LatinXcellence: Kase Peña is creating a legacy of authenticity

“I was born in Manhattan. My parents are from the Dominican Republic. I lived the first nine years of my life in Manhattan, but I lived in a place called Inwood. I don’t know if you know New York, but Inwood is at northern tip of Manhattan. It narrows. The island of Manhattan is really narrow,” she mentioned, not taking a breath. “So, there’s a bridge — well, two bridges — that connect you to the Bronx. Actually, there’s three bridges. And I lived in this area where two blocks from me, there was the river. And I would look across the river, the Bronx was there.”

Her father, she says, had a liquor retailer within the South Bronx, the place they’d go to on daily basis after faculty. It was so near Yankee stadium that you might hear the roar of the gang on recreation days.

“My connection to the Bronx is very, very deep. We eventually moved there, but I’m not technically from the Bronx.”

This geography lesson is not not like every part Peña makes as a filmmaker: the storytelling energy is within the infectious power she places into it and her laser-sharp specificity. Her brief movie “Full Beat,” for instance, is a shifting piece about a trans teen who finds an ally in a impossible place when she wants one probably the most.

Peña eager eye and singular tone are an more and more sizzling commodity in an business clamoring for distinct voices.

She is, nonetheless, dedicated to doing issues her personal approach — a spirit that has served her properly for the reason that days she’d promote drawings on the playground for a greenback a piece.

For her newest work — an anthology function titled “Trans Los Angeles” — she took issues into her personal arms. Through fundraising and grants, she’s culled collectively $150,000 to make half of venture a actuality. This got here after years of hitting roadblock after roadblock within the business.

“I didn’t dare to ask Hollywood for money when I graduated from film school, because I’m a logical person,” the City College of New York alum mentioned. “I didn’t dare to do that until I went to film school for four years, then I worked for like seven, eight years on my craft.”

The business, Peña mentioned, helps “members of the dominant culture” whereas they’re nonetheless in movie faculty, whereas movie college students who’re individuals of coloration have to attend for years for his or her time to reach.

And even then, typically, doorways by no means open.

“There was another ‘no’ that I got in late 2018 where I just got fed up and I was like, ‘I’m going to prove to you guys who I am as a writer-director and that I’m more of a writer-director than these other writer-directors they think are so important to celebrate. Watch what I’m going to do.'”

And she’s doing it. She’s been in a position to full two of 4 components and is hoping to lift $350,000 to finish the final two installments of “Trans Los Angeles.”

Carmen Carrera, Stephanie Beatriz of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” fame and YaYa Gosselin star in a single installment about a Latinx trans girl. Other installments inform tales about a 10-year-old Black trans lady whose dad is a gang member, one other about a White trans man and one other that is all in Spanish about a trans girl from El Salvador who is searching for asylum.

Whether the venture is celebrated with accolades or not, Peña is empowered by the truth that she’s taken management of a narrative that too usually has been out of the trans or Latinx neighborhood’s arms, each of which she is a half.

Every yr, when trans or Latinx tales not made by members of these communities are celebrated, it is “painful,” she mentioned, as a result of it means a host of misplaced alternatives for folks from these marginalized communities.

“Notice all those White filmmakers who told those stories about Latinx people, notice how they never came back to our communities to tell another one of our stories. It’s because they moved on,” she mentioned. “They blew up and now they’re doing their stuff. Me — or any one of us — we will come back because this our community. I tell people, I don’t care if I direct a movie with a $100 million budget tomorrow, I will always come back to tell the story of my community. This is how I started, and I care about the stories.”

For Peña, it is additionally about extra than simply a second. It’s about taking management of the narrative now for future generations.

“What about when Latinx people from a hundred years from now and transgender people from a hundred years from now go back in time and watch movies? Everything they’re going to watch is written and directed by somebody’s who’s not us,” she mentioned. “How is that a good thing?”

One good factor? That folks from a hundred years from now will know Kase Peña.


Name: Kase Peña

Job: Writer/director

My work contains: brief movies “Full Beat” (accessible on HBO Max) and “Trabajo” and anthology function “Trans Los Angeles.”

Years in leisure: 20

Latina…de dónde?: First technology American, daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, born and raised in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Latinx trope I’d banish eternally: “When Latinx people are portrayed as having an accent for laughs. There’s nothing wrong with having an accent. Many people in this country and the whole world have accents. It’s not something to be laughed at. On TV, that’s the norm. So if you have an accent, you’re never taken seriously. There are people who have accents who have doctorate degrees from their country. Also, something someone told me years ago was, ‘You know what they say about people with accents? They speak multiple languages.’ How are you going to laugh at somebody who speaks multiple languages?”

Latinx actor/actress I feel will a big star someday: “Carmen Carrera, who just starred in my film ‘Trans Los Angeles.’ She’s been trying to act for many years and Hollywood has told her that she can’t do it. She just played the lead in my film and everybody is raving about her performance.”

Overused line that executives say when passing on a Latinx venture: “‘We already have a Latinx show,’ which is the same people transgender people hear. ‘Oh, we already did a transgender show.'”

What I feel all filmmakers might do to assist improve Latinx illustration: “Put us in the center of your story. We don’t always have to be in the background. We don’t always have to be a stereotype. They know the stereotypes because they’re the ones who write them.”

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