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chapter 4 Framing Identities / The Evolving Self beyond the academic director Cristina Kotz Cornejo (Emerson College) I am currently in Buenos Aires, Argentina, working toward making my first fiction feature film, 3 Américas (formerly titled Soledad). I have been working on this film for three years while making a career as a maker of short films. I make a living as a teacher and am considered an academic filmmaker, not because I make educational films, which is where the term originally came from, but because I am a filmmaker and I teach film production at the college level. What came first is obvious . I studied filmmaking at New York University’s graduate film program and received my mfa in 2000 in film production. When I was approached to write this essay about filming difference from the perspective of an academic filmmaker, I had to take a step back. Yes, I work in academia, and I realize I am an “academic” filmmaker because of that fact, but as I thought about this on a deeper level I had to ask myself, what exactly does that even mean? As a woman I have been identified as a female filmmaker. Obviously I can’t deny my gender, but what if I didn’t make films about women? In fact, some of my films aren’t about women. Am I still a female filmmaker? As a Latina I have been referred to as a Latina filmmaker, but what would I be called if my work didn’t have any relationship to the Latino experience ? And again, some of my films don’t directly relate to the Latino experience. My very first film, Jewel and the Catch, was a documentary about Los Angeles gay rights activist Jewel Thais-Williams.1 As a gay woman I could have been referred to as a lesbian filmmaker, but Jewel and the Catch was the last film I made that had anything to do with being gay. So, are the labels related to my work or solely to who I am as a person? Why the labels? Why the need to categorize? To answer these questions about my identity as a filmmaker I have to ask several basic questions. Who am I? What am I? Where do I fit in as a person? Where do I fit in as a filmmaker? What kinds of films do I make? What kinds of films are expected of me? What do I expect of T4989.indb 75 T4989.indb 75 2/27/09 6:57:16 AM 2/27/09 6:57:16 AM 76 myself as a person? What do I expect of myself as a filmmaker? This essay addresses how I have come to identify my work and myself. In it I examine how identity—whether race, gender, or sexuality issues— affects and influences what I do behind the camera based on the experiences that frame my life and my evolving self. To understand who I am today as a person and filmmaker, it’s important to look back at some key life-shaping experiences. My first experience with identity and labels, at least the first one I am aware of, occurred when I was a child and attending kindergarten in Scottsdale, Arizona. I didn’t fully speak English because my mother, who is Argentine , spoke to me only in Spanish. I understood English because my father spoke English at home, but I was self-conscious about speaking it in public. One day in class the teacher called on me and, when I didn’t answer, told the class I was probably “stupid.” I lived in Arizona from the time I was four until I was seven. I got along well with classmates and friends. In fact, I felt and was treated like all the other “Caucasian ” children—other than the time I was called stupid. When I was seven, my family moved to Argentina so that my father could start a business . I attended second grade and began adjusting to a new cultural and educational environment. A year later, during a military coup, my parents decided to move back to the States. For the next several years we lived in Southern California, and my experiences were generally positive. By the time we settled in the Huntington Beach community of Orange County, California, my black hair and dark, tanned skin stood out in the mostly white, suburban high school of the early 1980s. One day at school...


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MARC Record
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