IDA Member Spotlight: Miroslava Gonzalez Coronado

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Miroslava is an indigenous Mexican-American mother and storyteller on a journey to claim her indigeneity. Throughout his life, Miros’ insatiable curiosity was nurtured by the wealth of oral culture and traditions handed down by his ancestors. As such, she has always been a storyteller with a desire to share stories that reflect her cultural richness, a point of view integral to the world and our humanity, though often vastly underrepresented.

Miros began her journey as an emerging filmmaker with her first project, The Bears On Pine Ridge (Co-Producer and Executive Producer). This award-winning documentary was honored by Vision Maker Media and is being developed into a one-hour feature film that will air on PBS in the US and Latin America this spring. Miros started as a volunteer in 2020 and quickly became a driving force as the project’s producer. His efforts helped bring this short film project to dozens of festivals and screenings, with the goal of raising awareness about the mental health crisis of Indigenous youth. Miros also helped turn the TBOPR project into a feature film, which is set to air on public television early next year.

IDA: Tell us about yourself. What is your profession (or passion) and why did you choose a career in documentary cinema?

Miroslava González Coronado: I’ve been a storyteller all my life and love passing on oral traditions. As the mother of a curious 11-year-old, at the height of the pandemic, I searched for ways to reconnect our family and my ancestral lands across the country. I longed to become more grounded and it became even more important to document this journey to reclaim our cultural truth and better understand where we came from to better assess where we are going. As COVID cases initially dwindled, a friend I was mobilizing our community with suggested I help out Noel Bass, director of The Bears On Pine Ridge. While I had no formal experience working on films, I jumped straight into problem solving. I helped Noel with our film festival strategy, impact campaign and writing a grant that was selected by Vision Maker Media whose mission is to engage and empower native people to share stories. Documentary cinema has not only become a vehicle to perpetuate the oral traditions I grew up with, but also a means of healing by amplifying the stories of traditionally underrepresented communities. I strongly believe that everyone has an important story to tell and the more stories we share the better we can understand each other and discover that we have more in common than we thought.

IDA: Tell us a bit about the bears of Pine Ridge.

CMG: The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (in South Dakota) has declared three separate states of emergency due to youth suicide rates reaching the highest levels in the nation. The Bears on Pine Ridge amplifies the voices of two respected elders who lead the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s only suicide prevention team, while mentoring a group of teenage suicide survivors to find their voices, encouraging them to bring hope and awareness to the reserve. Many large suicide and mental health awareness organizations do not have access to booking. Data is very difficult to collect in booking communities, especially when internal organizations cannot continue due to lack of funding. In July 2018, the Reclaiming Native Truth (RNT) project was released. This was a two-year, $3.3 million public opinion research and strategy-building initiative by IllumiNative. Its findings, released in July 2018, resulted in comprehensive data and knowledge about the challenges and opportunities Native Americans face in educating Americans and changing public perceptions. The report found that “invisibility is the modern form of prejudice against Native Americans…The majority of Americans know little or nothing about Native Americans…Many Americans don’t know how many Native Americans still exist,” according to the RNT Project (https://rnt.firstnations.org/research/). The study also found that 78% of Americans want to know more about Native American culture. In other words, the public has a lot to learn. Very few are sufficiently aware of reservations issues to be able to engage in human rights efforts.

IDA: How did working on The Bears on Pine Ridge change your trajectory as a producer and filmmaker?

CMG: TBOPR brings unprecedented access to the youth suicide crisis happening in the isolated community of Pine Ridge, a community that most Americans don’t even know exists. SYW will give viewers insight into not just a Native American Mexican tribe that, like many indigenous peoples, forged the founding of the Greater Southwest. During research for both projects, I found that access to contemporary information is sorely lacking. We were often sent to the History section of the library and mostly found secular information when looking for stories from today to explore. Being an integral part of these films has not only shown me why it is essential not only to share the important stories around us, but also to support the female directors of BIPOC who have the ability to present stories from a different angle than we are used. movies through.

IDA: What are you working on at the moment?

CMG: Strong Yaqui Women documents my journey to reclaim my cultural truth, my indigenous Mexican roots. My great-grandmother was Yoemi (Yaqui) from the Sonoran Desert. She was widowed after her husband was killed for his land and she fled to save her four children, one of them being my grandmother who also overcame many obstacles just like my mom who is an immigrant and raised four children as a single mother. As a mother myself, I look forward to sharing with my son and my nieces that we come from a long line of resilient matriarchs who have sacrificed so much to enable us to thrive. This project pays tribute to these extraordinary women, my roots and future generations of changemakers. We hope to create a space where young girls can be inspired as they see themselves through the strong Indigenous women we will feature like: Yaqui Stanford graduate Leannette Galaz, who advocates for affordable housing in Montana; Selina Martinez, a young Yaqui-Xicana architect and professor at Arizona State University, uses high-tech gadgets to create 3D renderings of important Yaqui buildings and structures that lie in ruins. An important part of the documentary was sharing our origins with my cousin Priscila who honors the sacrifices of her immigrant parents and our ancestors by becoming the first president of the Latina Harvard Law Review. We will also seek to shed light on the internalized racism, colorism, anti-black and anti-indigenous sentiments that recent news has elucidated run deep in many indigenous Latinos. The parents involved in the project are from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and my mentor from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe who has more than four decades of championing Indigenous representation in the film industry, Mr. Sonny Skyhawk. Various members and groups within my Yaqui community, including the Southern California Yaquis and the Yaqui Pride Project, have also pledged to participate.

IDA: Any final thoughts you would like to share with our members?

CMG: The 2020 UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report found that the demographics of film writers are 89% white, 5.2% black, 3.0% Asian, 0.7% Latino and directors are 84% white, 5 .5% black, 3.4% Asian, 2.7% Latino. USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Report 2021 reviewed 126 movies and 180 series produced by Netflix in 2018 and 2019, showed vast improvement in gender and racial equality with most minorities except of Latinos, as only 2.6% of all stories had a Latinx lead or co-lead, and similar low numbers behind the camera. Mexican-Americans make up 12% of the US population and nearly 70% of all Latinos in America. Movies and TV have a huge impact on the narrative, perception and reputation of our community – it seems the onus is on documentary makers to share stories that better represent change makers, individuals, families and underrepresented communities – stories told in a way that shows how it is a constitutional part of our nation’s history that aspires to “e pluribus unum”, so that together we can deliberate on our past and our present towards a fairer way forward.

Please check Miroslava’s website here!

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