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ADELINA ANTHONY IS BRUISING FOR BESOS

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Adelina Anthony as Yoli in Bruising for Besos. Photo by Marissa Becerra.
 Interview by Karla Legaspy

Adelina, you are the writer, director, co producer and starring actor in our film Bruising for Besos. That is a lot of responsibilities. How do you juggle the different hats you have to carry and still have the energy to focus on the creative process of writing or acting?
Bueno, figuring out the hustle of when and how to juggle multiple demands has been part of my queer Xicana artist life for well over 20 years now, especially if you want to preserve a vision or keep the integrity of a project.  The demands never cease, but what I figured out over the years is that the creative part of my life comes first.  Meaning, I give my writing or acting the first hour(s) of my workdays.  I meet the rest of the responsibilities by setting priorities and delegating duties to other team members.

Y honestamente if I want the energy to actually do the work, I make sure to get my seven to eight hours of sleep.  “No” is a powerful word to put into healthy practice.  We tend to feel bad as mujeres or activist oriented artists when we decline offers, but setting good boundaries is a must.  I want to enjoy my life too, not just be working all of the time.   Replenishing my spirit is crucial to the work I do.  And I’ve had some health setbacks or “warnings,” so even I know I have to get better at the practice of rest and balance.  More importantly, I have collaborators that are also wearing multiple hats.  This is the vision of a company, of team players.

As you know I am a great fan of your work, not only your acting, but, your writing fascinates me! I saw the solo play Bruising for Besos and I’ve read the screenplay and they are very different. I love that the corazon and spirit in the play still lives in the film.  What inspired the new elements and characters of the film?
Gente should know you’ve not only been a fan, but, in truth, a supporter in real ways, from my stage manager to my actor and now my co-producer.  You’re also an ideal audience member, so when you say you love my work, I know I’m doing something right, something right for us as Xicanas, muxeres and jotas.  I started adapted the work into a screenplay in 2012 knowing and expecting the new genre to push the story in different directions.  But, most significantly, last October I woke up thinking about changing the script in a major way, because I was starting to realize I had too many stories in the work.

I really owe thanks to my filmmaker friend, Masami Kawai, because we met later on that same day, and she was honest enough to give me the same feedback.  She’s also been a great supporter of my work, so I knew her eye on the script was coming from a place of love.  Plus, she was affirmed that gnawing feeling I was having about the work, so I didn’t resist the note at all. I think when you’re kicking the “theater play” out of the screenplay, you just have to be willing to write new material altogether, preserve the essence of the story, but go somewhere new and deeper.

I knew I wanted to focus the main story on Yoli’s adult life in Los Angeles.  I had already created a role for one of my best friends, D’Lo, but I increased it in size last Fall, because I want to showcase not just my acting talents, but those of other QTPOC and allies of color.  Truth is, I’m inspired daily by my queer/trans people of color communities and how we survive and thrive.  I wanted a film that reflected us in beautiful and complex ways.  As one of my maestras would say: Write what’s missing.  And when I look at feature films: we are missing from the stories.

How does the film Bruising for Besos relate to the xicano or queer experience in Los Angeles?
Pos, our protagonist Yoli Villamontes identifies as a queer Xicana and she’s been living in Los Angeles, making familia with all kinds of queer gente.  But, as we know, there is no one Xicana/o or queer experience.  There is a plethora of stories that can be told from these embodied histories. And our comunidades are hungry for this diversity on storytelling.  Claro, when people see the film, there’s will be no denying that it is a queer Xicana story, it’s steeped in Spanglish también. 
But to be real, Yoli doesn’t represent all queer Xicanas, she’s just one character on a journey many of us will be able to relate to in one way or another, either because we’ve been there or we know someone who has.  Also, one of the tenets Xican@s abide by is the practice of looking back in order to move forward with our lives.  This is very present in the film, both as theme and structure.
What inspired you to create a cast of diverse characters? It’s something very new for me to read a script, watch a movie or even read a book with diversity. We live in L.A, and it’s a diverse city, but we are somewhat still segregated, but in your script I don’t see the segregation.
I guess this script reflects my life in that way, the real diversity I experience with my friends, as do many other queers of color.  In some ways, I think this is another aspect that will make the film relatable to people outside of L.A.  Places like NYC, Chicago, Austin, and Oakland where our queer/ and communities of color mix more readily .  Let’s just be real about L.A. and its intense history of a deliberate segregation that was/is imposed by political forces outside of our communities (read Gaye Theresa Johnson’s brilliant book, Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity).
But when you’re making home and familia as queers, you have the opportunity to make connections with other culturas.  It’s not without its trappings, primarily because we’re so poorly versed in each other’s ethnic histories, but it does allow us to enrich our own experiences and open up to each other in nurturing ways.  This being said our film is primarily Xicana/Latina more than anything else, and one of my goals was to show different kinds of queer Latina characters in relation to each other.

