Diana Peralta's 'De Lo Mio' and Other Reasons to Check Out the New York Latino Film Festival
Ahead of presenting her directorial debut De Lo Mio at next week's New York Latino Film Festival, Dominican American filmmaker Diana Peralta talked to People CHICA about why this film is so personal to her. Spending the summers at her grandma's house in the Dominican Republic inspired the New York–born Peralta, 29, to make the movie there last year. “I spent my childhood without power and electricity, finding ways to entertain myself in this house, and started inventing stories and scenes that would happen in the rooms,” she recalls. “I wrote this script inspired by the house, Dominican culture and my relationship with my own sister, because the main characters are two sisters that are really close.”
The film is a tribute to her own family, in a way, although it mixes fiction with autobiographical experiences. “My grandmother passed away in February, a few months before we started filming, and we found out after she passed that the house was going to be sold and bulldozed, so when we had the opportunity to shoot this, the family was really happy that we were able to capture the house on film before it was destroyed. Everyone is excited that we have immortalized it on screen,” she says.
Peralta's sister was a big part of the film. “My little sister is one of the producers, so not only is she the inspiration for one of the characters, but she was there helping me on the film,” she adds.
The filmmaker's late grandmother was a recognized pathologist and scientist, so Peralta grew up around successful women and was fearless in pursuing her own career on film. “There are not enough Latina directors and producers out there, so there is a whole gap of stories that are not being told. Unless we jump in and do the work ourselves, it's not going to happen,” she reflects. “We need to take the lead and push for our stories.”
Being an independent filmmaker has many challenges, she admits. The film's budget was $150,000, according to Peralta, who used some self-funding in the project. “I was working in advertising, so I saved up enough to survive and to push my own work,” she says. “I'm a first-timer, so I didn't have a lot of success with the grant world or studio world, so I decided to get support outside. We raised just enough to get the crew down there and finish the film.”
Every effort was worth the unforgettable anecdotes from the making of De Lo Mio. “One of the craziest, most fun moments was shooting a scene where we had to literally pack pickup trucks with the crew and the equipment and travel for hours into this mountain to get to this really remote waterfall,” she recalls. “It was so beautiful. We shot it just in time before a tropical storm came down, so on our way down to Santiago, we were in the back of a pickup truck driving through a tropical storm and praying to God that we all survived and got through it.”
De Lo Mio is one of the festival's 83 films from more than 10 countries, including Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Dominican Republic and Ecuador. “We are a festival that celebrates the diversity of the culture,” says NYLFF founder Calixto Chinchilla about the festival, which runs from August 12-18. “There is power when we are together in a room, there is power when we are seeing each other's images. At a time when there is a lack of Latino images, now we have the power to control those images. We create these spaces for people to network, for people to build, for people to see themselves. There is power in that.”
For more information, visit https://nylatinofilmfestival.com/2019.