A series of short films debuting at the Bend Film Festival this weekend aim to shine a light on marginalized groups in our region.
NeighborImpact, a nonprofit dedicated to providing resources for the economically disadvantaged, is able to fund a resident-led project each year through their parent organization, NeighborWorks.
Mexican-American filmmaker Felipe Santacruz, based in Central Oregon, was chosen in early 2021.
His project grew into three mini-documentaries called “Spotlight,” focused on a singular goal.
“We wanted to focus on BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and people with diverse abilities,” Santacruz told Central Oregon Daily News. “We didn’t want to just focus on a random person. It was more of like here, let’s use this space to showcase someone who’s already done something and is part of an organization.”
One focus was on Empowering Access, an organization that promotes accessibility in outdoor programs.
Another was a mural celebrating the Latinx community under the Franklin underpass tunnel in Bend, also captured by Central Oregon Daily News videographer Steve Kauffman last summer.
The third was a Youth Equity and Leadership Summit at the Central Oregon Community College Redmond campus.
Liliana Cabrera, the Education and Training Program Coordinator at COCC, said the event started out of a desire to create a space to meet others in their community here in Central Oregon rather than having to travel elsewhere in the state for such events.
“It’s been a collection of young adults and adults in the community, coming together to create a conference of sorts that are specific to the experiences and identities for students of color and to LGBTQIA students,” she said.
She said she was excited they had the chance to be a part of the film, and grateful to Santacruz for his work.
“I think when we have a spotlight and we narrow the scope on the things that exist and have existed that people aren’t aware of, it amplifies the messages and gives people an opportunity to learn more about how they can support and show up in community together,” Cabrera said.
Sonia Capece of NeighborImpact was the Community Leadership Institute Project Lead for the film.
“The team had a lot of conversations about what does that look like, and how do we transform an awareness campaign into something that is exciting and accessible and that really showcases the broad diversity that exists in our region that sometimes goes hidden or unnoticed,” she said.
She feels that many people are unaware of what is happening in Central Oregon’s diverse communities.
“When I hear that phrase of there’s no diversity in Central Oregon, I feel really sad,” Capece said. “So I hope that people will understand that diversity takes many different shapes, and that’s one of the things that we highlight in these documentaries, is that there is race diversity but there is also disability, there is gender identity, there is age. We have to broaden that conversation.”
Spotlight was among three pieces to be selected for the local documentary category in the Bend Film Festival.
Santacruz said what surprised him most about the project was the similarities between the three episodes.
“These were separate interviews but they all wanted the same end goal, to have a voice in a community, to be seen and to feel part of a community,” he said. “It’s human nature to want to be part of something or a group of people, and I think focusing on all these stories was able to give us that opportunity to give a voice, to give a spotlight. I think hopefully it just keeps conversations going and it just raises more awareness for folks.”
He hopes that people come away with a motivation to connect with local efforts toward equity and inclusivity.
“There’s so many people doing such great work and we’re making strides every day, but this is just another opportunity for the general public to engage in that,” Santacruz added.
Spotlight will make its debut at Open Space Event Studios on Saturday evening at 6 p.m.
You can purchase tickets to see it and all other films shown in the Bend Film Festival on their website at bendfilm.org.
You can view the Spotlight trailer below.