Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Add a dedicated cast and crew.
Stir in a few months of editing.
Give it some time to simmer and you’ve got “Pozole.”
Less than a year since wrapping production, the New Mexico short film is making waves on the festival circuit.
In March, “Pozole” earned best narrative short at the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival in San Jose.
With that distinction, the film now qualifies as a contender for the Academy Awards and producers will push for it to make the shortlist of candidates later this year.
“There are only six awards given out in the festival,” said producer Jenn Garcia. “We are so excited and the next goal is to make a short.”
Collecting awards isn’t the only reason “Pozole” is getting noticed. The small-budget film is helmed by a mostly female – and Latina – crew.
Writer/director Jessica Mendez Siqueiros noted how rare this is for a Latino film.
“Last year, only 140 short films qualified for Academy consideration. So few are ever even comedies, given the incredibly vital dramas they go up against each year,” Mendez Siqueiros said. “But I can guarantee not a single one has ever been a comedy film directed by a U.S. Latina about U.S. Latinas: our love, our positivity in the face of hardship, our power.”
“Pozole” tells the story of a mixed-race Latina who feels isolated from her proud, traditional Mexican family.
When she sets out to reconnect with her roots on her Nana’s 100th birthday, things go terribly wrong.
Garcia said it’s a dark comedy about what it means to be the “other” in the family.
“The story really catches to connecting with your culture,” Garcia said. “The main character is trying to reconnect with her Mexican family. She’s vegan and doesn’t speak Spanish, and feels like an outsider. There’s not a lot of representation of Latin women in traditional media. We wanted to change the narrative.”
Mendez Siqueiros said “Pozole” is a dramatized version of her own life experience. Her proud Mexican family is from South Tucson.
“Often, I have felt isolated and lost for not being ‘Mexican enough,’ not just by my family, but by the community overall,” Mendez Siqueiros said. “There are deep, unspoken divides within the Latino community in this way. In our current political climate, I think it’s vital that we start talking about the gray areas in society. It is a time to celebrate pride, heritage and honor, especially within each cultural minority community where sometimes racism, isolation and otherness can lead people to abandon their roots.
“Much like Maia, my grandmother died shortly after her 100th birthday. I have regretted not feeling closer to her, a feeling that reaches far beyond racial/cultural audience divides. This film is my return to my own roots.”
The crew set up in Albuquerque’s Martineztown neighborhood last June with about a 90% local cast and crew.
“Pozole” was produced by Viscera Productions in association with New Mexico’s Hardline Films. It was created through the support of WeTransfer and Seed&Spark’s 100 Days of Optimism Grant, as well as the New Mexico tax incentive program.
Garcia said one of the biggest obstacles was finding the house and casting.
“We wanted to find the right people to look like a family,” she said. “We had a little meet-and-greet in our Hardline Films office. We heard their stories and figured out where we were going. We managed to get the perfect house as well that became part of the film.”
Garcia said the film will continue its run on the festival circuit – “Pozole” was just accepted into the Seattle International Film Festival, which is also Oscar qualifying. A win there would further boost its Academy Awards chances next February.