Cultura en Austin: Tackling lack of Latino documentaries
Why aren't there more documentaries chronicling the U.S. Latino experience? What are the barriers preventing more inclusion? And what can we all do about it?
Those are among the questions that the Voces Oral History Project's roundtable "Voces of Documentary Film" aims to tackle when it brings together Latino and Latina film directors and producers Nov. 11 at the Belo Media Center on the University of Texas campus for a discussion that's free and open to the public. Doors of the second floor auditorium (BMC 2.106) open at 1:30 p.m. After the event, video of the roundtable will be available on the Voces Oral History Project's YouTube channel.
"If we look at the root of the problem, then we can make changes that will make things better," says project director and UT journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez.
Among the filmmakers will be Hector Galán, whose acclaimed documentaries include "Children of Giant" and "Los Mineros." Other featured filmmakers include Ben DeJesus, a New York-based film and television director who partners with John Leguizamo as well as Sandie Viquez Pedlow, executive director of Latino Public Broadcasting.
The Voces Oral History Project began making strides in boosting Latino representation in documentaries years ago when Rivas-Rodriguez learned that PBS was airing a 14-hour documentary series on World War II by filmmaker Ken Burns that excluded Latino veterans. After a letter-writing campaign, protests, meetings and petitions, Burns added interviews with two Mexican-American veterans as well as one Native American veteran.
The grass-roots effort that helped push for Latino inclusion in the documentary was called Defend the Honor.
"Documentaries are often the first step in understanding a topic," says project director and UT journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez. That's why ensuring that Latino experiences and contributions are included in these stories continues to be vital, she says.
In addition to the roundtable discussion, which will include a Q&A, the project will also conduct oral histories with the featured documentary professionals. Rivas-Rodriguez says the oral histories can help boost research in Latino representation.
"We're underrepresented in almost every field," she says.
"Voces of Documentary Film" is the first in a series of roundtable events. The project will also look at Latino representation in advertising, television, book publishing and more.