Reeling 29 Part 5:Interview with Hector Ceballos of ‘Remember Me In Red’

Remember Me In Red”  tells the story of Alma Flores, a Latina transgender community activist who commits suicide, and her best friend’s quest to honor her as a woman despite the fact her parents wish to bury the son they last knew.

Remember Me In Red,” is one of six short films that make up Our Gender Identities series that explores relationships and gender boundaries.  The film will be shown on final day of Reeling 29: The Chicago Lesbian and Gay International Film Fest on Saturday, November 13, 2010 at Film Row Cinema at Columbia College 1104 S. Wabash Avenue on 12:00 PM.  Hector Ceballos, 32, the writer and director briefly spoke with us here’s what he had say.

PRIDEINDEX: Where did you find the inspiration for “Remember Me in Red?

CEBALLOS: I spent 4 years in San Francisco coordinating HIV prevention programs for queer Latino immigrants. I had many trans colleagues and clients. About my clients, in particular, I was always in awe of the extreme life circumstances they had overcome in their home countries and in the U.S. Many of them were political asylees. I saw them walk before gawking eyes constantly, and they kept their heads held high. There’s a courage and conviction of self-determination in their experience that to me represents the most extreme form oppression and the miracle of human resilience. I wanted to pay homage to them.

PRIDEINDEX: Tell us about your relationship with the cast of “Remember Me in Red” and describe any outlandish moments or notable obstacles that occurred during its making. 

CEBALLOS: I wanted to cast my film as authentically as possible, and I was prepared to work with untrained actresses in order to do that. I figured that the more familiar they were the story I had written about, the easier it would be to pull out performances. I thought the chance of meeting native, Spanish-speaking, classically trained, trans actresses in Los Angeles was slim to none. And I was right! But I came into some luck. I came across a documentary on Showtime about a transgender beauty pageant called Transtasia, and one of the contestants was a woman named Maria Roman. She was an HIV prevention advocate in the trans community in Los Angeles. She was gorgeous, charismatic, and though very well-spoken, cursed in Spanish like a sailor. I knew instantly that I wanted her, and  that she would be my bridge to the trans Latina community in Los Angeles. And as luck would have it, a colleague of hers, Mariana Marroquín happened to be a classically trained, trans actress, with a degree in Theatre from Guatemala. They came from the world of my film and they were friends. What more could I ask for from my lead actresses? It facilitated the process of developing their characters and added layers and textures I could not have brought to the story myself.

I was very cautious at first, writing out all nudity, watching my language, trying to set an example in front of rest of the cast and crew. I didn’t want to be exploitive, and I wanted the girls to feel safe. But they  were too confident in their own skin, and very generous with their performances. Before I knew it, boobs were flying out of dresses, and María was sending me text messages from inside her coffin on set. The message: “Hi, tranny!” 

PRIDEINDEX: Were you concerned about backlash from the Latino community regarding the film’s subject matter?

CEBALLOS: I was never concerned about a backlash from the Latino community. Quite the opposite. I expected to be received with open arms. After all, Latinos have embraced Pedro Almodovar as one of their own, and he’s Spanish. I’m Mexican, but as it turns out for Latino film fests, I’m no Almodovar. With exception of the Vistas Film Festival in Dallas, not a single Latino Film Festival has accepted “Remember Me In Red.” Rejection doesn’t exactly constitute a backlash, but I do think it points to the prejudice and deeply entrenched conservative values that are still prevalent in many Latino communities.

PRIDEINDEX: I understand that you worked for a CBO/social services organization that serves the transgender community why do you think it’s important to be involved?

CEBALLOS: That for me is a really good philosophical question, but it’s complicated. To put it simply, I think you can’t stand for anything if you don’t live by your beliefs. If you believe in social justice, in gay rights, in marriage equality—and you believe you’re entitled to these rights—you have to contribute. To do that, you have to put your values into practice. You don’t have to join the peace corp or do what I did.  I worked for non-profit organizations that served queer Latino immigrants in San Francisco’s Mission District for four years. You can show affection in public, vote, live green, etc. The trans women I’ve known challenge  oppressive societal norms everyday simply by having the courage to set foot outside everyday. I think as a queer person of color, being who I am is powerful, and supporting campaigns that embrace that empowers other people like me. That’s a step towards progress.

PRIDEINDEX: What reaction or feedback about “Remember Me In Red” have you received from the transgender community?

CEBALLOS: Thus far, the reception from the transgender community has been very positive. I cast trans women to play transgender characters, and that alone sets my film apart. In addition, without spoiling the ending, my protagonist comes out victorious. The first two festivals that screened “Remember Me In Red” were Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival and Frameline34 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival as part of the Transtastic program. We won audience awards at both.

PRIDEINDEX: Tell us about your current or upcoming projects.

CEBALLOS: Since winning in San Francisco, production companies have expressed interst in the feature version of “Remember Me in Red.” I’m still working on the screenplay.

PRIDEINDEX: Any final thoughts?

CEBALLOS: Thank you for thinking of me!

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