By Violeta Reinaga
I am both a teacher and a filmmaker. All of my students are either Latino or African-American, and many of them dream of attending college — the majority of would be the first in their family to do so. I get to share my love of narrative in all its forms and open their eyes to the world around them.
But as many teachers can attest, there is often a lack of representation in the canon, which is a shame given the diversity in so many of our schools. However I’m lucky because I live in a digital world where the possibilities for creating and distributing narrative are endless. We can step into the role of creators and have our voices represented, be it through blogs, YouTube, web series or features.
My current project “Chutes“ is a narrative feature with a unique point of view: a sci-fi story featuring minority actors in non-stereotypical roles. ”Chutes” began as a web series and is continuing its story in a feature. But since the digital space is so important to us, integral parts of the “Chutes“ story will remain online. There will be web episodes as well as supplemental interactive content. The first part of that is season 1.5.
In creating this story, we purposely cast Latinos in roles that were universal rather than ethnic specific. We wanted to present a diversity that was more than just a stereotype and more representative of our own experience. We firmly believe that the role of Latinos in the U.S. is changing, and more and more we are entering into mainstream culture. We are enrolling in college at higher rates – accounting for nearly three-quarters (74%) of the growth over the last year. As a result, we are becoming lawyers, doctors, teachers, and scientists in record numbers. And yet we are underrepresented in the media as compared to our total population.
Which is why it is important to continue to push for positive representation, both in our community and in media. And digital media will play an integral role in fully representing that diversity.
Our story embodies that diversity. Our characters, Olivia and Alejandro are very thoroughly Latino. However, that is not a theme of our story as it in many television shows and movies featuring Latinos. It is not that we are ignoring that struggle; rather we chose to tell a different story. It is the story of a brother and sister who have just lost their parents and find themselves caught up in a battle over time.
The fact that they are Latino is never an issue because, ultimately, that is where we would like to be: at a point in history where it is not unusual for Latinos to be well-educated, have rewarding careers, and live in upper and middle-class neighborhoods. And that is the message I want my students to learn as well, that we are not so different after all. That we are more than just our Latino stereotypes, more than just our native tongue, our food and our traditions. We are something new.
If this concept is something you believe in as well — that Latinos or any group should not be cast as stereotypes because those are the only roles available to them — take a moment to view our project page on Kickstarter and consider becoming a backer. Please help make “Chutes” happen and our voices be heard, for Latino nerds everywhere.