Lourdes Portillo

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Lourdes Portillo receiving an award in Spain in 2015.

Lourdes Portillo (born 1944) is a Mexican American screenwriter and filmmaker. While the majority of her work is in the documentary film genre, she has also created video installations and written for the stage. Her films have been much studied and analyzed, particularly by scholars in the field of Chicano studies.[1]

She is a member of the production team of Xochitl Productions, which seeks to "inform the general population through varied endeavors that challenge dominant narratives."[2]


Portillo was born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles, California. She was first exposed to documentary filmmaking while working for a company that made educational films in Los Angeles.[3] She became an apprentice with the National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians in San Francisco, and graduated with an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1985. Thereafter she began her career as a producer and director.


Portillo's films tend to focus on Latin America and the Latin American experience in the United States. Her film debut, the 1979 Después del Terremoto, focuses on the experience of a Nicaraguan refugee of the 1972 Managua earthquake in San Francisco. It was followed by Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a 1986 co-production with the Argentine director Susana Blaustein Muñoz which documented the actions of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of Argentine women who gather weekly at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires to remember their children that were murdered or "disappeared" by the military regime. Las Madres received an Academy Award nomination in 1987 for Best Documentary.[4]

Other films have centered on Day of the Dead celebrations, Selena, the Female homicides in Ciudad Juárez, and AIDS.

She has also collaborated with the Chicano comedy troupe Culture Clash on two productions: Columbus on Trial and Culture Clash: Mission Magic Mystery Tour. She has also collaborated with the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

Portillo's work is influenced by radical cinema. Portillo and many artists of radical cinema focus on the combination of art and politics. These artists approach politics in art, but don't want art to suffer for its inclusion—they strive for a balance of the political and the artistic in their expression.[5]


Portillo's films have won numerous awards, mostly from regional film festivals.[6] Selected awards are listed below.[7]

CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts, 1999 Anonymous Was a Woman, 2016

Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena (1999) Golden Spire, San Francisco International Film Festival, 1999, San Francisco, CA

Devil Never Sleeps (1994)

  • Best Five Documentaries of the Year, Independent Documentary Association, 1996, Hollywood, CA
  • Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival, 1995, San Francisco, CA
  • Best Documentary, San Antonio CineFestival, 1995, San Antonio, TX
  • Best Documentary, Mostra International de Filmes de Dones, 1995, Barcelona, Spain
  • New Directors / New Films, The Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1995, New York City

Mirrors of the Heart (1993)

  • Silver Hugo, Chicago Film Festival, 1994, Chicago, IL
  • Silver Apple, National Educational Film and Video Festival, 1994, Berkeley, CA

Columbus on Trial (1992)

  • Best Video, second place, Visual Artist Third Annual film and Video Festival, 1993, San Jose, CA
  • Honorable Mention in Native American Studies, American Film and Video Association, Illinois
  • The 1993 Whitney Museum Biennial, New York, New York

Vida (1989)

  • Cine Golden Eagle, 1990
  • Special Mention, San Antonio CineFestival, 1990, San Antonio, TX

La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead (1988)

  • Blue Ribbon, American Film and Video Festival, 1990
  • Outstanding Cinematic Achievement, Best of Category, Documentary Film, National Latino Film and Video Festival, 1991, New York NY
  • Best Feature Documentary, Athens Film Festival, 1989, Athens, OH

Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1986)

  • Emmy Nomination, New and Documentary, 1986, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
  • Academy Award Nomination, Best Documentary, 1986, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  • Special Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival, 1986, Park City, UT
  • Gran Prix Ex-Aquo, Certamen Internacional de Cine Documental y Corto Metrage, 1986, Bilbao, Spain
  • Coral Prize, Feature Documentary, Festival Internacional de Cine Latinoamericano, Havana, Cuba
  • Blue Ribbon, American Film and Video Festival, New York, NY
  • Second Place for Documentary, Sydney Film Festival, Sydney, Australia
  • Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival, San Francisco, CA



  1. ^ "Latino Film Index". Lourdes Portillo website. n.d. Archived from the original on June 27, 2007. Retrieved August 6, 2007.
  2. ^ "Xochitl Productions". Lourdes Portillo website. n.d. Archived from the original on June 27, 2007. Retrieved August 6, 2007.
  3. ^ Salas, Fred (October 29, 1998). "Interview with Lourdes Portillo". Lourdes Portillo website. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved August 6, 2007.
  4. ^ Fregoso, Rosa Linder (2001). Lourdes Portillo: The Devil Never Sleeps. University of Texas Press. p. 1.
  5. ^ Portillo, Lourdes (2001). Chicano Matters: Lourdes Portillo: The Devil Never Sleeps and Other Films. University of Texas Press. p. 9 – via Proquest ebrary.
  6. ^ "About Lourdes - Awards". The films and videos of Lourdes Portillo. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  7. ^ Fregoso, Rosa Linda. The Devil Never Sleeps. University of Texas. pp. 297–299. |access-date= requires |url= (help)

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