Women of color retreat recharges departing Aranda

Filmmaker Xan Aranda

Xan Aranda, who is producing the documentary, Mormon Movie, with Kartemquin Films, spent a week on a 100-acre scenic Vermont farm last month as one of 12 women filmmakers of color who were chosen for NALIP’s inaugural Artist Retreat Center (ARC) for Women Filmmakers of Color Residencies Program.

The ARC program is dedicated to addressing continuing problems with representation in the industry as “women filmmakers of color are the least represented in Hollywood and the television industry,” states NALIP (National Association of Latino Independent Producers).

“I already felt a responsibility to support films by women and people of color, but this revitalized my understanding of that need,” says Aranda.  “We are all advocates for each other now and we will look for others to become fellows and mentors.”

Towards that end, Aranda will speak on a panel with filmmakers Natasha Parker and Kimberly Connor at the IFP Filmmakers Conference Saturday, Oct. 11, 2-3:15 p.m. at Film Row Center Theatres.  

ARC was founded by NALIP trustee and former board chair, Maria Agui Carter, of Iguana Films (No Job for a Woman), who served as Master Artist in Residence.  One of the featured mentors was Cynthia Lopez, Commissioner of New York City’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

Lopez revealed some of her plans for the office, which Aranda says were “just stunning in their regard for the filmmaking process and racial diversity.  It made me think, do I need to move to New York?  No, I need to demand similar things in the city where I live.”

That city will change, however, as Aranda moves to LA next month.

ARC reinvigorated her creative process on Mormon Movie

Mormon Movie began as Aranda’s survey of the Mormon film industry, in which her mother worked briefly as an actor while studying at Brigham Young University in the ‘60s.  It has become increasingly autobiographical, addressing Aranda’s own departure from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at age 20, and the dissolution of her parents’ marriage. 

Aranda and her father, Mario, filming in Northern CaliforniaHer mother remains a devout Mormon, while her father has struggled with his identity as a gay Mormon Mexican.

“If you told me two years ago that I’d become the central character of my own movie, I’d say you’re crazy, but it answers a lot of questions,” Aranda says.  “My film looks at how the process of individuation from family and community is very normal, and later it’s normal to reengage with that larger community on your own terms.”

She still has “huge chunks” left to cover in Mexico and Utah, and won’t pin down a completion date, although the Kartemquin web site projects it for 2016 release.

After being bolstered by support from ITVS and a successful Kickstarter campaign, Aranda is “back to volunteering” on Mormon Movie, but says ARC has reinvigorated her creative process on the film.

“I’ve added a storyline that I’m looking to strengthen, that has to do with racial identity, not just religious and gender identity,” Aranda says. 

“The timing was astounding, to bring this to a multiracial group, as a multiracial person who registers as ambiguously racial or white… to bring this to people who are similarly accomplished who live that every day.”

Aranda departs for LA after 13 years in Chicago

In November, however, Aranda will move to LA to be closer to family, as well as to clients, including Anti-Records, for which she directed and produced the album trailer for Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.

“It’s just time for me to go,” Aranda says.  “When I came here 13 years ago, I thought I would stay a year, but it was a coming home and a place of transformation for me.  It’s so fun to educate people to the amazing offerings of Illinois and Minnesota and Wisconsin and the Great Lakes.  I hope my job can be to keep helping LA see that there’s an entire country that has great stories in it.”

The Hideout, where Aranda used to run the Chicago Short Film Brigade, hosts her going away party Sunday, Nov. 2, 3-6 p.m., at 1354 W. Wabansia Ave.