiful Struggle” which is about a Guatemalan woman who has her child stolen from her at a young age. She moves to America and resolves to get her child back from the rich woman who orchestrated the kidnapping of her baby all those years ago. This film really highlights the issue of child kidnapping in Guatemala and how the poor are seen as disposable, according to Professor Lopez. The film ends with her still on the lookout for her child and working hard to regain her baby’s freedom who’s well on their way to becoming an adult in the present day. 

Professor Lopez ended the discussion on "A Beautiful Struggle" with asking the community how they felt about the film and what they liked and disliked. One person said it was, “dark, loathing, and heavy like a sad lullaby.” Another said, “She was taken advantage of and was very vulnerable in that moment; there are a lot of experiences where, because of our skin color or what we don’t know we get taken advantage of.” Lopez commented on that by saying the woman felt disparaged and disheartened from her experience but she felt no sadness or anger for her situation because the woman who stole her child was “emotionally and spiritually poor” and she felt morally that she had grown beyond that and became a bigger person.

Lopez posed a question to the audience: “Is this a story worthy of sharing with future generations?” Lopez asked audiences to check back into reality rather than escape it like most American films lead you to do. She feels that foreign films are a critique on society which I can definitely agree with. Although I have not seen many foreign films, I agree with Lopez’s sentiment about them. They offer a new way of looking at the world and its issues instead of letting the audience escape into another world. One of the final words of wisdom she bestowed upon the audience was, “Whenever you see movies, engage with the story and engage with people who have different opinions, think deeply and become a part of the movie.” Professor Lopez hopes that the takeaway from these words and her entire discussion is that people view cinema through a different lens rather than a passive lens. She wants movie-goers to see a film from all angles, whether it be anti-racist, feminist, etc… and discuss these films through that lens to better lend an enriching experience to films overall. I really enjoyed the hard-hitting questions and topics that were brought up in this discussion. It made me realize I was viewing films with a passive lens and needed to engage films more critically with different lenses. That was my big takeaway from the conversation. It was interesting, intense, and brought up a lot of good points that I had never really considered and will stick with me for a long time.

This discussion is part of the Out of the Margins: an Anti-Racist Reading Group brought to you by the Sonoma State Library, the Center for Community Engagement and sponsored by the Chancellor's office. You can sign up for the next discussion here.