At the intersection of Latinx and transgender issues lies Vamonos, an independent film that tells the story of Hope, a gay Latina who learns that her recently deceased “butch” girlfriend, Mac, is going to be buried in a dress. Hope desperately tries to persuade Mac’s mother to reconsider this decision, but realizes she’s fighting old traditional and conservative views, and she can’t do it alone. Hope decides to take the matter into her own hands with a little help from her friends. The question is: Will she have the courage to follow through and honor her dead lover’s identity?
“This is a film about visibility,” explains Marvin Bryan Lemus, who directed the film. “Ultimately, it’s about finding the strength and courage to always fight for your identity in the face of discrimination—and not just for yourself, but for the loved ones around you.”
With the current political and social climates of discrimination, bigotry, and hypocrisy making daily headlines, this message is an especially important one.
“This story brings light to a situation that unfortunately happens far too often and is rarely talked about,” says Victoria Ortiz, who played Mac throughout the film. Like Mac, Ortiz describes herself as “a masculine presenting Latina” with “very similar backgrounds regarding a traditional religious family,” noting that her parents are an exception to the rule. “To be honest, I’ve never asked myself what I would want to wear once I die,” Ortiz says. “I’ve also never had any of my close queer friends pass away and had to deal with this. I’m sure that like me, there are plenty of people out there who need to hear and watch this now.”
For Lemus, the mission was clear: “As a Latino, I wanted Latinxs to walk away feeling like they had finally seen an accurate portrayal of a three dimensional Latinx on screen.” Lemus initially drew much inspiration from his sister and mother. “I’m a straight cis male and I recognized that these two queer Latinas in my life were not accurately represented in film. I also wanted to tell a story that would help me get closer to understanding my privileges and hopefully create something that would let them know that I see them and I love them.”
Vamonos has currently screened at Outfest, the Palm Spring Short Film Festival, the Iris Prize Festival, and the San Diego Latino Film Festival, and has won awards such as Best Short Award (Frameline Festival), SemiFinalist (NBCUniversal Short Film Festival), and Best Screenplay (Long Beach QFilm Festival).
While the film focuses on dark issues of death and mortality, the mood is inherently empowering and uplifting. “We didn’t want to make a film that merely shows audiences an issue and fills you with guilt and leaves you feeling powerless to take action,” Lemus explains. ‘We wanted to tell a story of empowerment and showcase a hero who reclaims her voice.”