Inspired by his roots on a recent trip to Mexico, Cinema major Nicolas Jara intends to represent the queer Latino community with his new film Guardian.
Jara decided to pursue cinema at SF State after taking an introduction to contemporary cinema course, realizing the path of biology wasn’t for him. Jara’s second movie, Guardian, is finishing up production and is slated to be ready by next month. The film is a coming-of-age drama about a Latino teenager attempting to overcome the death of his mother while living in an abusive household, and simultaneously dealing with machismo culture, and self-identity.
Machismo culture is being strongly prideful of being masculine, and gender roles are very rigid.
“I literally wrote about myself and created a narrative based on my own life experiences,” said Jara.
He was raised by his grandparents and describes his relationship with his father as being “in the picture, but not totally present.” While dealing with his family and his mother’s death, Jara wrote Guardian after receiving a mysterious phone call. Jara said the phone call was from a woman who knew his mother and gave him detailed memories of his life, thus inspiring him to start writing his movie script.
Jara reflects on his experiences attending catholic school as being a difficult time in his life because of his sexual identity.
“Not only with the identity crisis of my skin but the identity crisis of my sexuality was really difficult growing up,” said Jara.
Ksenia Firsova, a cinema major and producer, said she was inspired to work on the film because of its captivating storyline; it is very relatable to universal issues, while also being honest, as it was inspired by true events that touch on intimate themes.
“Nic is a very gifted director and storyteller, and he definitely has his own style and approach, and that was what drew me to the project,” said Firsova.
Jara collaborated with fellow cinema major Pablo Rivera, who worked on the sound for the film. He said that the environment for filming was very fast-paced and demanding.
“But because I was working with such great filmmakers with amazing skills and no egos, the atmosphere was very laid back and enjoyable,” said Rivera.
Jara raised money by crowd funding, receiving almost $1,000. He initially saved the money because he felt he was not ready to start production. Jara felt that if he used Latinos as his main cast, people would not be interested as much in his film. After a month long trip he took to Mexico, though, it made sense to him to include Latinos, saying the trip inspired him to be more comfortable with his heritage.
“In Hollywood, there is only two or three percent representation of Latinos, and I thought for people to come see this movie I would have to cast white actors.” Jara said. “But, after my trip to Mexico, I was like f— no.”
After saving money, working and crowdfunding, Jara made an estimate of $4,000 for his production to finally come to life. He said his main characters are a mother, a father, a lover and a messenger. It was a difficult decision trying to find someone to play himself in the film because he found a great Latino actor. However, the actor wasn’t queer.
“That was kind of difficult because I had to educate him about being oppressed as a queer Latino, not just as a Latino,” said Jara.
Jara hopes to break down the stigma of the machismo culture in Latino/a communities.
“Latino gay men is my target audience, but I want to appeal just to everybody. I just want people to understand that this is the story of what happens; the consequences of this machismo culture,” said Jara.
Jara plans to submit his film to independent movie festivals or even showcase it in SF State once it’s finished. Jara advises all cinema students to never give up on their dreams and to always remember that they will always make mistakes, but that is all part of the process of making a film.
“There is this Hollywood fantasy that people are just born making million dollar movies and that just doesn’t happen.” Jara said. “People make tons of mistakes. Don’t give up before you even start.”