September 11, 1973, “El Once” (the 11th), is a branding I was born with. For most Chileans, especially those exiled by the regime of Augusto Pinochet, that date is a painful divider, the end of many dreams and the beginning of something terrible. Yet, it is also, in many ways, the reason I exist. So you might imagine how eerie it felt that Tuesday morning in 2001, sitting in my college dorm room in L.A. watching the towers burn. Exactly 28 years earlier, another Tuesday, airplanes flew over the Chilean capital, bombing the national palace as military men speaking English announced president Salvador Allende was dead. The US government’s involvement in overthrowing Allende is now openly documented, yet most people in the US do not know this history. Sharing the collective memory of two 9-11s motivated me to write American Babylon.
This script reflects my immigrant experience and a cultural mix that defies labels and genres. I spent my childhood amid revolutionary movements of the 1980s with my parents in South America and arrived in Oakland, California, as a teenager. I’ve lived in the US since I was 15, and somehow I still feel like an outsider. I’m the son of dreamers, with one foot here and one foot there. My mother left her native New England in her early 20s and didn’t return to live in the US for decades. My father is from Chile. He was exiled after the military coup and came to San Francisco as a refugee. Like the main characters in the script, they come from very different places, geographically and culturally, and found love in their differences.
For the story and for me, Oakland is our geographic home, a city where Black and Brown culture flourish and struggle, and all these flavors get stirred together. I draw inspiration from Oakland’s powerful history of social movements, the Black Panther Party, international solidarity, and strong influence on Hip Hop culture.
American Babylon addresses how major historic trauma shapes our lives and how people attempt to reshape reality and effect social change. It voices a point of view, especially regarding “The American Dream”, that has been silenced and remains clandestine. My theory is that before you get audiences to care about issues, they have to care about the people. The characters. The story. Therefore, I am passionate about creating films that highlight the margins, challenge audiences to question, and most importantly, inspire and activate people’s radical imagination.