Forbidden Love14 Jun, 2013 By: Ashley Ratcliff
Director Aurora Guerrero breaks her silence with semiautobiographical story
It wasn’t until director Aurora Guerrero got into film school in her early 20s that she began to unpack the cathartic experiences that led to her penning her first feature film, Mosquita y Mari.
Though she knew that those moments with a certain female friend were significant, the two never put any words to what their relationship was. When Guerrero’s instructor told her to write something she knew, those feelings she felt in adolescence came to mind.
“I really found myself suddenly breaking a lot of silences and feeling like I was, for the first time, really honoring that experience in my life and beginning to position it correctly in my life,” the writer-director said. “… Society labels it as a best friend space, but there’s a lot of other things that could happen in that space. When I started writing it, I realized that she was my first love. For me, personally, it was important because I was giving voice to something that was important to me. At the same time I was writing it for myself, I felt that a lot of people could understand this journey. That maybe by sharing my story, other people would feel validated and see themselves and their experience represented on screen.”
Mosquita y Mari is currently available on DVD from Wolfe Video. The coming-of-age drama centers on Yolanda, a straight-A student with parents who push her to prepare for her future, and Mari, the rough-around-the-edges bad girl who’s new to the Southeast Los Angeles neighborhood.
When Yolanda begins tutoring Mari, who likens her to a “mosquita,” the two girls embark on a relationship that begins platonically and gradually evolves into something romantic. The intimate feelings are manifested subtly although their chemistry is undeniable.
Guerrero, who said she was more like Mosquita at that time but has become the confident Mari, was intentional about telling the story in this understated manner because it’s true to what she experienced.
“It’s not always so in your face the way it’s portrayed in films,” the San Francisco Bay Area native said. “A lot of it is unspoken. There’s an awkwardness, not knowing how the other person feels. And this is a sort of common experience of not necessarily knowing how to express these new feelings that you’re having. I felt like it rang true to what it’s like to be crushed out. … Those expressions tend to be in the gaze, in the subtext of what is not really being said.
“They might seem small but at that time they’re huge,” Guerrero added. “Those moments can register so much in one’s young heart.”
The tenderest moment in the film comes toward the end when the two girls are cuddling on the couch, and it’s the scene that stands out the most for Guerrero.
“Although they don’t outright say ‘I love you,’ they are in that moment and the touching that proceeds is very intimate, the culmination of everything that they’re building upon,” she said. “It’s a very sweet moment. In my own personal relationship with this woman, we didn’t necessarily get to that point. … That’s what I hoped it would come to and it never did.”
As the story goes, the friend and Guerrero were separated abruptly without a formal goodbye, without any closure. Years later when the two reconnected, the writer-director tried to explain to her friend what their relationship meant to her, but the words wouldn’t come out. She learned that her friend was now married, and Guerrero froze.
“It wasn’t event about telling her about the film,” Guerrero said. “It was about telling her, ‘You were so critical in my life. You taught me so much. You showed me how tender and beautiful love can be.’ I had this whole script prepared. … Then I walked away feeling like I really needed to make this film to voice it.”
To this day, that woman doesn’t know that Mosquita y Mari is a love letter of sorts to her and those significant moments she and Guerrero shared in their youth.
“I don’t think it’s important for her to know,” she said. “It’s through my lens. … I feel like I’m being honest and truthful about what it was for me. And that’s really all that matters.”
While Guerrero is unsure whether she’ll write a sequel to this film, she is busy working on her new project, Los Valientes (The Brave Ones), the story of a gay, undocumented immigrant who leaves San Francisco to live in a small town in Pennsylvania with his sister. Upon arriving, he finds that the community is dealing with anti-immigration legislation.
Just like Guerrero did with Mosquita y Mari — as seen in the film’s making-of featurette — she is engaging the community and mentoring young people who want to work in film. Her goal is to “empower them to be their own storytellers.”
“It was an amazing exchange,” Guerrero said. “. … I learned that’s the kind of filmmaker I am. I have a background in community organizing so it sort of makes sense. I most definitely will be doing that with every film that I create.”