Idea: Alx Through The Labyrinth will launch an oral history archive of COVID-19 intergenerational stories.
Primary artistic medium: media arts
Kristal Sotomayor (they/she) is a bilingual Latinx documentary filmmaker, festival programmer, awards manager, and journalist based in Philadelphia. Drawing inspiration from their Peruvian heritage, Kristal’s community-based work practice focuses on Latinidad, immigration, and belonging. They practice transformative filmmaking that humanizes and validates the lived experiences of underrepresented communities.
Currently, Kristal is in production on EXPANDING SANCTUARY, an independent short documentary about the historic end to police surveillance organized by nonprofit Juntos and the Latinx immigrant community in South Philadelphia. The documentary began through the Film Scholars Fellowship with Scribe Video Center, co-sponsored by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. They are also in development on an animated short docu-fiction film called ALX THROUGH THE LABYRINTH that take a dive into the nonbinary Latinx Alice In Wonderland-like reality of contracting COVID-19; from the symptoms of vertigo to sensory loss and the labyrinth of seeking treatment. Kristal’s work has been supported by the If/Then North Shorts Residency, MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute Visiting Fellowship, DCTV Docu Work-In-Progress Lab, Justice For My Sister Sci-Fi TV Screenwriting Lab, BAVC Serial Storytellers Lab, Good Pitch Local: Philadelphia Lab, and NeXtDoc Fellowship. They are an organizer for The Video Consortium: Philadelphia and a member of the filmmaking collectives SIFT Media 215 and Brown Girls Doc Mafia.
They serve as the Programming Director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival (PHLAFF) and the Awards Competition Manager for the IDA Documentary Awards, the world’s most prestigious event dedicated to the documentary genre. Kristal is also a Seasonal Programmer for San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM) and was a Curator/Juror for the 2021 Tri-Co Film Festival. Formerly, they were the Communications and Outreach Coordinator at Scribe Video Center. In the past, they have assisted with curation for the “Spotlight on Documentaries” at IFP Week, Camden International Film Festival, Philadelphia Film Festival and the award-winning PBS documentary series POV | American Documentary. They have received leadership training from the Film Festival Alliance & Full Spectrum Features Film Festival Leadership Lab Fellowship, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) Advocacy Leadership Institute and the Arts + Business Council [Virtual] Creative Exchange Program.
Kristal’s journalistic background includes having written for ITVS, AL DÍA, WHYY, Autostraddle, Modern Brown Girl and Documentary Magazine. They write the Latinx cinema column “Cine alzando voz” and serve on the Editorial Collective for the film journal cinéSPEAK. They are also a Co-Founder/Journalist of ¡Presente! Media, a collective led by Latinx filmmakers that produce bilingual content focused on social justice. Kristal’s writing has been supported by the Sundance Institute Press Inclusion Initiative, TIFF Media Inclusion Initiative, IDA Magazine Editorial Fellowship, NBC University Visual Storytelling During Breaking News Program, and Lenfest Constellation News Leadership Initiative. Kristal is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, CherryPicks Approved Critic, and the TIME’S UP Critical Database.
Our idea for the ARTisPHL grant is to work with partner Juntos to launch a digital oral history archive of intergenerational community stories about COVID-19. The video interviews will live on the project website. We will engage students in the Juntos Youth Program with hands-on film production experience through the oral history project.
The idea will be led by nonbinary, Latinx multidisciplinary artists Daniel de Jesús, Gabe Loredo, and Kristal Sotomayor. The oral history archive will build on the on-going project Alx Through The Labyrinth, a docu-animation film about the experiences of Latinx and LGBTQIA+ communities during COVID-19. The film is in-development and will take a dive into the magical realism of COVID-19, based on the real-life experiences of the artists and incorporate stories from the Latinx community.
We aim to archive the untold pandemic stories from Latinx neighborhoods, amplify the need for increased COVID resources in communities of color, and disrupt the monolithic portrayals of Latinidad by popular media. We will amplify the issues faced by your collaborating organization through gathering powerful stories that can change minds toward a more equitable distribution of resources during these uncertain times.
Two of the main goals of this archive are cultural preservation and racial justice through an archive of important and often untold Latinx community oral stories relating to the pandemic. This goal directly connects with local organizing efforts to amplify underrepresented stories and highlight important issues impacting the community such as access barriers due to limited language skills, unreliable transportation, job insecurity, housing insecurity, and racism.
There have been few bilingual visual stories about the pandemic that reflect the Latinx experience told in an artistic and cinematic way. Oftentimes, stories about Latinx communities, even before the pandemic, sensationalize the trauma of their identity. We aim to work with Juntos because of our shared missions: to fight for our human rights as workers, parents, youth, and immigrants. We want to work with Juntos because of their unique connection to the community and history of COVID-19 community organizing and food banking to inform that the storytelling accurately represents the community. Through this project, we aim to bring an alternative viewpoint to the stories of the pandemic to utilize art for social change.
In the long-term, we aim for this archive to inform the needs of the community. Through Alx Through The Labyrinth, we will not only use the actual video interviews within the film and to inform the overall story, the archive will also impact our distribution goals and the educational materials we provide for school teachers, community organizations, and healthcare access rights activists. The overall goal with this project is to provide an insight into the diverse impact of the pandemic on Latinx communities to learn and adapt existing policies to support the community.