POSTED ON May 11, 2013 BY Keith
Local filmmaker Danielle Villegas screens her beautifully provocative short DOS ALMAS at Translations: The Seattle Transgender Film Festival in the GENDER REVOLUTIONARIES program 4:30 p.m. today at Northwest Film Forum with Villegas in attendance as a special guest.
We spoke with Danielle to find out more about the film, the characters and why this film, set in the 1850 American wilderness, resonates today.
In DOS ALMAS, your protagonist assumes a male identity in order to find herself. The film is set in 1850. What can today’s audiences take way from the film?
Danielle Villegas: She does what it takes to survive and “pass” in the mid-nineteenth century. It was a dangerous time for a woman to be alone on the Western American wilderness. Her identity as a Mestiza (part indigenous, part Spanish), raised in a post-colonial California informs her identity. It is only in the safety of disguise and her fortuity in meeting a two-spirit woman that she even has the opportunity to have this relationship. Though we all know sexism and patriarchy will not disappear anytime soon, my hope is that this film encourages continued dialogue and understanding. Gender variance is as natural as the sun rising and in some places and times, it is and has been revered.
Where was the film shot and what was production like?
DV: The film was shot in September, 2011 outside North Bend, Washington along the Snoqualamie River. I am really proud of the “village” I assembled. I hand selected and surrounded myself with the best people I could find, including my cinematographer Lars Larson and producers Tracy Rector (Longhouse Media) and Adam Sekuler (Northwest Film Forum). Though the idea for the film had been swimming around in my head for 20 years, I only manifested a script just days before the shoot, and had it not been for my talented actors including Two Spirit poet and philosopher Jennifer Lisa Vest, my Grammy nominated composer Dawn Avery, veteran sound designer Jayme S. Parker and longtime collaborator Cheryl Slean -- along with many others -- this film wouldn’t be here.
Why was making this film important to you?
DV: I fulfilled a longtime goal to begin my career as a filmmaker. It was important to me share the Native American “Two-Spirit” concept with an audience. On the eve of marriage equality, kids are still committing suicide, people are still being discriminated against and in some countries, killed, just for being themselves. Minds don’t change overnight.
My film is a simple story which presents a character in dire situation who meets another and shares a moment.
It is no surprise that there are always autobiographical elements in even my most wild stories. Based on my personal experience, I created some fictional characters for DOS ALMAS, a time period and place which I know intimately and feel compelled to explore further. Whether this manifests in a television series, feature film or simply stands as what I believe is the first onscreen depiction of a female Two-Spirit character in a historical context, I am happy to have this film out in the world and thrilled to share it with Seattle audiences.
About DOS ALMAS
In 1850, a Mestiza woman finds herself alone in the remote wilderness. Posing as a man, she encounters a native woman who introduces her to another life.
Run time:16 minutes I USA I 2013
Directed by Danielle Villegas
The GENDER REVOLUTIONARIES shorts program screens at 4:30 p.m. today at Northwest Film Forum with Villegas in attendance as a special guest.