10th Annual Cine LatinoIn Focus: Marco Castro Bojorquez
By Jan Willms
Subject: Marco Castro Bojorquez, director of The Song of the Hummingbird
Marco Castro-Borjoquez loves cinema. And the documentarian who is presenting El Canto del Colibri (Song of the Hummingbird) at the Cine Latino Festival comes from the same state in Mexico as Pedro Infante, who Castro-Borjoquez considers one of the greatest actors of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.
“His movies have always been an inspiration to me,” Castro-Borjoquez said. “He died in a plane crash back in 1957, but he is from Sinaloa, the state in Mexico I am from and a place that taught me about happiness.”
Castro-Borjoquez grew up in La Reforma, a fishing village where his family still lives. He left home at 13 and never went back to stay longer than a few weeks. He has lived in California for the past 20 years.
“I knew that I was different and didn’t want to be rejected by my family, so I orchestrated my life in a way that I could be myself eventually but without losing something so important and dear to me like my family.”
In El Canto, as Castro-Borjoquez refers to his film, he documents the lives of Latino immigrant fathers and their LGBT children. It could be an illustration of his life, but he said “I made sure that the story I told was that of the families I interviewed and not mine.” As he conducted his interviews for the documentary, Castro-Bojorquez said he hadn’t realized that the fathers were answering these questions for the first time. “No one before me had asked them about their love for their LGBT children and its challenges, let alone being asked about their immigrant experiences,” he noted. His short film became a feature length film because “I just couldn’t leave any of those courageous people ‘in the can.’”
Regarding his own relationship with his father, Castro-Bojorquez said theirs was very typical. He said they did not deal so much with real life, but talked about superficial things. “There was a lot of respect from my father towards me. At times he would say wonderful things to me, but he was always drunk, and he would tell his friends how proud he was of me and my accomplishments. It was a unique relationship that we had.”
When Castro-Borjoquez learned his father had cancer, he traveled back and forth between Mexico and the states. He decided to spend the Christmas holidays with his family, but he was also in the midst of editing El Canto. “The amazing Jesus Beltran, the editor of El Canto, and I were working via skype mostly and on the phone,” he recalled. “On New Year‘s Eve, everyone else in the house went to parties, and my dad and I stayed home and had a wonderful time, I decided to show him pieces of El Canto, and we talked for hours. We finally talked about me and my queer identity, and it was okay.”
Castro-Borjoquez said his father loved the film, but passed away before it was finished. “I have been struggling with life ever since,” he added.
He said that his father’s illness and passing added another layer into the experience of creating his film. “It was almost impossible for me not to feel my emotions in the process,” he explained. “It was a life coincidence that while making a film about Latino fathers, my own father died. It was a complex situation because if I wanted to push my film, it became inevitable to speak of my loss. To this day, it requires me to do mental exercises and put things into place, into perspective, and be myself.”
As well as being a filmmaker, Castro-Bojorquez is a community educator with Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people with HIV. He has also been an educational program director for Bayview Hunter’s Point Center for Arts and Technology (BAYCAT). In his work as an educator, activist and filmmaker, Castro-Bojorquez said that if one word could be made from those three descriptions, it would best define him. “With the things I know about life, my lived experience, and the teachings of especially trans, queer brown and black youth, I’ve found a good balance at working with the most marginalized people, educating and making films that challenge and dismantle systems of oppression that have been created intentionally to create injustice,” he said. According to Castro-Bojorquez, it was at BAYCAT where the activist and the filmmaker finally became one. “They let me create freely, and I crafted several programs including a Community Cinema Program where community based filmmaking took place as I produced several films,” he explained. “The most memorable is my short ‘Tres Gotas de Agua’ in collaboration with Somos Familia, an incredible organization that supports Latino families and their queer children. I made El Canto in collaboration with both BAYCAT and Somos Familia.”
With his presentation of El Canto, Castro-Bojorquez said he imagined while he was making the film that Latino people would feel comforted by it. He described how you feel if your grandmother puts a shawl over your shoulders when it is cold outside. “That feeling of being cared for and acknowledged is what I wish for them to feel while watching my film,” he commented.
Castro-Bojorquez described El Canto del Colibri as being an immigration film. “The fathers in the film experience so many obstacles as they attempt to survive and become part of this society,” he explained. “From Juan’s homelessness to Pablo’s memories of racism in high school, it is inevitable not to be shaped by those powerful experiences.”
“It is important to make a distinction and see how different trans folks connect with immigration than LGB people,” Castro-Bojorquez continued. “Immigrants have died as they try to cross the border. Trans individuals are also being murdered as they transition their gender. This is a perfect example of the dramatic and often tragic reality of our LGBT immigrant community, and within that community, our trans sisters and brothers are the most marginalized of the marginalized. They are the most vulnerable population within the immigration system…..immigration reform needs to be a reality in our lives before we can begin to talk of true equality for all.”
Castro-Bojorquez said that his whole experience in creating a feature-length documentary has been a big lesson. “I also like to think that my persistence, especially in the film fest circuit, has raised awareness with programmers on the importance of including films that are hard to categorize, such as mine.” He said it was the content of his film that drove the process, and this made editing a challenge. “I made decisions that at the time felt scary, but I went with my gut feelings. It is all now up to the audience.”
“I have no idea what my next filmmaking journey will be,” Castro-Bojorquez continued. “But making and sharing El Canto del Colibri with the world will be forever embedded in my soul a one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.”