Innovation comes in many forms. Meet the creative minds inspiring others through art.

Venezuelan-born filmmaker Emiliana Ammirata firmly believes in the power of storytelling. Through her work, she hopes to inspire change and shine a light on the crisis in her native country. Her most recent project Frontera is a personal project that tells the story of the Venezuelan diaspora through her own eyes as a migrant now living here in the US.

Tell me a little about your background. How did you get into filmmaking?

I think my earliest perception of being impacted through film was by watching nature documentaries. The contrast of seeing such magnificence in the world against my small space in Caracas really opened my eyes to the vastness of the world. Through that I developed a keen sense of exploration. I wanted to protect what I was looking at, but wasn’t sure how to do it. I just knew that the feeling the screen was emanating on me was powerful and that I wanted to recreate that emotion in others. My father always carried a DV cam around and made sure to film the majority of our childhood, so I think that this idea of “documenting” life was instilled in me from a young age.

I got my first camera when I was 11 and started getting into photography and videos for my school, so I was that creative kid in class that was always making videos and looking at experimental stuff on Vimeo. I never really expected that being a filmmaker could become a career. It just wasn’t an option where I grew up. It was when I started looking into college overseas that I realized I could actually study the medium. That became the beginning of a very big learning curve.

What is the one main message that you hope to share through your work?

I hope to provoke thoughts and inspire change in the personal lives of viewers. Whether that’s a perception, judgement, or a deep-rooted belief, I hope to be a part of that catalyst through my work.

Your most recent work focuses on the crisis in Venezuela. I know this is personal work for you.

There’s definitely a sense of urgency in every project that I work on. I think having grown up in the political circumstances that I did somewhat forced me into seeing film with a very sharp and objective eye. I’m producing two feature films and a virtual reality experience at the moment that are centered around the diaspora. Being away from home inspires me to bring a part of home to me here, and I fulfill that responsibility through film. 

Tell us how your own experiences have shaped your work.

A good amount of my work focuses on empowering Latinas through the re-claiming of their bodies. Having been raised in a conservative family, I was personally affected by this matter. I think most women have been, and still are, fighting against that own self criticism. So film has allowed me to heal a lot of that baggage while exposing it.

Corina Vela in La Casa Quebrada (The Broken House) directed by Emiliana Ammirata
Corina Vela in La Casa Quebrada (The Broken House)
Have you experienced any barriers that you’ve had to overcome in making these films?

I’ve had to put a lot of myself into the scripts that I’ve written and continue to write. I sincerely believe that cinema should be vulnerable at its core, and if the author is hiding, then it is not genuine.

Are there barriers specific to being a woman? And, what about barriers as a migrant?
Mariana Jacazio and Corina Vela and  in La Casa Quebrada (The Broken House) directed by Emiliana Ammirata
Mariana Jacazio (left) and Corina Vela (center) in La Casa Quebrada (The Broken House)

Absolutely. There are many funding opportunities that I don’t qualify for due to my citizenship and lack of governmental support. Because Venezuela is such a small country, I’m often competing against other Latin American films, which in general don’t have the biggest space in film festivals. So the competition is really tough and the chances to screen are even slimmer. As for being a woman in this industry, it’s no secret that we’re usually not taken as seriously as the male filmmakers. Men are trusted to blow millions of dollars on their first films, while well-established women can barely get their second features off the ground. While things are changing, it is still not enough. I hope that as the industry evolves, more women, especially women of color, can have decision-making roles within their companies, and consequently, lift up the rest of us in the creative field.

How do you go about finding the subjects for your films?

Filmmaking is challenging, so it’s even harder to endure years of work with a subject that you don’t believe in. I usually follow my gut upon meeting people or hearing a story. If I find something that feels like it should be explored and has the potential to make an impact, then I’ll likely find a way to get involved.

Celina Biurrun in Carmensita written and directed by Emiliana Ammirata
Celina Biurrun in Carmensita written and directed by Emiliana Ammirata
Tell us about your hopes and dreams as a filmmaker.

I hope to bring light to my country through the work that I do while lifting other creatives in the process. There is so much talent that has left Venezuela, and it’s very unfortunate to see all of the creative success happen outside of our home. They’ve all left for the same reasons that I did, and most of them would give anything to come back under a stable economy. Overall, bringing more attention and financial support to the cinema that is emerging from Latin America is one of my long-term objectives. I long to be able to return so that I can be a part of that bridge.

Emiliana Ammirata Links:

This article originally published on GREY Journal.