The latest U.S. census states that 12% of the total American population is Latino (of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American heritage). In the state of Colorado – where filmmaker Laura Wall Mansfield of Little Voice Productions is based – the relative proportion of Latinos is even higher, measuring in at about 17%. For her film Los Luchadores: The Warriors, Mansfield profiles the Hispanic community in Denver, Colorado, that in her opinion is a microcosm of the national scene.
Five Latino teens struggling to beat the odds, with varying degrees of success, form the focus of the one-hour one-off. Joel, who lost both parents when he was eight (his father stabbed his mother 17 times before turning the weapon on himself), dropped out of high school a year before graduating and is about to become a teen father. Yaddie, who became pregnant the summer after finishing high school but had an abortion, is dealing with ostracism from friends and family as a result of her decision. Twenty-year-old Monica recently married her gang-member boyfriend and adopted his two children, in addition to having a child of her own. Felice, who pulled top grades at high school and won a full scholarship to attend university, is thriving in her new environment. Sabrina, who has two kids (the first was born when she was 14), is juggling motherhood and college.
Mansfield explains that the personal stories illustrate the reality behind some of the national stats. Numbers reveal that only 50% of Latino teens have a high school diploma and less than 20% have college degrees, for example.
Little Voice, a non-profit prodco, is funding the US$350,000 project through a variety of partnerships with non-broadcast, non-profit organizations, such as La Academia alternative school and Denver’s West and North high schools. KRMA, PBS’ Rocky Mountain affiliate, is donating all post-production facilities and will air the program after it wraps this fall. Mansfield says she is also seeking wider distribution and will approach HBO and PBS national, among others.
Mansfield stresses that a large part of Little Voice’s mandate is to institute outreach programs tied to the broad themes of its films. For example, the prodco is working with La Academia and Mi Casa (a Denver-based resource center for women) to set up a teen-to-teen pregnancy prevention program. She adds that the girls from the doc are teaching the curriculum.
In addition to Los Luchadores, Little Voice is in production on Haiti: Small Miracles, a project about three children and the non-profit organizations that have helped them survive.