Nfld. & Labrador

Recent Grenfell grad brings love in another language to Nickel festival

Santiago Guzmán's short film is part of the opening-night collection for the Nickel Independent Film Festival, which runs June 17-23.

Santiago Guzmán's short film Te Quiero is one of the festival's opening-night shorts

Santiago Guzmán's short film Te Quiero is part of Nickel's opening night collection of short films. (Maggie Gillis/CBC)

Santiago Guzmán's short film Te Quiero, an opening-night selection for the Nickel Independent Film Festival, looks at a young man's struggle to express his feelings in Spanish to an English-speaking paramour.

"In Spanish there are other words to express 'I love you," said Guzmán, who is originally from Mexico. Some sentiments of care and appreciation are harder to express in English, he said.

The five-minute film, presented at Nickel by CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, received funding from Telus and the Nickel New Voices program as a story about the artist's relationship to the province. The funding is meant to support short films by emerging filmmakers with diverse backgrounds. 

"The whole purpose was to give a platform to artists like me to tell a story," he said.

The community is growing and we're having a lot of people coming from all over the world to enrich this beautiful province.- Santiago Guzman

Guzmán moved to the province four years ago to pursue a bachelor of fine arts in theatre at Memorial University's Grenfell Campus. He just graduated, and he hopes to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador and continue working here in the arts.

"I've fallen in love with this province. I love it here," he said — but that love, and the welcome he says some in the arts community have given him, hasn't come without complications.

'I could produce my own work'

It can be difficult to go to auditions when a lot of the work being made doesn't seem to include people like him, he said

"I haven't seen a lot of encouragement or attempts from the same arts community to include diverse perspectives in their storytelling," said Guzmán.

"That is the main reason why I want to stay here, to be part of that change and just remind people that the community is growing and we're having a lot of people coming from all over the world to enrich this beautiful province."

Getting the funding from Telus, and being included in Nickel, showed him that he can take some of that into his own hands, Guzmán said — that in addition to the acting he's been trained to do, he can write a screenplay and co-produce a film, as he did for Te Quiero with Ruth Lawrence.

"I saw that I could produce my own work so I didn't have to depend on other companies and other projects to come up with a job for me," he said. 

He's continuing that strategy with two upcoming projects. First, Guzmán is working with Prajwala Dixit and White Rooster Theatre on adaptations of Indian stories in a local context for an outdoor children's show in St. John's in July.

And in September he's presenting his first work as a playwright for the St. John's Shorts Festival.

So for anyone who has questioned whether he belongs in the province's arts community, Guzmán had one response during his speech at the festival's 2019 launch event: "All I have to say is, Te Quiero premieres this June 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the LSPU Hall."

The Nickel Independent Film Festival runs June 17-23.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Maggie Gillis