For over 30 years, Lourdes Portillo’s award-winning films have explored Latin American, Mexican, and Chicano experiences and social-justice issues. She has produced and directed over a dozen works in her signature hybrid style as a visual artist, investigative journalist, and activist. Born in Chihuahua, Mexico and raised in Los Angeles, Portillo studied at the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1970s and 1980s, where she was immersed in Chicano and avant-garde cinema, social-issue documentary film, and feminist and Latin American politics.
After the Earthquake, her first film, made with Nina Serrano In 1979, is a narrative short about the experiences of a young Nicaraguan woman immigrant to the United States. This was followed by Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1985), an Academy Award–nominated documentary about the courageous Argentinean mothers’ movement that spoke out for that country's desaparecidos. La Ofrenda (1989) brings to vivid life the Day of the Dead ceremony celebrated in Mexico, and its revival by Chicanos in the U.S. Her dedication, insights, and courage in exploring Chicano and Latino identity on film continues to the present with her most recent film, Al Mas Alla, about drug trafficking on the Mexican coastline. Her films have been widely influential for younger generations of filmmakers, particularly Latina women interested in the expression of their culture.
Each year MoMA’s Department of Film and The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar collaborate to celebrate the legacy of film. Portillo is one of the distinguished guests at the 2012 Flaherty Seminar, “Open Wounds,” which explores how filmmakers contribute to new ways of seeing the world based on their own heritage. All films are from the U.S. and directed by Lourdes Portillo, unless otherwise noted. Films courtesy Women Make Movies and Lourdes Portillo.
Organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film, on the occasion of the 58th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, in collaboration with Mary Kerr, Executive Director, Flaherty Film Seminar; and Josetxo Cerdán, Artistic Director, Punto de Vista Film Festival, and 2012 Flaherty Film Seminar programmer.