By Maya Garcia Fisher
Published: March 7th, 2018
Frances Negrón-Muntaner, an award-winning filmmaker, well-known Puerto Rican lesbian artist, writer and scholar originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, whose work has explored issues surrounding colonialism, sexuality, race, ethnicity, gender and politics, inspired a room full of students and faculty in the Woody Tanger Auditorium, last Tuesday Feb. 27.
Negrón-Muntaner started her presentation with a clip from one of her most notable and well-known works, Brincando el charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican. First released 24 years ago, Brincado el charco is based on Negrón-Muntaner’s own experiences as a Puerto Rican lesbian living in the United States. As one of the first films in Puerto Rican cinema that addresses lesbian issues, the piece stands out from the rest of Negrón-Muntaner’s work by being what she describes as an “experimental film that combines elements of a narrative and documentary.” During her visit, she also stated that the film was open-ended regarding form and race issues.
Negrón-Muntaner went on to talk about the lack of representation from the Latinx community, going as far as to say that the group is worse off now than they were in the 1950s. She spoke about how Latinos have lost some stereotypical roles that used to be more prominent, such as the Latin Lover seen in films like The Mark of Zorro, while gaining other harmful roles, such as the role of a maid seen in television shows like Devious Maids. The Latinx’s role in crime has mutated on both ends of the spectrum, from criminal to enforcer.
Negrón-Muntaner also pointed out that queer Latino representation has stayed the same for years. “You cannot have a revolution with touching all the sectors,” Negrón-Muntaner said when asked if Latinos should go about changing these representations either through their own work or an established filmmaker. By saying this, she meant that improving representation for Latino people means working in all different kinds of environments and on all levels of production, placing importance on the building of communities.
Negrón-Muntaner talked about her upcoming projects about the American and Cuban relationship using cartoons, about memory using home movies (that she shot herself), and about the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico. She addressed students’ questions about her work, why she decided to become a filmmaker, her move from Puerto Rico, experimentation with other forms like film shorts, and even provided advice.
As a professor herself, Negrón-Muntaner mentioned that she tasks some of her students with creating their own short film. She said that while many of her students had never made films before, they could create great work simply because they have something to say. After all, film can do things “you could never imagine,” she said.