As a first-generation Salvadorian American growing up in East Boston, Maria Servellón tried to distinguish where her Salvadorian and American sides began and ended. She remembers speaking English inside and outside of school; but at home, the only child spoke Spanish, vicariously teaching her parents about American customs.
“Having passions and causes you believe in are the fundamentals of how you form who you are,” said Servellón, who laments the lack of relatable coming-of-age movies for Latinas.
Now, the Emerson College graduate student wants to resolve that trend. Servellón has written Hyphen — an independent film based on her own experiences — for the completion of her MFA degree in Film and Media Art, with aspirations of diversifying Hollywood through the telling of original stories of Latina women.
“I started to research statistics in regards to Latinas in film, and the numbers are abysmal,” Servellón explained. “Five percent of films have Latina protagonists, and they are stereotypical. Only one percent of films are directed by Latinas. I want to change that. We have many stories of being multicultural, and I want their voices to be present in my community.”
Hyphen follows the lives of Mimi, Maia, Mia, and Ria from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. Servellón believes in the importance of developing one’s individual identity, and empowering women to trust their own voices.
“I want to keep it ambiguous,” said the 27-year-old director, producer, and actress. “Are they all different versions of the same character, or are they different people who have the same experiences as they get older?”
Mimi, Maia, Mia, and Ria are imaginative girls who use art, music, and dance to realize their own fears and dreams. In the final portion of the movie, Servellón’s character, Ria, leaves the warmth of her home to embark on an adventure.
“All the characters go through and conquer emotional mountains,” said Servellón. “When you’re in the conditions, landscape, and weather by yourself, you find your most incredible strength.”
The drama raises awareness about mental health issues in lower income and immigrant communities, and touches upon the sacrifices made by parents for their children, interracial relationships, and the stress of being a first-generation college student.
“The film focuses on how tightly knit families are in this community,” said Servellón, an East Boston High School (EBHS) graduate. “Writing the script was personal for me. It involved me recalling memories of feeling lost and confused.”
Servellón will be filming on the streets of East Boston and on the mountains of Iceland, with nearly 50 cast and crew members in the whole production. She is also excited to be teaching EBHS students boom microphone operating, still photography, and production design for the movie.
Servellón has been creating short films for the past seven years; however, Hyphen is her first 20 minute-long presentation that she hopes to make into feature-length in the future. Servellón plans to enter Hyphen into local — and eventually international – Latino and independent film festivals.
“I don’t want to be seen as just a Latina filmmaker. I want to be seen as a filmmaker,” asserts Servellón. “I don’t want categories. My words are not just for Latinos. They’re universal topics.”
Hyphen will be completed in April 2018, and premiere in May 2018 at the Paramount Theatre, in Boston, followed by a special screening for East Boston residents.
Support Maria Servellón’s goal of raising $10,000 to produce the diverse, independent film at www.SeedAndSpark.com/fund/hyphen. Donations provide funds for transportation, hair and makeup, equipment, festival fees, permits, and wardrobe. Although the campaign ends on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, contributions can be made anytime by visiting www.HyphenMovie.com.