We know one theme in Bruising for Besos is domestic violence. Do you think domestic violence is still a taboo in our communities? How will this film make a difference in how we perceive same sex domestic violence?
Yeah, it’s taboo todavía.  It’s hard for nonqueers mujeres to address it, so imagine jotas who may be dealing with homophobia in their family?  They’re not going to bring up any issues of same-sex domestic violence because they’re already feeling judged.  My hope is that the film breaks silence in both queer and hetero relationships, because it’s a social issue that affects so many of us.  In the end, we queers have been raised within heterosexual families, we’ve been shaped by the traumas experienced by our parents and familias.  I know I had to face that fact in my early twenties.  I never imagined I would tolerate any kind of domestic violence because my mother had been victimized by it. But I know we do this thing as queers where we somehow consider it different because the physical or verbal violence is from the person of the same gender.  But domestic violence has myriad forms and it infects our society.  We have to look at the wounds to find the medicinas we need to heal. That’s my hope with the film, that it will highly entertain as it also brings great awareness to this social issue.

I know you as an artist and know that everything has a meaning. What are some symbols in the film that carry great meaning for you?
Yeah, you know me.  I would say the biggest symbol is our film’s logo which is from a visual art piece I made back in 2005.  It has a pair of female hands holding Coyolxauqui.  For Xicana feminists, this Mexica moon diosa has had significant cultural weight as we identify ourselves with her story as the betrayed daughter in a patriarchal mundo.  So that symbol is crucial, it’s something visual for us to immediately recognize.

It’s not mainstream like the Superman logo per se, but that’s the point, it’s culturally specific.  The pair of hands around the symbol allude to how this one Xicana character takes up the story for herself.  At one point in the film, her lover, Daña, who is Boricua asks her what the symbol means, and Yoli says, “It means I take care of myself.”  And while that may sound empowering, and it is, it’s also a character flaw.  But there are other meanings sprinkled in the story, but they all came about organically.

We know that indie films are hard to make and funding seems to always be an issue. What can our readers do to help AdeRisa Productions bring this film to life?
Grrrl, funding is THE issue.  We are an ultra low budget film, and it’s still a very real challenge to generate the funds, but we haven’t given up because of the people who do believe in it.  Last month at the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive I had a very affirming experience, in particular, with the great feedback and sessions I had with my two advisors.

We just need a fraction of what most films cost to make these days, the more we raise, the better our production values.  Because the talent is there, we just held two weekends of auditions that proved that to us.  I owe big thanks to Alma López for recommending them and introducing me to one of their very supportive programmers, Stephany Campos.  People can search for us on their http://www.hatchfund.org/get_involved/supporters or go to our www.BruisingFor Besos.com website.  We’re making this film in July, “come hell or high-water.”

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Brooklyn & Boyle is a print and online magazine dedicated to Art & Life in Boyle Heights and Beyond. The publication features Brooklyn & Boyle stories from the Greater Eastside LA arts scene, including but not limited to the neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, City Terrace, East LA, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, South Pasadena, Cypress Park, Arroyo Seco, Highland Park, and Eagle Rock, places every bit as creative and cultured as one another while aware and active in support of authentic arts and creative projects which support community integrity and respect for the history and heritage of the many Eastside neighborhoods.

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