In Portland filmmaker Dawn Jones Redstone’s in-progress film Mother of Color, protagonist Noelia is a single mother trying to balance career ambitions with caring for her children in a society that doesn’t make things easy for working parents. In one scene, as she is faced with an impossible choice of going to an important job interview or making sure her kids are properly looked after, Noelia senses a metaphysical intervention.
“My ancestors have watched, and waited for the right time to make their move,” she says in a short proof-of-concept clip posted to Mother of Color’s Kickstarter page, as different colors flash on screen and the camera goes in and out of focus.
Mother of Color aims to expose the difficulties single working parents—particularly women of color—face in today’s world, and mine the wisdom that could be gleaned from one’s ancestors.
“Because of this moment in time when we are grappling with colonialism and capitalism, we are so connected to the past,” says Jones Redstone, a queer Latinx woman, in a recent interview with the Mercury. “For those of us who are BIPOC or trans or queer and have experienced certain forms of oppression, it’s helpful to think not just about the science-backed concept of inter-generational trauma, which is about the negative things carried over. What about the positives? How can our ancestors help us in this moment?”
Joes Redstone and her production team are currently raising funds on Kickstarter to shoot Mother of Color this summer. While they’ve already passed their initial goal of $35,000, that’s only a fraction of total production costs, and Jones Redstone hopes to raise more funds before the donation window closes on Thursday.
The plot of the film is partially inspired by Jones Redstone’s own interactions with her ancestors: “There have been times that I have sensed or felt something, and I wondered if it was an ancestor or a spirit,” she says. But Mother of Color’s story is also heavily influenced by Ana del Rocío, who plays Noelia. In addition to being an actor, del Rocío is active in Portland’s political world, serving as executive director of local political organization Color PAC. In the film, Noelia dreams of running for office, but, like del Rocío, must navigate those demands while being a single mother.
“She is a natural leader,” Jones Redstone says of del Rocío. “When she speaks, I just want to listen and follow. She’s a single mother of two, who’s really had to juggle this career. This is her life—that’s the inspiration.”
“I haven’t seen a film about that very thing, and I think that speaks to, who are the people who are making films?” Jones Redstone adds. “Mostly white men.”
The film will also feature music by Luz Elena Mendoza, of the band Y La Bamba, whom Jones Redstone reached out to about the project on a whim. She calls herself, del Rocío, and Mendoza a “power trio.”
Watching the proof of concept, it’s hard to pin down Mother of Color’s genre—it’s a dramatic film with political implications, and has mystical aspects. Jones Redstone says that the film could be described as magical realism, and that she’s focused on using film as a medium to depict realities beyond what’s physically happening in a given scene.
“I am particularly interested in the visual and aural experience for the viewer, that goes beyond just what the characters say and the situation they’re in,” she says. “In the proof of concept—what you see with the colors, and the music swells. There are these moments where they’re more about feeling and experiencing, than taking in words.”
While Jones Redstone has won awards for her short films, Mother of Color will be the first feature film she writes and directs. When speaking with the Mercury, Jones Redstone references the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, a study of racial representation in recent popular films, which found that only 3.7 percent of directors of films studied were Latinx—and only a tiny fraction of those Latinx directors were women.
“I am fighting to take the chance to become a feature film writer and director, and use my own voice to talk about our world,” she says. “... I'm done listening to the wrong voices. I'm thinking about the work of my ancestors that have led to this moment, this leap of faith. And I'm ready to step onto my path and take my place.”