LRFF Programmer Levi Agee Interviews Benavides Born's Amy Wendel
Few films come along with such a defined and nuanced character like
Luz Garcia in Amy Wendel’s film Benavides Born. The film centers on a
young Mexican-American female on the women’s powerlifting team. If
that isn’t enough to get you into the theater, I don’t know what is.
Amy wasn’t able to make the trip to Little Rock for the screening but
co-writer and producer Daniel Meisel will be in attendance at the
screening. Amy was also able to answer some questions about the film.
How did the idea for the film come about?
My husband, Dan Meisel (co-writer and producer), and I saw a 60
Minutes segment about a small South Texas town, called San Diego, that
had lost two of its youths in the first months of the war in Iraq. We
were intrigued by the description of this town’s population as not
only 98% Mexican-American, but also typically fourth or fifth
generation American. We wondered what this community’s version of
America might be like, and what options their children might have
beyond the military – which dominated their school job fairs. I went
down to San Diego and nearby Benavides without any preconceived
notions of what I might find. I sought out people to interview –
teachers, reporters, students, longtime residents, soldiers, and
clergy. The first student I interviewed was on the women’s
powerlifting team. I said, “The what team?” I was hooked. Every
interview thereafter was like another door opening on a new world. My
husband and I eventually crafted a story that incorporated the
information and issues we found most compelling in these interviews.
This story is so unique and character driven, was the main
character, Luz, based on anyone you know? What do you think about the
lack of films without strong female lead characters like the one in
your film? Luz is not based on anyone I know. She’s a composite of our
interviews with students we had while researching, our own
recollections of teenage life, and our notions of how a young woman
copes with the world when her margin of error is so small.
I hope we begin to see more complex, nuanced and real roles for women
in film. I think audiences are starved for this–men and women, young
What do you look forward to when coming to film festivals?
Dan has the pleasure of being at LRFF now! I wish I could’ve made it
as well. The best part is engaging in a community of filmmakers and
audience goers who are committed to independent film. Festivals are a
unique forum where frank and unaffected conversations occur, where
we’re taken to places we’ve not been taken before, and where we’re
witness to a collective passion these films spark.
Why should people see your film?
It’s a world that many of us have never seen before; it’s a character
we can identify with; it has unexpected turns; and it’s thematically
about something we all get passionate about — following your dreams.