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‘A Life in Technicolor,’ screening at Cine Las Americas, explores feeling trapped during lockdown

Josey Porras stars as Natalie in Alex Ramirez's 'A Life in Technicolor.'
Courtesy Alex Ramirez
Josey Porras stars as Natalie in Alex Ramirez's 'A Life in Technicolor.'

The Texas capital city has a reputation for independent filmmaking and for hosting festivals. But in the late 1990s, some film enthusiasts realized something was missing, and they set about to fill that hole.

Over the past 25 years, the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival has undergone iterations and location changes, but its mission has stayed very much the same: Showcase movies told by and about Latinos and Indigenous peoples across the Americas.

This year’s festival kicked off Wednesday in Austin, and San Antonio-based filmmaker Alex Ramirez will be there with his latest short film, “A Life in Technicolor.” He joined the Texas Standard to talk about the festival, his film and the future for Latinos in cinema.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:

Texas Standard: As a Mexican-American filmmaker based in San Antonio, how long has the Cine Las Americas Festival been on your radar? 

Alex Ramirez: Yeah, it’s been on my radar for quite a while. I’ve known about it for the past 10 years, ever since I’ve started filmmaking. It’s a real honor to screen at this prestigious film festival.

I know that representation of Latinos in Hollywood has become a bigger focus, certainly in the media of late. How does Cine Las America sort of fit into that conversation?

Yeah, I think they are screening and programing material that is very vital to our community. It really explores what it means to be Mexican-American, to be Latinx, to be Latino, Latina here in our contemporary world in a very powerful way. So it feels great to be amongst these filmmakers and this work.

» MORE: Celebrando 25 years of Cine

Your new film, “A Life in Technicolor,” takes place during the coronavirus lockdowns. Your main character is a woman who loves old movies – and is it giving away too much to say that little by little, her world loses color?

No, no, not at all. I mean, it’s built into the title. It’s a piece of work, you know, that really came out of that feeling I’m sure that we all were feeling in the coronavirus pandemic, feeling trapped and maybe just personally needing more color in my life.

Did you film this during the lockdown days, or how was the evolution of the film process?

Yeah, so we actually filmed this when there was a dip in cases. We filmed this in 2021, so we’d already been, you know, more than a year inside isolated. So, you know, we were really just trying to get back to that feeling that we loved, and that’s making movies. And the crew that I worked with, you know, were hungry to make a movie; I was hungry to make a movie. And I just wanted to write something that we could feasibly do with these circumstances.

I would think that it would be somewhat harder to get your movie in front of people when you have a short, relative to, say, a feature, for which there seem to be a lot more outlets. Am I wrong about that? I’m just curious about what this means to be a part of this Cine Las Americas Festival.

I’m sure the circumstances change depending on where you want to present and, you know, what your film looks like, or the length of it. But all in all, we’re making these pictures for expression. And, you know, I didn’t worry about who it was going to be exhibited for. I just wanted to make something that I felt could help brighten my own world.

I just wanted to make something that expresses this feeling of loneliness, of being isolated, but also feeling like an artist who is isolated and still wanting to make something. And I think that feeling externalized in the character of Natalie, who’s played by the wonderful Josey Porras.

There’s a visual syntax in this film that’s really striking. It seems as though you’re moving from a more modern era to an almost, is it fair to say, a sort of silent film era, where you have the greater sort of visual graininess and that sort of thing – that’s a very, very clever idea. What inspired that? 

I like the idea of telling new stories with old techniques, and I’ve always been in love with the idea of old cinema, old Hollywood. It’s how my mother and I bonded. The film is dedicated to her in the way of kind of exploring cinema at its roots at this really strange time in the world.

I was also exploring the relationship with my mother. We just bonded over movies. We always talked movies. We loved watching movies together. And once you get bitten by cinema and really want to become a filmmaker, you kind of look back to those original moments of feeling inspired or wanting to just be in the spectacle of movie making. So I think she really put that in me.

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