Exploring identity with filmmaker Mariales Diaz
New Voices in Film: Mariales Diaz
Illustration by Natasha Cunningham.
Meet Mariales Diaz, a bold, passionate filmmaker of documentaries and scripted narratives that explore the intersectionality’s of identity, relationships, and the conceptualization of the “American Dream”. Diaz is a graduate of the SUNY Purchase Film Conservatory, a Fall 2019 Creative Culture Valentine and Clark Emerging Artist Fellow at the Jacob Burns Film Center, as well as a 2019 NeXtDoc Fellow.
Their film, “Undone” takes us on a journey with Amelia, played by Diaz, a high school student who has to navigate the dynamics of home and school after a DIY gender-bending haircut.
Adobe had the privilege of getting some of their time to talk about life, filmmaking and the importance of telling one’s story.
Could you tell us about your background?
I am a Dominican immigrant, I moved to the States when I was 8 years old and have lived in Brooklyn, New York ever since. I come from low-income working-class parents whom I represent very proudly and am so thankful for. I identify as a queer, gender expansive trans person.
How did you get started in film?
I was introduced to film by a summer program named Summer Arts Institute in New York City. I had very little knowledge of filmmaking before going through this program, but I was very interested in telling stories through writing and photography. I would go to the New York Public library on 42nd street after school and just look through their random collection of photos — trying to find some meaning for life, really — I was a very existential teenager. That summer camp opened up a lot of possibilities for me that I never thought could be attainable and opened a world of possibilities for how I could tell stories.
What inspires you and your creativity?
The people in my life inspire me- my family and friends the way they speak to one another, the things they do to and for each other. How complex our relationships to ourselves and each other are.
How do you seek inspiration?
Living and experiencing as much as I can, deepening my relationships, being open to mistakes and failure and open to learning. I get a lot of inspiration from talking to people and that’s really what I am always craving and seeking.
Do you have any advice for emerging filmmakers?
My advice for emerging filmmakers is that there isn’t a room, an opportunity, an award that is unattainable to them. Believe in yourself always, don’t ever allow anyone to make you doubt your power and/or worth. Probably the most indispensable thing is to find your people. Find people that really understand you, that you can relate to and connect to because those are the people that will continue to motivate you and believe that your stories deserve to be told. Attend things with these friends, go to local film events, or anything online, speak to people, grow your social capital, it’s so important to keep showing up because the people that matter will notice and will find you a seat at the table.
Do you have a creative routine?
Usually, I have to take a nice long shower, clean my work area, put on some music I can easily tune out but that makes me feel good, close my eyes and imagine a scene, a color, a setting, or a line of dialogue I can cling onto and create a world from.
Why is sharing your voice important?
I consider sharing my voice oral history, it’s the same to me as when my parents, aunties, grandparents told me stories from times before me, except I decided to put a camera in front of it. Once you leave your home country and your family you lose out on that oral learning, which is a great loss because it’s the only way to keep your people alive. Many parts of coming into your queerness, especially as a brown or Black person is uncovering the oral history from our own and their personal archive. So much of our explorations of ourselves and our identities have to be done in secrecy for our own safety, and all we have is each other to guide us through every day. The less I speak the more I am erased and forgotten from the conversation so there is really no choice, as a person that has a ton of privilege and am in a position to speak, it is almost a duty.