Mexico-born and Chicana identified, Portillo's films have 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. THE DEVIL NEVER SLEEPS is a stylistic departure from Portillo's earlier productions, blending documentary and narrative in a powerfully poetic mix.
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. Portillo says: "I knew from that moment what I was going to do for the rest of my life. That never changed. It was just a matter of when I was going to do it." 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, 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 integrated into curriculum studies.
Portillo has collaborated extensively with noted directors Susana Munoz and Nina Serrano and with Academy Award-winning editor Vivien Hillgrove. Working with other women artists has helped Portillo break down the proscriptions of traditional documentary making because "women, and women of color in particular, often come into filmmaking with a different set of objectives than their male counterparts." Portillo's films have received high praise at more than ten international women's film festivals.
With THE DEVIL NEVER SLEEPS, Portillo continues her effort to explore the Mexican psyche, and broaden the spectrum of screen representation of Latinos and Chicanos. Her tireless creative impulses are meanwhile driving her in new directions.
Lourdes recently was honored with a retrospective at MoMA in New York City (07/12).
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...