Looking at Ourselves (working title)

Born in Chihuahua and raised in Los Angeles, Lourdes Portillo has been making award-winning films about Latin American and Chicano/a experiences and social justice issues for forty years.

Artist Bio

While many have traveled immigration routes, this is a story seldom told. Looking at Ourselves, a hybrid mix of experimental documentary and investigative journalism, is a meditation on being, belonging, and place. The wisdom gleaned from this journey flows into the larger story of people who have traveled the globe since the beginning of human history. As the filmmaker (Lourdes Portillo) and performance artist (Guillermo Gómez-Peña) share stories about our own migrations from Mexico to the U.S., we reflect upon what immigrant artists bring to our adoptive countries and trace how we use art to create from distress a legacy of creativity, resilience, and community.

By drawing upon the oral history traditions of Latin American cultures, the film speaks to our adoptive country’s nearly universal experience as a nation of immigrants and their descendants. Guided by storytelling rituals that pass on knowledge and experience across generations, the film serves as a lyrical recordatorio, a reminder that we were here, a remembrance of who we were, and a reckoning of who we’ve become.

Filmmaker Lourdes Portillo, a woman with short gray hair, glasses, a white shirt and a blue and white scarf around her neck, smiles at the camera outdoors with greenery in the background.

Lourdes Portillo

San Francisco, California

Lourdes Portillo received the Creative Capital Award in 2024. Born in Mexico, and raised in Chihuahua, Mexicali and Los Angeles, Lourdes Portillo has been making award-winning films about Latin American, Mexican, and Chicano/a experiences and social justice issues for forty years. Since her first film, After the Earthquake/Después del Terremoto (1979), she has produced and directed over a dozen works that reveal her signature hybrid style as a visual artist, investigative journalist, and activist. Portillo’s completed films include the Academy Award and Emmy Award nominated Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (1986), La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead (1988), Columbus on Trial (1992), The Devil Never Sleeps (1994), Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena (1999), My McQueen (2004), and Al Más Allá (2008). Her most recent feature-length film, Señorita Extraviada (2001), a documentary about the disappearance and death of young women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, received a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2016 Portillo received the Anonymous Was a Woman Award and grant for her body of work, and in 2017 she was honored with the Career Achievement Award by The International Documentary Association (IDA). In 2019 Portillo curated the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ historic Pacific Standard Time: Latin America to Hollywood: Latino Film Culture in Los Angeles 1967-2017 Oral History Projects, which are oral histories/interviews with notable Latino, Latin American, and Chicano filmmakers. In recent years Portillo continued her exploration of experimental film and format, creating the animated short State of Grace (2020). Portillo’s films continue to be shown internationally and in the U.S. on TV, in cultural and film festivals, in museums, and at educational institutions.