Adventures in Filmmaking: A report from Fusion

 
 

I have a recurring dream. In this dream, I am a writer trying to write the perfect lesbian film. I type and type but nothing seems to make sense. Should I write about the past? My first love? My first cat? My first feminist book club? My first bar fight? It’s been 20 years now and all I have are questions and more questions. What type of lesbian am I? Am I the right type of lesbian? Why did I get all those strange haircuts?

These are the first words of my feature documentary, Hooters!, a film about lesbian culture and cinema. (It’s also a comedy.)

I know it sounds weird to have a dream sequence in a documentary but I not only put my point of view in my films, I literally put myself in them as well. And, despite sounding egotistical and narcissistic, it allows me to own my opinions and tell stories the way I want to. It’s also cheap therapy.

Allow me to introduce myself: I’m Anna Margarita Albelo — also known as La Chocha — and I’m a filmmaker. I like to make documentaries, fictions, spoofs, art videos, news segments — pretty much everything except porno. I’ll touch upon why at a later date.

For now, I’ve been asked to share with you my adventures in filmmaking, exploring the who, what, where, and whys of how myself and others make stuff. Every character needs a back story. At 40, I am what they call a “mid-career filmmaker.” I graduated from Florida State University in 1993 from Media Production and Film. It was an exciting time because it was the beginnings of the “home video” making explosion that let us make whatever stupid or brilliant idea into a “movie.” No pitching, no writing, no budgets: Just you and maybe some friends, getting together to make something. I became adept at what the Riot Girls had called the “do it yourself” movement and still create with that philosophy today.

I moved to France right out of college (my childhood wish) and managed to live and work there for 16 years as a freelance artist with no full-time job. Now, I’m back in Los Angeles and I’m here to make some movies. I am, as they say, living the dream!

As a Cuban-American filmmaker, I had the immense honor of participating in this year’s Fusion Festival in Los Angeles with my feature documentary, Hooters! The Making of Older, Wiser, Lesbian Cinema.Though it was only my first Fusion Festival, it has definitely been one of the most exciting experiences of my filmmaking career.

What? You never heard of Fusion? Or you have heard of it but don’t know what it really is? Let’s correct that right now! If you live in Los Angeles (but really anywhere around the world) and are interested in issues concerning gay, lesbian, queer, trans, and everything in between, Outfest, the gay and lesbian film festival of Los Angeles is on top of your list. This huge, multi-faceted, non-profit organization is on its 29th year and has, over time, developed several programs to diversify its efforts in nurturing, showcasing and protecting LGBT voices. Along with the Outfest Film Festival in July — a huge 10 day program of films, videos, performances, panels, and all-types of special events, the non-profit has also created The Legacy Project for LGBT film preservation in association with UCLA, and Fusion: The Los Angeles LGBT People of Color Film Festival.

Now in its eighth year, Fusion is the only multicultural LGBT film festival of its kind and a true testament to Outfest’s dedication to help under-represented voices get heard, seen, and talked about in our community. The festival includes short films, feature films, panels, workshops, and parties that highlight and celebrate the diversity of the LGBT community. This year’s program featured a sing-a-long with The Wiz (starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross), A Thousand Clouds of Peace (a legacy project gem from Mexico), a multi-ethnic shorts program, and a conversation with writer/director Dee Rees and producer Nekisa Cooper centered around their Sundance-opening film, Pariah (developed from their award-winning short of the same name).

Fusion also presents an Achievement Award acknowledging the career of an outstanding filmmaker of color. Last year’s recipient was Wilson Cruz. This year it was British filmmaker Rikki Beadle-Blair. Fusion screened Rikki’s recent feature film, FIT, a charming high school film that takes an exuberant and funny look at gay and straight love among the new millennials which is, by the way, distributed to every school in the UK. Now that’s a real impact!

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