Thursday, April 17, 2014

Reyes, Cruz the Winners of Heineken VOCES Grant to be Honored at Tribeca Film Festival

"I strive to partner with institutions that are going to respect my vision and point of view; otherwise you do a disservice to the ideas that initially bring about a project," commented filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes. "The Heineken VOCES Grant supports creative, bold films, while also setting a high expectation for filmmakers to deliver on their vision."

Reyes and Yolanda Cruz are the 2014 recipients of the Heineken VOCES Grant. Both filmmakers will be honored this evening at a private event hosted by Heineken during the 13th Annual Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), which began April 16th and will continue through April 27th, in New York City. This year the company, which has been the official beer sponsor of TFF for the past six years, is also offering many enriched event experiences. Read more.

The Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) and Heineken established the Heineken VOCES Award in 2012. The award is part of the Latin America Media Arts Fund and provides two grants to Latino filmmakers (over the age of 21) who live and work in the U.S. The goal is to encourage each to create unique stories that reflect their U.S. Latino cultural perspective. In addition to cash prizes, the winners receive year-round project support from TFI.


Rodrigo Reyes (photo provided)
Reyes received the grant to work on his documentary, Sanson and Me, which is described as a coming-of-age story focusing on two Mexican immigrants with parallel lives. The filmmaker, who was born in Mexico City, explained the documentary was inspired by a deep, personal connection with his friend, Sanson. He's also appreciative of his experienced team:
I feel lucky to be a part of his [Sanson's] life and to be able to delve into his story and my own. What lies at the heart of my inspiration to make Sanson and Me is the process of grappling with the anxiety and emotional roller-coaster of having a bond with someone who is incarcerated. I'm also fortunate to have an experienced team that believes in the film and urges me forward. Since early on, producer's Su Kim and Inti Cordera have been enthusiastic supporters who have helped me organize and get the film moving. I'm also grateful to director Alan Berliner who encouraged me to embrace the ups and downs of the process; to be patient and allow the story to grow. 
Cruz' film La Raya is a narrative. As she says, "...there are some stories that can only be told in a narrative format." The film, about how the mysterious appearance of a refrigerator in the outskirts of a remote village in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico -- La Raya -- promises business, money and success for 11-year-old Papio, is inspired by her family's stories and adventures when moving to Oaxaca. They had dreams of one day owning a refrigerator. The filmmaker, who earned an M.F.A. from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and founded Petate Productions in 2000, explained what led her to apply for the grant:

Yolanda Cruz (photo provided)
I developed the script for La Raya at the Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Lab in 2011, but since La Raya is a personal story about migration, set in a small village in Oaxaca, Mexico, Hollywood didn't come knocking at my door. In 2013, I met Rachel Miller at the Morelia Lab, and she mentioned the projects Tribeca Film Institute was supporting and that the Heineken VOCES Grant was specific for Latinos living in the U.S. I knew my project would be a good fit. Right about the same time, I met with Pablo Cruz, from Canana Films, and he agreed to come on board as my producer. Now, six months later, I'm packing my suitcase to go to New York to meet industry professionals, fellow filmmakers, and watch some films.
Reyes, who attended college at U.C. San Diego, also in Madrid and Mexico City, earned a degree in International Studies. In 2012, he was selected to the IFP Documentary Independent Filmmaker Labs with his documentary, Purgatorio. He said winning the Heineken VOCES Grant helped motivate his team, enabling them to build their production. He also said TFI is the first organization to bet his film.
  "Receiving their support at this early stage, when we are still in development, created tremendous potential for the project," Reyes said. "TFI has an incredible track record of films that have gone through its programs, and we are benefiting from all their expertise in order to nurture Sanson and Me."
  Cruz offered similar thoughts on TFI.
  "The projects that have come out of the Tribeca Film Institute program are of high quality, so having the TFI team advising, encouraging and guiding me while I prep La Raya is a great honor," she said.
 Cruz also mentioned that over the next couple of months, the grant will allow her to shift the focus from financially supporting herself and her project to the creative side of film making.
   Both filmmakers offer advice to other up-and-coming Latino filmmakers who also want to tell important stories.
  "Don't give up on your dream, work hard on honing your skills, and tell stories that your mother, brother, grandma, sister and father would be proud of and enjoy," Cruz said.
  "We are not campaigners, we are artists, and that means that we should consider how our stories touch people in a universal way," Reyes said.  "Consider that your background, culture and personal history are assets that should help your work gain depth while touching on universal, human themes."
 Click for here more information on the Tribeca Film Institute.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Landscape Through the Eyes of New York-based Artist

My photo of a portion of Mikalene Thomas' "faux real" installation at the Norton Museum of Art.
I was pleasantly surprised when I heard I could see one of Mikalene Thomas' creations here in South Florida. The New York-based mixed-media artist created "faux real," a vinyl mural composed of digital images and photographs depicting a landscape along with items such as faux linoleum and collage material, in different shapes and sizes. It's the third site specific artwork for the Norton Museum of Art's lobby installation series. And it's the first mural-sized artwork Thomas created outside of New York.

In a video produced by WPBT2, she said she has been working with landscape images since 2008; her first landscape was based on Hudson River School paintings she was interested in. It was thought-provoking to see this particular interpretation of landscape. Living in South Florida, I connected with images such as the ocean and palm trees, as well as mixtures of different faux materials with the natural scenery, as life can sometimes seem as a false reality, and indeed abstract. Thomas used the latest techniques in digital manipulation in the process of creating the mural.

A once artist in residence at The Versailles Foundation Munn Artists Program in Giverny, France and a graduate of Pratt Institute and Yale University, Thomas is best known for her elaborate figurative paintings of African-American women examining themes such as feminism and popular culture including celebrity. Popular culture has embraced Thomas as she was one of the featured artists in Jay-Z's music video "Picasso Baby" and BET's "The Artist's Way."

In February, "Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman," debuted on HBO. It's a documentary about Thomas' mother, Sandra Bush, who had a career as a runway model with aspirations of becoming a supermodel. Though, it would be her daughter who would make her famous, as she was the subject of many of Thomas' works.

"faux real" will be on display at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach through Aug. 31.



Thomas explains her mural in a video by WPBT2 -- a South Florida PBS station