The rich diversity of the Latino/a/x community comes alive in The Latino Experience, a three-episode, short film anthology available in July on GBH 2, pbs.org and the PBS video app.
The anthology features original stories from 15 filmmakers who explore various perspectives and styles from across the United States and Puerto Rico. From dramas to documentaries, comedies to magical realism, The Latino Experience showcases a lineup of creative talent, both in front of and behind the camera.
It all started last August, when PBS announced a call for short films, not longer than 15 minutes each. More than 240 entries were reviewed by a panel of experienced filmmakers. Of those submissions, 13 received funding support and became part of the national series.
“We originally planned on doing a two-hour special, but we got so many submissions we really liked that we decided to expand it to three hours,” said Bill Gardner, vice president of programming and development at PBS.
“These narrative and scripted shorts reflect the joy, creativity, courage, humor, pain and resilience in our communities with top-notch authentic storytelling that reflects the many lived experiences of Latinos/as/x at this moment in history,” says Wendy Llinás, senior director of programming and development at PBS.
The collection shows each filmmaker’s unique interpretation of family, tradition, love and perseverance, including these shorts:
- Originally from Michoacán, Mexico, writer/director Maria Victoria Ponce got the inspiration for her film, Death and Deathability: A Period Piece, from her sisters who thought they were dying when they first got their periods because talking about menstruation was taboo. Ponce says that for children in particular, it’s critical to have films that show the lives and experiences of those in the Latino/a/x community. “We’re just like everyone else and have important stories to tell.”
- In Pasos de Valor, from writer/director Natalia C. Bell, a pregnant MBA student is determined to create better opportunities for her Mexican American family but finds that her due date and her final exam are in conflict. The film reflects an experience of Bell’s own mother, whose professor refused to grant her any special accommodations when she was a graduate student and pregnant with Bell. “I really wanted people to see a different portrayal of a pregnant Latina,” says Bell. “I hope in some way her struggle is honored and that we also acknowledge her ambition for her career and her family. As an artist, I’m drawn to stories of women who rise up.”
- Filmmaker Andres Rovira, a second-generation Cuban American, aims his lens at Miami Cubans who came to America, worked hard and became prosperous. “I’m very interested in how immigrants can so quickly forget about their immigrant experience or the one that their parents went through because they have a comfortable life now,” he says. He added a touch of realism and humor to Noche Buena by casting his own relatives and letting the ad libs fly.
“What we’re trying to do now is not just to put great content out there but also to support the makers and elevate their voices,” Gardner said. “It’s not just about entertainment — it’s about empowerment.”
Episode One premieres on GBH 2 on July 6 at 9pm, Episode Two at 9pm on July 13 and Episode Three at 9pm on July 20. Learn more here.