Executive Director / Filmmaker / California LGBT Arts Alliance
Cultural Artists Spotlight: November 27 – December 10, 2019
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
I am an award-winning documentary filmmaker and LGBTQ community activist
based in Los Angeles, California. My filmmaking and work on the boards of Los Angeles arts organizations and political and community groups is focused particularly on the overlapping Transgender, Latino/a, and gender-non-conforming sub-tribes within the community.
My documentary “Transvisible” Bamby Salcedo’s Story (2013) focused on the personal and professional life of an extraordinary Los Angeles transgender activist and leader. It premiered at Outfest LA and toured around the country. Most recently, I directed “Raising Zoey” (2016), the story of 13-year-old transgender girl, Zoey Luna, and her highly supportive Latina working-class single mother, Ofelia. The documentary demonstrates the crucial impact that instinctive, and unwavering parental love can have for trans children. “Raising Zoey” has been shown to acclaim in film festivals, at universities and in community groups world-wide, as well as in targeted, under-served communities in California. In 2018, I became the Executive Director of the California LGBT Arts Alliance.
How did you first become interested in art?
I found my personal calling to document the lives of LGBTQ individuals during a trip back to my native Peru, resulting in the 2007 award-winning film “En El Fuego” (In the Fire) (2007) – (Outfest LA Audience Award). Updating the successes of this Peruvian group of trans activists 5 years later resulted in the film “El Fuego Dentro” (The Fire Inside) (2012).
As an artist who makes his living from my filmmaking, I first see/envision the importance of individuals and their stories of courage and conviction. I then begin to create them, often before any organizational structure or financial assurance is in place, but with a trust that their inherent importance to the community will allow them to come into being. This was exactly how I come upon the Barba Luna Family and their remarkable story. Ofelia’s fight reminded me of my own mother, also a single immigrant mom who brought me to the U.S., so I could have a better life than in my native land, Peru. This film is a love letter to all instinctively loving parents who raise their non-conforming children. Zoey and I, although generations apart, share a kinship of being the recipients of such love and parental devotion.
How can art enrich a community, and what are some ways people can become engaged with art in Burbank?
The art and artists that the California LGBT Arts Alliance nurtures, promotes, and presents are queer, POC (person of color), Latinx, transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, disabled, filmmakers, visual artists, poets, writers, and multi-disciplinary. We are interested in having intersectional dialogues through artworks and writing around these identities. These are integral to our practice. The Alliance’s artistic vision is rooted in our under-served community’s need to see our lives and experiences authentically expressed in professional quality art programs. Our compelling and culturally diverse arts programs explore social justice issues such as racism, Queer immigration, sexual and gender identity, Transgender Civil rights, homophobia, AIDS/HIV, women’s health, censorship, Queer foster youth, Queer veterans’ issues such as PTSD and sexual assault.
As a gay man, I take my “ally-ship” with the trans community seriously and respectfully through consistent grassroots work for trans organizations. It is not an overstatement to say that those I meet and work within the LGBTQ communities and beyond become my friends, extended family members and colleagues…and continue to remain so over time.
If you could share with our community one thing about art, what would it be?
My joy in simply connecting with others on the level of a shared humanity goes beyond categories and labels. I look towards sharing many more films and community contributions to come!
To find out more about Dante’s work, visit www.aidsdivaconnie.com, www.calgbtartsalliance.com
or follow him on Instagram @dalencastre