Carmen Oquendo-Villar, an MFA student at the Kanbar Institute for Film and Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, was selected to receive the 2013-2014 Robert Giard Fellowship in support of her groundbreaking student documentary chronicling the life of a transgender sex worker in Colombia.
The Fellowship is given annually by the Robert Giard Foundation, in partnership with The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) of the City University of New York. Oquendo-Villar, who will be going into her third year of the MFA program this fall, received the honor at the Foundation’s annual benefit on May 22, 2013, hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner.
The Robert Giard Fellowship was established in memory of the renown photographer Robert Giard and supports an emerging, early- or mid-career artist working in photography, photo-based media, video, or moving image, and undertaking a directed project that addresses issues of sexuality, gender, or LGBTQ identity. As this year’s fellow, Oquendo-Villar receives a grant of $7,500 to allow her to prepare for the principal photography stage of her project, enabling her to recruit a film crew with experience shooting quality footage in precarious situations such as conflict/war zones.
With the support of the grant, Oquendo-Villar intends to expand the documentary, Diana de Santa Fe, into a narrative feature film during her 3rd year at NYU. Like the current short, the film will tell the story of Diana Navarro, a transgender sex worker in Colombia. It will also tell the story of the neighborhood in which she is working in Santa Fe, a barrio close to Bogota’s financial district and formerly a wealthy, Jewish neighborhood that has recently transformed itself into Bogota’s “tolerance zone.” Oquendo-Villar’s documentary examines Diana’s daily life as she reaches out to the other sex workers in need, in effect becoming a leader and caregiver in her community, abandoning sex work as her primary source of income. The subsequent feature will follow the process though which Diana transforms her home in Santa Fe into a center for battered and injured sex workers.
For more information about the Robert Giard Foundation and Fellowship, visit http://robertgiardfoundation.org.