BTS: Cristina becomes Jimena

At first I auditioned for Marisol, because I was convinced by my good friend Amanda Reyes, who plays Marisol, to give it a try. I went in not thinking much because I had never acted before, and I honestly didn’t think I would do a decent enough job to get the part. Therefore, it was quite a surprise when I was offered the role.

Becoming the character of Jimena worried me mainly because I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it. It wasn’t until I finally got on set that all of that worry eroded. A lot of the script was improvised especially the dialogue for my character since it was in Spanish. That’s when it all started coming out naturally. Immigration and the difficulties immigrants face in this country have always been an important subject to me, but this is the closest I have ever felt what it’s like. Before this film I had never even thought of all the children who have grown up in this country not knowing they’re not from here and then finding out completely changing everything. I also did not know about accompaniment and the process of it. I am privileged to have been born in this country, and though I never have to experience this personally, this issue is definitely something that needs to be discussed.

I came into this film worrying about my lack of talent as an actress and left knowing I was representing an important issue way bigger than myself. These are definitely the stories I want to tell, the type of films I want to make. The way this film represents this issue is a type of activism. I think now a days the media antagonizes the topic of immigration and makes it very impersonal by talking of the “masses of immigrants.” With so much talk of big numbers people don’t usually empathize with the subject. This film helps humanize the topic and puts a unique face to the blur of the masses. I’m incredibly proud that I was part of this film, and I’ve really benefitted from it as a filmmaker being in front of the camera. I hope people can see that this film is a mobile form of art, which can change the way we think about this issue in this country.

-Cristina Gonzalez

BTS: Finding Antonia

Finding Antonia was an exercise in being absolutely present and being open to allowing the evolution of a character to happen spontaneously and in absolute real time. I quickly discovered that the nature of creating a narrative film required that I approach characterization differently than I usually do when creating a role for the stage or for other kinds of media projects. Initial, skeletal conversations were had between Eugene and I…Nothing “formal”…..just conversations about the story in general and the challenges faced by people in real life who are actually living the issues faced by the characters in the film. Our conversations got me thinking about the humanity at the core of the issues which jumpstarted my imagination and got me thinking deeply about my character, Antonia; her needs, her reality in relationship to the needs and realities of the people she comes in contact within the world of the story.

All of my initial analysis and “human investigation” created a nice foundation to work from, but discovering who Antonia is, was truly flushed out in the process of actually making the film. We didn't spend time rehearsing. One could describe the process of creating the story as “improvisational”—The prompt or catalyst for the action and objective was in place—but ultimately, it was up to us (the actors) to find how to get there, in real time, in the environment, moment by moment—listening, responding, reacting and engaging—being ready for anything, as the camera was rolling. It was a wonderfully creative and exhilarating experience!

-Sally Vahle

My Journey into the Character Marisol

Marisol still #7.jpg

The process of developing the character of Marisol was unlike any other role I had prepared for. From the beginning to the end it was a completely natural and a much more patient approach than what I was use to. I met with Eugene Martin several times discussing the character; who she was, what she wanted, etc. But all of these discoveries were entwined with my own personal experiences growing up Mexican American. I always approach a character searching for similarities that I find in myself. I think that if I can find honest connections with the character’s life events than I can give an honest portrayal. However, Marisol began as a blank slate. In the beginning, I felt a lot of pressure for Marisol to be some sort of representation for all undocumented youth experiencing this expulsion from the world they know and want by the people they looked to for safety and hope.

Probably aware of my uncertainty, Eugene would meet with me and we’d discuss the topics within the film. I left my preconceived expectations of Marisol behind and simply tried to connect with the events in the film; “What would I, Amanda, feel if I had found out that I was undocumented?” My first reaction was “I don’t even speak fluent spanish. Yikes.” This made me realize that the only way I was going to find out who Marisol was was to do a close examination of my own appropriations towards the two cultures that I’m already a giant melting pot of; Mexican American.

With every piece of history that we created for Marisol, there is a thin thread of my own stitched into the details. Like Marisol, my family originally came to America for better opportunities but were faced with another kind of injustice when assimilating to their new home. Through the generations my younger family members became what is referred to as “white-washed”; we’re more embracing and familiar of white-American/European influenced culture. Growing up in predominately all-white schools, watching English-speaking television shows and being immersed in this homogeneous environment overpowered any exposure I had to my Mexican roots. I felt that Marisol would be experiencing the same. Like me, Marisol always has a plan to move on to the next big thing. Feeling such a part of this American dream, Marisol embraces her future in academia. This is a common theme through a lot of Hispanic households in the lower-middle class south; work hard in school and you will succeed in life. Being raised by educators, I understood Marisol’s devotion to the future of her education and felt, as I have always felt, that a college degree would be the ticket to greater life opportunities. 

What Marisol wants is clear in the beginning but what is unclear to her and to so many young Mexican Americans is the silent sacrifice taking place by our brothers and sisters fighting for everything we already have and often take for granted. I can’t ever understand what that struggle does to one’s humanity but I can choose to accompany those who are forced to endure it. Marisol and I can choose to be selfless and present for undocumented people who are a part of the culture that continues to embrace us even though we have embraced another. The theme of accompaniment, oracompañamiento, is common throughout the film and is the action which moves Marisol forward after her discovery that she is undocumented.

The undocumented friends and students I’ve spoken to have all shared with me past experiences of prejudice and ignorance. The anger they and Marisol feel is a painful confusion of desperation for a better life, guilt for risking so much without any sure promise of relief, and resentment towards their home and history for leading up to such extreme events. And yet, despite these unfortunate reminders, they continue to live their lives striving for citizenship, work, education, opportunity, unhindered and motivated by the prospect of giving help to others going through the same situations.

-Amanda Reyes

Marisol gets into ThinLine

2/19 @ 2PM Thin Line Film Festival214 W Hickory St, Denton, TX 76201

University of North Texas Media Arts Chair Eugene Martin will be screening his feature film “Marisol” at Denton’s Thin Line Film Fest Feb. 17-21. The film was funded by foundation grants and is sponsored by the Austin Film Society. UNT Assistant Professor of Voice and Acting Sally Vahle co-stars in the film.

“Marisol tells the story of three women who are affected by immigration in Texas,” said Eugene Martin, chair of the department of media arts. “The story of Marisol, a young college age Mexican woman in North Texas, is inspired by the real life stories of young people who uncover their family secret that they are, in fact, living in the U.S. without legal documents. The film was shot in Denton, Garland, and on the UNT campus.”

Martin has long ties to the Thin Line Film Fest and can speak to its benefits.

“Thin Line has helped raise the profile of the work of students and faculty from the Department of Media Arts since its inception,” Martin said.

Vahle is excited to be a part of the film and looking forward to viewing the footage for the first time at the festival. She says working with Martin was very cohesive and allowed for a lot of input from actors.

“It was an exciting, organic, improvisational experience from an acting standpoint,” Vahle said. “It’s not often that way. He thinks and works very outside of the box in a good way. We were allowed to be highly involved in the creation of dialogue and able to explore our characters.”