CORPUS: A Home Movie for Selena

A film by Lourdes Portillo

1999 | 47 minutes | Color | DVD | Spanish | Subtitled | Order No. 06905


This classic rerelease from award-winning filmmaker Lourdes Portillo (Señorita Extraviada, Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo ) is a complex tribute to Selena, the Tejana superstar gunned down in 1995 at the age of 23 by the president of her fan club, just as she was on the brink of blockbuster crossover fame. While the story of her murder, which was filled with sex, glamour and betrayal, caught the attention of many outside the Chicano community, this film moves well beyond the sensational to present a nuanced feminist analysis of Selena's story.

Clips of rare home movies, family photos, and glossy music videos from later in Selena's career are interspersed with lively conversations with her father, sister and Latina intellectuals that shed light into just who Selena was and what makes her such a powerful figure today. Staying true to the “home movie” feel, Portillo interviews ordinary people in Selena's hometown of Corpus Christie, including starry-eyed teenaged fans and tearful strangers who visit her grave. With a compassionate lens, Portillo places Selena's life and legacy in a cultural context, revealing powerful social forces that transformed a popular entertainer into a Chicana cultural icon turned modern-day saint.


“Brilliant, intense, visceral, and certainly one of the warmest documentaries about Latinas ever made…Another masterful work that fits well into the Portillo pantheon.”

Deborah Martin San Diego Latino Film Festival

“Corpus traces Selena's life from a Latina feminist perspective… Portillo's film makes astute and sometimes pointed observations about celebrity, class, beauty, fame, and culture.”

Belena Acosta The Austin Chronicle

“A dynamic, skillfully crafted documentary… presents a sharp and moving portrait of a talented, ambitious yet accessible star who put Tejano music on the national map of popular culture.”

San Francisco Film Festival


  • San Francisco Int’l Film Festival, Golden Spire
  • Vancouver International Film Festival
  • San Diego Latino Film Festival
  • La Biennale Di Venezia
  • Santa Fe Film Festival
  • Taos Talking Pictures


Lourdes Portillo

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.

Portillo’s films have screened at premiere cultural institutions and events around the world such as the Venice Biennale, Toronto International Film Festival, London Film Festival, the São Paulo International Film Festival, the Whitney Museum for American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in the New Directors/New Films program presented by the Film Society at Lincoln Center and the New York Museum of Modern Art. She has been honored with over ten career retrospectives, including exhibitions at the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art, the Cineteca Nacional de Mexico, the Pacific Film Archive, Museum of Modern Art New York, and Museum of Contemporary Art Buenos Aires. She is the subject of the critical anthology "Lourdes Portillo: The Devil Never Sleeps and Other Films" edited by Rosa Linda Fregoso (University of Texas Press, 2001) and the recipient of Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2016, she was honored with the distinguished Anonymous Was A Woman Award for her career artistic achievements. (03/19)


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