Karla Legaspy on her Latina queer youth love story “GoldStar”

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Out filmmaker Karla Legaspy‘s short GoldStar tells the story of a young Latina girl, Iliana, who dedicates a love song to her teacher in front of her family, friends and the entire school. But it’s the fallout that has her more confused about who she is, because the message she gets from her mother is that what she did was not only inappropriate, but unacceptable. 

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Gold Star is inspired by those late night chats with friends when we answer the famous queer question ‘When did you know you were….?'” Karla said. ” In one of those chats a friend mentioned they proposed marriage to their same-sex teacher in the third grade and I thought it was adorable.”

And it is completely adorable to watch Iliana proudly serenade her teacher on stage, despite her mother Terry’s horrified expression. Next to her mom, though, is her mom’s best friend, Chela. Played by out actress/filmmaker Adelina Anthony, Chela is an out lesbian, and though she’s never directly discussed queer identity or sexuality with Iliana, Iliana’s mother decides that Chela is ultimately a bad influence on her daughter. The scene where Terry confronts Chela about the effect she’s having on Iliana was one of the most difficult, Karla said.

That scene was hard to write because it still pains me to have this beautiful friendship break up based on isms,” she said. “There’s so much to tap into when writing about intimate female friendships, especially in QWOC dynamics. Those challenges on the page can bring up so much about our own process while writing. Dealing with the personal while making art, sometimes is the most challenging.”

Karla also collaborated with Adelina on the film Bruising for Besos, a feature that follows an androgynous Xicana lesbian who struggles with a violent family history and unhealthy relationship with a Puerto Rican woman. Working with Adelina and her wife, Marisa Beccerra, “has been the best experience of my career,” Karla said. “We’ve created not only an important film but a sacred QPOC creative family.”

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Gold Star and Bruising for Besos are both universal stories entrenched within the queer Latinx community, and both Karla and Adelina bring a much-needed exploration of what it means to be of both identities simultaneously.

“I think it’s rare due to fear,” Karla said. “Reality shows us that these stories are common, but as writers, if we don’t take the chances to be raw about what we feel, see and experience then these stories will remain invisible. I think it is changing. Having organizations like Latino Public Broadcasting and PBS giving space to films like Gold Star will only continue to inspire more filmmakers to create QPOC content. It’s so important that we continue to move in that direction.” 

Karla is continuing to work with similar themes in her upcoming projects, including a web series and a feature called Marisol, which she says follows “a little girl that uses her imagination to escape her difficult surroundings.”

“I hope this film can bring awareness to the different dynamics and struggles of both parents and children when dealing with LGBTQ identities,” Karla said. “Most important I want to remind LGBTQ/questioning youth that their existence is revolutionary, valid and sacred.”

You can watch GoldStar now as part of the PBS Online Film Festival. If you love it, give it your vote.

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