Latinx storytellers are rewriting the typical narratives that we have come to expect in this new era. This specific voice I’m talking about is brought on by an alternative light which drives a more powerful message, internal and external. Writer/ Director Edwin Alexis Gómez owns the indescribable energy he carries that gravitates his unique message to storytelling, where he redefines Latinx Films.
His most recent films, La Sad Boy, Quédate Callado have been showcased at HBO’s Outfest, and on PBS Short Film Festival with his short, Joyride. It’s what the Latinx messaging is curated for. And it’s this rhythm of feeling like when you’re at home surrounded by community, a personal experience where we can openly share an environment for us to feel connected and accepted.
Edwin is a Queer Nicaraguan-American writer, director, producer and actor. His body of work blends the resounding beauty and exquisite pain of love and life and becomes its own mythology.
How did you get into storytelling? Who and what inspired you?
I am the kind of artist that feels that storytelling itself got into me, as opposed to me getting into storytelling. It’s kind of inescapable coming from two immigrant parents that would always tell me stories about Nicaragua, coming to America, our family, and our history.
My dad would tuck me in when I was little and tell me a different story from his imagination every night, and my mother was an amazing poet that lit a poetic spirit in me.
Often I think about what sets apart storytellers, usually it is our lived experiences that color everything we write. While most people bury what’s happened in deep inaccessible places, writers actively unearth some intense feelings, histories, and for a lack of a better word, fuck ups that we have done in our lives, and put it on display for others to see.
Call it bravery, call it madness, but whatever it is, I find myself continually enthralled, to the point where many times, I’m ugly crying at the keyboard. While my characters are all so different, the thread here is me.
When you started writing and making films, what is the detailed message that you wanted to achieve?
Like any good story, my refusal to the call of writing was intense. I took a couple of career detours that were necessary for me to write and make films from a place of depth. After working in the nonprofit sector and helping people on a one-on-one basis, I realized I could write and make films that could impact people I would never meet, and that my film in some ways would become evidence of my time here and the lessons I’ve learned.
My mother’s death was a cataclysmic catalyst aligned with my Saturn return (for those Astrology heads out there) that made me not only write about loss, but really reflect on what it means to live. I feel my characters are always searching for what it means to live, and their purpose.
What’s one personal story/experience that has stuck with you, that you’ve been able to use as an anchor to showcase your material?
I think the DMs and comments that poured in from audiences after they watched Joyride was humbling. I did not expect that people saw their mothers, aunts, grandmothers in Juana.
I had no idea just how profound a family road trip could be for my community, or the fact that we would see domestic violence rates spike during the pandemic the way they have. It made me realize that we can never know the impact a film we write can have.
What was your recent award winning film Joyride like? What was the process and behind the inspiration?
Joyride was a labor of love in every sense. The film was born out of the pain of having lost my mother in the Fall of 2014. I stopped writing for two whole years and in those years free from notebooks and typing on my computer I reflected on what we inherit from our family, both biologically and emotionally.
This story is an homage to my grandmother and mother, both strong Nicaraguan women that sacrificed so much, including at times their own happiness for their children. Joyride allows us to explore messy familial relationships, emotional inheritance and creates an inter-generational dialogue about what aging in America means, especially for people of color.
This is not just a Latin American story, but a universal narrative that transcends race, ethnicity and nationality.
What is something that you envision for Latino storytellers in the industry — what do we need, and how do you see that evolving?
I think something Latinx filmmakers are awakening to the idea that we are done waiting. Instead of waiting for an invitation to the table, we are building our own tables, and looking to invite all communities and artists who are often overlooked. It’s been proven time and time again that representation isn’t just something that is important for optics.
Representation is a matter of life and death, since at times the only exposure some Americans, and audiences world-wide have of our community are the depictions they see in film, television and media. Often times Latinx characters are cast in roles of service, as sex objects, criminals or accented comic relief.
As a writer/director I am eradicating the typecasting of the Latinx experience by offering characters that are nuanced and complex.
What are you thinking about doing next?
I am currently working on the rewrites and development of the feature version of Joyride. I am very excited for the ride I will be able to take audiences on, and to build out these wonderful characters I have grown to love and know intimately.
I’m also developing a period piece that takes place in Nicaragua during the revolution in 1979.
What is the one piece of advice that you can give to anyone who wants to make films?
Start with a one minute script. It sounds easy, but writing a minute long script that hits you in the heart is difficult. If you start small and craft the most powerful script possible everything to make the film will fall into place. My very first narrative film was my one-minute microshort Quédate Callado (Stay Silent).
I made it with some very talented friends for Outfest Fusions’s One-Minute Film competition and ended up winning a grand jury award, it premiered that summer before a feature film at the Outfest Film Festival. Start small, but dream big. Also don’t let rejections stop you, they hurt, they suck, but you need to get up and keep going hard. I think about writing in terms of the long game, as opposed to the short one.
A drop of water cuts through stone, and that’s what every page we write is — a drop of water.
The journey of Latinx storytellers is that we are willing to risk it all, the uncomfortable conversations and experiences of rejection to propel us to the next level and version of ourselves, in a industry that doesn’t always root for us, we root for each other.
Jessica Velle reports on entertainment, politics, social media and stories relevant to the Latinx community. She can be reached at Jessica@reel360.com.