Lourdes Portillo

Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and raised in Los Angeles, Lourdes Portillo has been making award-winning films about Latin American, Mexican, and Chicano/a experiences and social justice issues for forty years. Since her first film, After the Earthquake/Después del Terremoto (1979), she has produced and directed over a dozen works that reveal her signature hybrid style as a visual artist, investigative journalist, and activist. Portillo’s completed films include the Academy Award and Emmy Award nominated Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (1986), La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead (1988), Columbus on Trial (1992), The Devil Never Sleeps (1994), Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena (1999), My McQueen (2004), and Al Más Allá (2008). Her most recent feature-length film, Señorita Extraviada (2001), a documentary about the disappearance and death of young women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, received a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Havana International Film Festival, the Nestor Almendros Award at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and an Ariel, the Mexican Academy of Film Award. In 2016 Portillo received the Anonymous Was a Woman Award and grant for her body of work, and in 2017 she was honored with the Career Achievement Award by The International Documentary Association (IDA). In 2019 Portillo curated the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ historic Pacific Standard Time: Latin America to Hollywood: Latino Film Culture in Los Angeles 1967-2017 Oral History Projects, which are oral histories/interviews with notable Latino, Latin American, and Chicano filmmakers, including Portillo herself. In recent years Portillo continued her exploration of experimental film and format, creating the animated short State of Grace (2020). Portillo’s films continue to be shown internationally and in the U.S. on TV, in cultural and film festivals, in museums, and at educational institutions. Portillo’s website features information about her work and access to her films: LourdesPortillo.com.


Many have traveled immigration routes, but this is a story seldom told. Looking at Ourselves, a hybrid film that is part experimental documentary and part investigative journalism, is a meditation on being, belonging, and place. Intimate conversations between myself, the filmmaker, and performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, while sharing our own immigration journeys, reveal what immigrant artists bring to our adoptive countries and trace how we use art to transform trauma into a legacy of creativity, resilience, and community building.By drawing upon the oral history traditions of Latin American cultures the film speaks to America’s (nearly) universal experience as a nation of immigrants and their descendants. Guided by storytelling rituals used to pass on knowledge and experience across generations, the film serves as a lyrical recordatorio, a reminder that we were here, a remembrance of who we were, and who we’ve become.


Looking At Ourselves


William Greaves Research & Development Fund





William Greaves Research and Development Fund

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