Chasing dreams is often thought of as magical — at least on the surface. But it’s an experience with ups and downs that differs from person to person.
Take the story of filmmaker Mariana Gomez, for example.
When the dream she had cultivated since she was seven years old became a reality, she had to make the difficult decision to leave her parents and her little brother, who is autistic, behind in Mexico.
“It was really hard for me to leave them behind,” Gomez tells BELatina.
“But I wanted to pursue my dream and do what I wanted to do — that was filmmaking and acting. So I came [to the United States]. I feel like I came with a dream, and that’s what is keeping me here.”
Thanks to that decision, she is now a two-time Emmy award-winning filmmaker for both her films, Saving the Caretakers and I Wish I Could Breathe Underwater — all at the mere age of 23.
Saving the Caretakers is about the Gómez-Ruíz family who was already struggling with a son with autism and a toxic relationship with a daughter who had been diagnosed with a mental condition. On top of it all, they had to maneuver a new challenger: COVID-19, which is when they realized that their strength was based on them working together.
I Wish I Could Breathe Underwater revolves around a romantic relationship that recently ended and the emotional turmoil the act of love can be. From showcasing the relationship’s toxicity to the raw portrayal of heartbreak, Mariana Gomez includes it all.
A lifelong dream
It all started in Europe when she saw a clown trying to entertain the people who passed him by in the streets. Sadly, not many were paying attention. So, Gomez decided to do something about it.
“I started dancing, acting, and doing my own little act when I was just seven. In the end, the clown was so happy with me that he gave me five euros. And, at the time, I was so excited that I had five euros because of that.”
“That was the day, and the moment I realized I wanted to entertain people and do stuff to make them [people] happy or make them feel something.”
Her passion to continue working towards what she set her mind is fueled by her autistic brother.
“He has always inspired me to be better — to just be a better person and do my best.”
“I love him so much. I miss him so much.”
Reaping success early on
Mariana Gomez won her awards as she was graduating from The Savannah College of Art and Design. Her mother was in town to help her with graduation when she received the news.
“So, when we heard the news, I was just so excited, and she was like: I ‘knew it.’”
But the young filmmaker believes that the awards are more than a statue; it’s about what they represent.
“The fact that someone could relate to my stories could hear what I wanted to say about these groups of people that are not really heard that often was really important for me.”
Obstacles and lessons learned
The path to getting recognized was short of sweet, though. Aside from the longing of her family, Mariana Gomez also faced other challenges. After immersing herself in the film industry, she quickly realized that it is still very much a man’s world.
“But being a Latina in the industry and being able to be heard is an honor because I know how hard this is to be a woman in the industry.”
“I have struggled being a Latina in the industry and being told I was never going to make it. People would tell me that because I’m a woman, I was going to end up in the makeup alley.”
Being a woman or a Latina in what is often considered a man’s industry can be disheartening. Unfortunately, some of these men take advantage of their power, and it isn’t spoken about — but Gomez wants to make sure she shares the realities she, along with many others in the film industry, are trying to change.
“I remember one time I was sort of kicked out because of the way I looked as an actress. At the moment, I didn’t know it was because of the way I looked. So, the only thing that I could do at that point was to just keep it to myself and be professional because, at the end of the day, it is an industry based on connections.”
Even then, she understands that she and her peers must be careful when speaking about these situations.
“You just have to be careful what you say. Unfortunately, some men in power can completely destroy your career.”
“So, it is very tricky to be honest with what happens.”
Though slow, the change is happening. Mariana Gomez is making sure she is part of it and is grateful for other people breaking apart some of the gruesome realities associated with the film industry.
“We have amazing people out there helping us and fighting against the negativity women are exposed to in the industry.”
“I’m here to change that, too, and hopefully bring something new to the new generations.”
She hopes the world catches up soon, but it’s hard considering how she’s seen things unravel.
“I think it really has to do with the fact that the world is not ready yet. The US is not ready yet for women in powerful positions over the spectrum, not only film, but we are pushing through.”
This is why these awards are so significant. They are a sign of the change that is to come.
Shifting the narrative, one story at a time
Gomez believes that letting her work speak for itself is one of the best ways to show everyone in the industry the strength of women and Latina filmmakers.
“Speaking my mind through a way that promotes representation matters; those are one of the things that could help other people.”
“It’s not only me fighting for something that has happened to me, but me fighting for something that has happened to a lot of people.”
The Emmy-award-winning Mexican creative is already working on her next project.
She is currently developing a web series named Cinco de Mayo is Not a Thing. This comedic series is about a Mexican girl who is 16 and a woman who goes on a mission to prove that, you guessed it, Cinco de Mayo is not a thing. She also touches upon the particular nuances of juggling her Latina identity while learning the ways of American culture, which is a shock, to say the least. She wrote the show, is the showrunner and plays the main girl, Liliana, as well.
She hopes that she can inspire other emerging, young Latinx filmmakers. There is so much to learn about the industry, but she leaves everyone interested in this world with some words of advice.
“Believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid to pour your heart out.”
“Don’t be afraid to show people what you’re capable of, what you love, what your passion is, and where your heart is. Not everybody’s going to love your work, but it just takes one person to like it, and that person should be you.”