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Houston’s All-Latina Film Festival Returns

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Senorita Cinema hits screens on August 27–30.
By Lucy Doyle

A female-fronted Chicana film festival, right here in Houston? Yes, please. Now in its fifth year running, Senorita Cinema 2015 features films by directors across the country who share a focus on [email protected] lives and experiences. In addition to the onslaught of cinema, this year’s Senorita is hosting Real Women Have Curves creator Josefina Lopez and her controversial feature film Detained in the Desert. The party continues with visual art and live performances, and Girls Rock! Houston founder Anna Garza guest DJing on Thursday night. For a fiesta bursting with cultural celebration, badass riot grrrls, and a queer scene in the making, come out for Senorita Cinema 2015, August 27–30. The Mystery Matinee has just been announced: Juliana Fanjul’s Muchachas, a captivating documentary about the secret lives of domestic workers in Mexico City.

We talked with Senorita Cinema founder, Stephanie Saint Sanchez, about Bloody Marys, Hollywood depictions of Latina women, and Adelitas.

Lucy Doyle: As a lady who can appreciate a good Bloody Mary, perhaps you have some insight on this: where are the lesbian bars going? And why do you think it’s important to create female-centric, particular women-of-color spaces?
Stephanie Saint Sanchez: This is a funny question for me actually because, in my formative years, I predominately frequented show bars. I’ve always been a weird lesbian, and this will surely date me, but I’ve always preferred Erasure to Tori Amos and I totally skipped Lilith Fair. But to answer the question, I don’t know. The ladies will always find a spot to party, so a lesbian bar—at this point—is where you choose to make it when you show up on the scene with your girls. As stated, I do love a good show, and Houston’s Gendermyn has some very talented folks.

As for female-centric and women-of-color spaces, I totally understand the need to be around people that get you culturally. And once again, I think we can create these spaces, and we should.

What was the last mainstream movie you saw with a realistic depiction of a woman of color?
Wow, this question was a lot harder to answer than I thought. I watch a lot of independent stuff, and am I really going to say a superhero movie? Going through the top 50 IMDB films of the last few years is very depressing. I did not see Hot Pursuit with Sofia Vergara, although I think if she plays it right, she could work herself into a Sophia Loren kind of thing. I do know my favorite big screen Latina badass that made an impression on me—Lt. Velaquez from the movie Aliens. She was so tough and cool, and just looking her up, I come to find she was played by Jenette Goldstein.

Where would you like to see Senorita in five years, for its big decade milestone?
Well, I would like to feature a festival of new talent and alumni who have gone out to create authentic and successful—dare I say mainstream—films. We all love the hometown-kid-who-does-well-in-the-big-city stories, and I’m a fan.

Is there a form of art, or subject matter depicted in art, that you believe is still taboo?
Explicit sex will always be tough to sell as art. I’m sure it’s possible…I mean I think it’s possible. I guess we will see when we see.

Senorita Cinema's logo.
Senorita Cinema’s logo.

I love the graphics for the festival. Where did the inspiration to confront and playfully reclaim tired [email protected] stereotypes come from? What qualities—of gendered, sexual, and/or ethnic identities—would you like to see replace the old stereotypes?
Our logo was modeled of the Adelitas of the Mexican-American war. I was always fascinated with these women. They would actually go off to war alongside the men and cook and perform traditional female tasks, but also kick ass. So by replacing the guns with cameras and bullets with film, they become warriors of cinematic awesomeness. As far as what I would like to see replaced, I can only have a few obsessions at a time, but don’t worry, I will get to it.

Has it been difficult to galvanize Latina women in the art community? What are the particular strengths you see these artists exude over whitewashed, mainstream artists and directors?
I have been in this town doing what I do for a while, and I came up with a lot of really strong, down-for-the-community women, so when any of us throws out the bat-signal, it’s like okay, what can we do and who is available? That’s why I am so excited about this year’s festival. We have visual art, film, and live performance, all because there are so many talented and committed Latina artists in this town. As far as strengths, from what I have seen, we have an aptitude for making our art by any means necessary and making a lot with so little—because we had to at first, and now it has just become a talent. Life in Hustle Town.

What have been the advantages and disadvantages of hosting Senorita in Texas?
The advantages are that, at the end of the night, I get to go home to my own bed and wife. [Laughs] Seriously, Houston has that Southern hospitality thing on lock. I am proud of our city, and I want visiting artists to enjoy themselves and for local artists to shine. Of course, as “the business” is in L.A., we may not get the attention of the bigger festivals, but all I can say is look out. Tu sabes?

For more information on the festival schedule and tickets, please visit www.senoritacinema.com.

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Lucy Doyle

Lucy Doyle is a frequent contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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