Film made in NM gains notice for shedding light on addiction - Albuquerque Journal

Film made in NM gains notice for shedding light on addiction

Everyone has a story, but few of them are heard.

The Albuquerque-based nonprofit Bold Futures wants to change that.

For the past two decades, the organization – formally known as Young Women United – has worked to build reproductive justice in New Mexico by and for women and people of color. More recently, it has expanded its mission to create communities by leading policy change, research, organizing, and culture shift by and for women and people of color in New Mexico.

In 2017, the nonprofit decided to try using film to tell the stories of women who so often are voiceless. “All the World Is Sleeping” is that film, shedding light on the realities of addiction and the resources desperately needed for families living in cycles of addiction.

Melissa Barrera and Ryan Lacen go over notes while filming All the World is Sleeping. (Courtesy of Ryan Lacen)

Months of work and dozens of stories were told. In the end, a script for “All the World Is Sleeping” was completed.

“We were able to get seven women and talk with them to understand the complexities they faced with their substance use, all while balancing a family,” says Charlene Bencomo, Bold Futures executive director. “There was a conversation that we wanted to tell the stories through a feature film.”

The film is already gaining buzz, picking up “best narrative feature” at the prestigious New York Latino Film Festival.

It will have its New Mexico premiere at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, with screenings on Thursday, Oct. 14, and Friday, Oct. 15.

The film’s main character, Chama, played by Melissa Barrera, is an imaginative composite of the seven women who helped craft this storyline. Chama encompasses elements of their bravery and struggles while exposing the arduous circumstances they have endured.

Barrera, along with co-star Jackie Cruz, worked with the mothers on and off set to authentically capture and represent their truth. Each genuinely wanted to understand the “cyclical, chaotic, yet hopeful” side of fighting addiction.

Barrera has since been seen in the film “In the Heights” and will be Carmen in the movie “Carmen.” Cruz skyrocketed to fame in the TV series “Orange Is the New Black.”

At the helm of the production is New Mexico native Ryan Lacen.

The director says he was involved in the project since the beginning, often sitting in on the discussions and writing the script.

“I sat for months and created a script that honored their voices, then brought it back to them and got notes,” Lacen says. “Then I adapted it. The seven women were fixtures in the process the whole time. They were on set and there to work with the actors. We wanted it to come from a place of emotional honesty.”

Because the film was being produced by a New Mexico organization and telling New Mexicans’ stories, it was important for the production to take place in the state.

Bencomo says the production chose Las Cruces to do principal photography.

She says the production was a learning process. Having the community step up and help out made her glow with emotion, she says.

“Merging the world of film with nonprofit, there were bumps in the road,” she says. “When we got to filming, we pulled in extras by word-of-mouth. People wanted to be involved because this is a story of hope and positivity coming from a dark place.”

Melissa Barrera in a scene from the film, All the World is Sleeping. (Courtesy of All the World is Sleeping)

Doralee Urban is one of the women who sat down with Bold Futures to tell her story.

She stepped forward not only to give herself a voice but to give voice to the many women who aren’t seen.

“I’m honored to be part of something this important,” Urban says. “There have been so many women that have been in situations I’ve been in before. It’s like we’re invisible a lot of the time, and I wanted to be a part of this to express that we are people. There’s a real issue out there. We are people and should be seen.”

Urban is overwhelmed by the response to the film.

She hopes it brings light to the subject and better care for people who are struggling – especially those with children.

“Substance use is a health issue,” she says. “Everyone gets the wrong idea. It doesn’t mean I love my kids any less. I’m lucky because I’ve found the help I needed and continue to work on myself.”

Lacen says being back in New Mexico was an honor for him. Lacen, who grew up in Albuquerque and graduated from the University of New Mexico, now lives in Los Angeles but tries to get his projects to film in New Mexico.

He wanted the state to be another character in the film.

“I’ve filmed everywhere in the world, and New Mexico has the best film community,” he said. “Being an independent film, it’s nearly impossible to complete. But everyone opened their doors, and the community came together to help tell the vision. We want this film to open that curtain of not only showing the problems with substance abuse but give some ways of getting help.”

UpFront is a regular Journal news and opinion column. Comment directly to Journal arts editor Adrian Gomez at


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