Indianapolis-based Latino Youth Collective (LYC) presents Campecine 2008: From Invisible to Invincible this Friday and Saturday at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Campecine, which fuses the words “campesino,” Spanish for farmer, and “cine,” Spanish for cinema, was founded last year by IU doctoral student Felipe Vargas and a colleague while working with young students in the migrant communities of California’s Eastern Coachella Valley.
Vargas, who works with the Indianapolis based grass-roots organization Latino Youth Collective, a group that provides resources and opportunities for Latino youth to engage in personal and community development, decided to start the Campecine Film Festival as a way to help the farm laborer community.
“[We wanted] to show youth that they have a voice,” says Vargas.
Organizers of the first festival hoped the process of making documentary films about issues that were important to their community and then presenting those films would help youth in those communities make better sense of the world and “challenge the dominant conceptualization of Latino youth as uninvolved and a drain on the economy.”
“We wanted to change the stereotype of how Latino youth are being portrayed in the media and in schools and society as inadequate and inferior,” Vargas says.
This work with the film festival was seen as a contemporary take on the tradition of “Teatro Campesino,” which began in California in the mid 1960s as part of the United Farm Workers Union and the Chicano movement. The theatre groups, with farm workers as actors, brought live performances into the fields to raise social and political consciousness among the largely print-illiterate workers. Through the approachable medium of digital film, today’s youth seized upon the idea.
Three documentary films have been made so far in Indianapolis, and several more are currently in production. Claudia Montes, a sophomore at IUPUI, directed the film Mamacitas, which is about young Latina mothers in Indianapolis.
“When I was in high school, there were five of us who were friends,” Montes, a graduate of Northwest High School says. “We saw a statistic somewhere that said that four out of five Latina girls get pregnant before they turn twenty. We used to joke about who would be the one who didn’t get pregnant. And I’m the one. The rest have babies.”
Montes hopes other young women see the movie and think carefully about their decisions. She is currently working on a companion piece called Papacitos about young fathers.
“The goal of the Campecine festival is to move people from empathy to solidarity,” says Kathy Souchet Moura, who manages the logistics of the festival and Latino Youth Collective. “Ideally we’re not just listening and paying attention to what kids are saying, we’re joining them in coming up with solutions. Hopefully change happens.”