May 2021 Member Spotlight: Kristal Sotomayor

Kristal Sotomayor (Photo Courtesy of Dan Papa)

Kristal Sotomayor is a bilingual Latinx documentary filmmaker, festival programmer, and freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. Currently, they are in post-production on Expanding Sanctuary, an independent short documentary about the historic end to police surveillance organized by nonprofit Juntos and the Latinx immigrant community in South Philadelphia. Kristal is a MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute Visiting Fellow, If/Then North Shorts Resident, DCTV Docu Work-In-Progress Lab Fellow, Justice For My Sister Sci-Fi Screenwriting Lab Fellow, BAVC Serial Storytellers 2.0 Program, Good Pitch Local: Philadelphia Fellow, and NeXtDoc Fellow. They serve as the Programming Director for the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, Co-Founder/Journalist for ¡Presente! Media, and are on the Editorial Board for the film journal cinéSPEAK. Kristal’s journalistic background includes having written for ITVS, AL DÍA, WHYY, and Documentary Magazine. They also write the Latinx cinema column “Cine alzando voz” for cinéSPEAK.

Where is your work featured/what organizations are you affiliated with? 

My journalistic background includes having written for ITVS, AL DÍA, WHYY, and Documentary Magazine. I write the Latinx cinema column “Cine alzando voz” and serve on the Editorial Board for the film journal cinéSPEAK. I am also a Co-Founder/Journalist of ¡Presente! Media, a collective led by Latinx filmmakers that produce bilingual content focused on social justice. My writing has been supported by the Sundance Institute Press Inclusion Initiative, TIFF Media Inclusion Initiative, the inaugural International Documentary Association (IDA) Magazine Editorial Fellowship, NBC University Visual Storytelling During Breaking News Program, and Lenfest Next Generation Fund. I am a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, CherryPicks Approved Critic, and the TIME’S UP Critical Database.

Where did you go to school? 

I studied Comparative Literature at Bryn Mawr College with a concentration on English and Spanish literature. When I graduated in 2017, my focus was on documentary film because I love both journalism and film.

How many years have you been in journalism? 

I have been working in the journalism and media field for four, almost five years. It all began when I worked as a Programming and Production Intern for POV| American Documentary, the documentary film series on PBS. From there, I worked at Scribe Video Center as the Communications and Outreach Coordinator and, now, I serve as the Programming Director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival. Over the years, my work with community media evolved into a passion for journalism. Last year, I co-founded ¡Presente! Media to provide more diversity in the journalism industry in Philadelphia.

What are you doing now?

Right now, I am working on my first column, “Cine alzando voz” meaning “cinema raising its voice,” for cinéSPEAK. Through thoughtful critique and insightful interviews with Latinx artists, “Cine alzando voz” interrogates important issues in Latinx cinema such as queerness, womanhood, identity, immigration, and more. I am so excited to interview and write about Latinx films and filmmakers that are changing representation on-screen and behind the camera. I also serve on the Editorial Board for cinéSPEAK and am excited to re-envision how we write about films. Check out the new core values. Lastly, I am Co-Founder/Journalist of ¡Presente! Media and we are working to document the important stories affecting communities of color in Philadelphia. We have several stories coming out such as a story about The MOVE Organization interviewing Mike Africa Jr. and a story about the Fulton vs The City of Philadelphia Supreme Court Case.

What pushes you to keep doing the work?

My passion for journalism and documentary stems from my interest in providing more accurate and intersectional portrayals of Latinidad, queer folks, and people of color. Drawing inspiration from my Peruvian heritage, my community-based work practice focuses on Latinidad, immigration, and belonging. I practice transformative journalism and filmmaking that humanizes and validates the lived experiences of underrepresented communities. My approach to journalism and documentary filmmaking is to understand my privilege and to define my relationship with the community. Through my work, I aim to showcase the brilliance, successes, and power of Latinx neighborhoods and communities of color.

You can connect with Kristal on Twitter at @kristalsotomayr or on their website at https://kristalsotomayor.com/.

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