Latino Filmmakers DigUp L.A. Queerstory
By Joseph R. Castel
Filmmakers Gregorio Davila and Mario J. Novoa have been working for two years on L.A. A Queer History, a monumentaldocumentary that highlights 100 years of prominent Los Angeles LGBT pioneer activists that helped shape the gay movement. Recently at a ceremony, the film duo was honored by Mayor Eric Garcetti with a Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles.
Adelante sat down with Novoa to discuss the importance of thislandmark film and its 2015 release.
Adelante: Haven’t there been other films that document the gay movement here in LA?
Novoa: There are some documentaries like “Celluloid Closet” that covered a segment of Hollywood/L.A. LGBT history, but our film covers the geography and culture from the perspective of people who had to hide in the shadows to exist. Our narrative focuses on those immigrants/emigrants in Los Angeles, and how they participated in the larger L.A. community.
Some of the film’s participants includeRev. Troy Perry, Joey Terrill and Alexei Romanoff. As activist Nancy Valverde commented, ‘to put your ass on the line, you needed to have huevos.’ These people are my heroes. They have made a difference in my world perspective, my heart and mind.
Adelante: When would you say the L.A. LGBT movement began?
Novoa: On the heels of American World War II celebrations came an awakening of identity for many minorities who had participated in the war and could no longer live in silence and deal with discrimination. LGBT people were also in the midst of that awakening.People like Harry Hay created The Mattachine Society tohelp shed light on the rights of gay men.
Adelante: What prompted you to do this film?
Novoa: I am a storyteller more than an activist, and this is a way that I could affect change. This film is meant to inspire young LGBT people to discover their past.
Adelante: Tell me about your other projects.
Novoa: Gay Latino Los Angeles: Coming of Age was my first documentary released last year. Professionally my focus has been to produce educational documentaries and feature narratives revolving around Latino LGBT people, because we still have a lack of representation in education and entertainment.
The film was well received in festivals all over the globe and continues to be screened for various communities in the country. Young people have written and spoken to us about how this film has helped them with their identity and esteem.
My short play, The Baby Cries has been performed in L.A. and Dublin, Ireland. The comedic story centers on a Gay Latino couple raising their newborn daughter, while mending their own relationships with their parents.
The Baby Cries short film is currently in the festival submission stage and will be going live on YouTube and Vimeo by the end of the year. A feature version is in the works as well as a web series. (http://thebabycries.blogspot.com)
Adelante: Does your family support what you are doing?
Novoa: Yes, they are invested in my career. My parents would have rather I’d chosen medicine, but they love what I do.
Adelante: I know you and Gregorio are a two manproduction team, but are there any advisorsfor the film?
Novoa: Associate Professor Chris Freeman of Gender Studies at the University of Southern California is our advisor and we have many supporters like ONE Archives and activist Roland Palencia.
Adelante: What is your ultimate goal with the film?
Novoa: We’ve already begun sharing part of our film as a short, centered on the Nancy Valverde story called, “Nancy From Eastside Clover.” It was selected this year at QFilms Long Beach and The Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
Ultimately, we’d like it to be aired on PBS or HBO and be part of the LGBT history curriculum in high schools and universities.
Adelante: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Novoa: My hope is that Latino audiences will welcome this film as they would a long lost family member. We have much to understand from one another, and I hope this film creates that dialogue in our families and communities.
Donations for “L.A. A Queer History” can be made on its website atlaaqueerhistory.com. Follow them on Twitter: twitter.com/QueerLa or like them on Facebook:facebook.com/pages/LA-A-Queer-History/169369526573867?ref=hl