Mexico-born and Chicana identified, Lourdes Portillo is a writer / director / producer of films focused on the search for Latino identity. She has worked in a richly varied range of forms, from television documentary to satirical video-film collage.
Portillo got her first filmmaking experience at the age of twenty-one when a friend in Hollywood asked her to help out on a documentary. Her formal training began several years later. An apprenticeship at the San Francisco NABET (National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians) led to a job as Stephen Lighthill's first camera assistant on Cine Manifest's feature Over, Under, Sideways, Down. In 1978, after graduating from The San Francisco Art Institute, Portillo used American Film Institute Independent Filmmaker Award monies to create her internationally praised narrative film After the Earthquake / Despues del Terremoto, about a Nicaraguan refugee living in San Francisco.
The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, the result of a three year collaboration with writer / director Susana Munoz, was a pivotal film in Portillo's career. Its nomination for the Academy's Best Documentary in 1985 and the twenty other awards it received internationally earned Portillo the PBS funding she needed for her next film, La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead. Completed in 1989 and greeted with widespread critical acclaim, La Ofrenda was Portillo's most serious attempt to date to challenge the notion that, as she says, “documentary is always associated with injustice.” In it she portrays in loving color a Mexican and Chicano holiday -- the celebration of “the days of the dead” -- and initiates the dream-like structure that has become a hallmark of her recent work.
A grant from the NEA Inter-Arts program allowed Portillo to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's “discovery” of America in her own ironic fashion. Her 1993 film, Columbus on Trial showed at the London and Sundance Film festivals as well and was selected for the 1993 Whitney Museum Biennial. In 1994 she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in recognition of her contributions to filmmaking. All of her work is widely shown in classrooms and academic circles and is integrated into curriculum studies.
Currently in production is a narrative feature about a modern day Don Quixote: a filmmaker whose life and art become a beautiful hallucination and in her quest for the perfect film she gets lost along the way. The journey itself becomes her redemption and eventually her transformation. Ms. Portillo is also the executive producer for a low-budget comedy set in the urban underworld of cockfighting. (8/14)
After the Earthquake
A film by Lourdes Portillo, 1979, 23 min., BW
This dramatic story follows a young Nicaraguan immigrant, Irene, as she faces the challenges of life in the U.S. and re-evaluates her relationships wi...
Columbus on Trial
A film by Lourdes Portillo, 1993, 18 min., Color
Inspired by the controversy surrounding the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of America, Portillo has fashioned a fanciful versi...
CORPUS: A Home Movie for Selena
A film by Lourdes Portillo, 1999, 47 min., Color
This classic rerelease from award-winning filmmaker Lourdes Portillo (Señorita Extraviada, Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo ) is a complex tri...
The Devil Never Sleeps
A film by Lourdes Portillo, 1996, 82 min., Color
Academy Award nominated filmmaker Lourdes Portillo (LAS MADRES: THE MOTHERS OF PLAZA DE MAYO) mines the complicated intersections of analysis and auto...
Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza De Mayo
A film by Susana Blaustein and Lourdes Portillo, 1985, 64 min., Color
This Academy award-nominated documentary about the Argentinian mothers’ movement to demand to know the fate of 30,000 “disappeared” sons and daughters...
Señorita Extraviada, Missing Young Woman
A film by Lourdes Portillo, 2001, 74 min., Color
SENORITA EXTRAVIADA, MISSING YOUNG WOMAN tells the haunting story of the more than 350 kidnapped, raped and murdered young women of Juárez, Mexico. Vi...