Associate Professor Cristina Kotz Cornejo is gaining momentum in producing a feature film that humanizes a sex worker in present-day Mexico City—a region plagued with poverty, corruption, and violence from drug cartels.
“The story is so complex. It’s not black and white,” said Kotz Cornejo, of the Visual and Media Arts Department, whose film, Hermanas De Fe, is a fictional story loosely based on real women she met in Mexico while conducting research.
This month Kotz Cornejo received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship that provides her with funds to continue production of her film. Kotz Cornejo has shot a prequel, which was submitted to the fellowship’s anonymous panel of judges. She continues to actively seek financing for production costs.
As a filmmaker who was raised in both Argentina and the United States, Kotz Cornejo says she is often attracted to Latin American stories.
“I’m always drawn into telling stories of women and giving voice to women,” she said. “When I was reading stories about Mexico in the news, I came across many articles on prostitution. In Mexico City, it’s become legalized and there are so many prostitutes… and they’re looked down upon.”
Hermanas De Fe focuses on Luz (played by Paulina Gaitan), who becomes a prostitute with the encouragement of her boyfriend, Diego (Everardo Arzate), as she and her older, religious sister Lupe (Vanessa Bauche) struggle with finances and eviction.
“Luz is a young woman who takes that route because it’s easy money,” Kotz Cornejo said, “but she also has a lot of resentment with religion and how she sees her sister. She’s on a self destructive path.”
Kotz Cornejo hopes that, once completed, Hermanas De Fe will promote dialogue about the social implications of the sex trade in Latin America.
“The film doesn’t have a ‘Hollywood happy’ ending,” she said. “But it shows that, even though some of the decisions we make in our lives aren’t the right ones, we can change the direction of our lives into a more positive outcome. I want to demonstrate that you’re not destined for a bleak future.”