Laura Varela is a documentary filmmaker whose work is shaped by her roots growing up on the US/Mexico border in El Paso, TX. Her work crosses cultural, linguistic and physical borders through the use of film, social practice and contemporary art installations. She now resides in San Antonio, TX where she works as a filmmaker and artist. Varelafilm recently merged with Xica Media, a mission driven creative agency and digital networks, that sit at the forefront of social justice, healing, and art.
Varela’s documentary, As Long as I Remember:American Veteranos was broadcast on PBS from 2010 to 2016 via American Public Television. She is currently producing and directing the documentary, raul salinas: The Poetry of Liberation for PBS. She is Producer and web developer for the documentary short Emma Tenayuca and the 1938 San Antonio Pecan Shellers Strike.
She is a recipient of awards from The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, Humanities Texas, Latino Public Broadcasting’s Public Media Content Fund, ITVS Diversity Development Fund and Best Director Award from the San Antonio Film Festival. In 2016 she co-founded the Texas based non-profit organization Growing Empowered Together, whose mission is to amplify young leaders and artists voices and encourage voter and civic participation. Varela has written and consulted on various film and organizational grants and has been a reader/panelist for the Texas Commission on the Arts, Latino Public Broadcasting’s Public Media Fund, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Fund for the Arts, and the City of Austin’s Cultural Arts Funding.
Her work as a media artist has been exhibited at the San Antonio Museum of Art, Blue Star Contemporary Arts Center and the UTSA downtown art gallery public art projects that include spaces like the Alamo, San Fernando Cathedral and San Pedro Springs in San Antonio. Her installation Enlight-Tents, was created as a site specific public art installation at the Alamo w German Artist Vaago Weiland for Luminaria Arts Night 2009.
Varela lectures and screens her work around the country at various cultural centers and Universities and in recent years has taught courses on documentary film at the University of Texas San Antonio. She is alumni of the CPB/PBS Producers academy, the NALAC Leadership Institute, the NALIP Producers Academy, and Creative Capital Professional Development Workshop. Artist Residencies include Swarthmore College, Art for Change in NYC, and the Hochschule Niederrhein and Faust Academy in Germany. Varela is currently a Producer for VoxFem whose mission is to unearth women artist and changemakers from every occupied territory. Varela produces the VoxFem XicanIndia Video/Podcast with Dr. Annette D’Armata and Dr. Lilia Rosas and produces documentary shorts for VoxFem on artists and changemakers in our Xicanx/Latinx/Indigenous communities.
As a filmmaker and artist my work is shaped by the influences and awareness of growing up on the U.S./Mexico border. My work embodies the lived experience of cultural, linguistic and physical borders through the use of documentary film, social practice, multi-media and contemporary art installations; challenging iconography and discourse of popular culture. I identify as a Xicanx artist whose work is in service to her community; uncovering stories that were hidden. My goal is to decolonize our stories and give myself, my community and the general population a deeper understanding of Xicanx/Tejano/Indigenous history and culture.
My goal with everything I create is to connect it to a larger movement for social change and liberation within our communities. Through subject matter and my insider lens I feel that my work subverts the mainstream narrative. My projects provide a glimpse of those whose roots have been part of the Americas for hundreds if not thousands of years; nevertheless, our stories have been omitted from mainstream literature, films, and television. It is a digital resistance, of sorts, where I get to re-write our histories back into the “books” and psyche of those willing to bear witness. These medicine stories allow us to heal, recover, and remember.
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