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Pasadena Couple Who Won MacArthur Grants Wants to Create Films That Depict True Experiences of Latinos Living in the U.S.

Published on Monday, October 4, 2021 | 5:00 am
 
Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra

The Pasadena married couple recently named MacArthur Fellows is planning to use award funds to create films depicting the true experiences of Latinos living in the United States.

This week, MacArthur Foundation announced the 25 new MacArthur Fellows, also known as “genius grant” winners who will each receive $625,000 over the course of five years.

Joining the list of winners are Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra, both from Pasadena.

“For 25 years we’ve been trying to make bold, exciting, risky, and true representations of the Latino community. Sadly, that’s something that is really lacking in our culture,” Rivera said.

“We feel this award is something that’s going to allow us to push forward there and hopefully not lift up only our own work, but the work of our generation, our peers and our community,” he said.

Rivera said they will use the opportunity given to them to create films that are politically true, socially grounded and entertaining.

“This is an amount of money that frees us. It allows us to think it allows us to take risks, but ultimately we have to build upon it, to raise money, to build a better cinema — a cinema that our community deserves,” said Rivera.

Rivera’s films focus on issues of migration, globalization and technology with an activist orientation, while most of Ibarra’s works highlight issues of the Hispanic youth.

Echoing the statement of her husband, Ibarra expressed hopes that they will be able to find ways to “update the narratives that are being told about who we are.”

Ibarra is Mexican-American while Rivera is Peruvian-American.

Stories about Latino communities are deeply personal for Ibarra, who also faced oppression while growing up.

“I thought I wanted to be an immigration lawyer or a lawyer to be able to help my family for many potential crises. And through film, I discovered a different way of impacting our lives here in the United States,” Ibarra said.

Ibarra and Rivera have done several works separately and together over the past 25 years. One of the recent films they created is “The Infiltrators,” which focuses on the plight of an undocumented youth who wants to stop deportations.

According to the MacArthur Foundation, the fellowship program “is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.”

The three criteria for the selection of the winners are exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances, and potential for the fellowship to support creative work.

The foundation has awarded over 1,000 grants since 1981.

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