Work & Life Q&A: Jazmin Garcia

Promonews - 13th July 2021

Over the past few years Jazmin Garcia's work in short documentary and music video has explored themes of immigration and cultural assimilation, using family histories and her own experience as a first generation Mexican-Guatemalan-American to weave intimate stories of trauma, magic, amor, and the perseverance of hope.

Jazmin, 35, was born in Los Angeles, moved to other towns in California during her school years, and says "[as] the proud daughter of immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala... home also lies in my roots." She studied History of Art and Visual Culture at UC Santa Cruz, and then travelled widely, at different times living in New York, Rome and Berlin. Before the pandemic she was dividing her time between LA and Mexico City - and plans to do so again in future.

Jazmin signed to the directors roster at Somesuch in 2020, and is now represented by the production company in both the US and UK for music video and commercial work. As she reveals she also has an interesting side hustle too - hosting a radio show of vintage Latin American music on NTS. And she shares some of that wonderful music here too...

WORK:

How long have you held your current position? What were you doing before this?
I’ve been supporting myself via directing short documentaries, music videos, and commercial projects for the last five years. Before that I was a full time caregiver for my father for almost two years. Before that, I waitressed at various establishments to get by.

What was your first job, or first significant break in the industry?
I think a significant break for me was directing the Cuco music video for Hydrocodone. I had been doing short doc work revolving around Latino youth subcultures and social justice issues relevant to the diverse first & second generation perspective for a few years. It was through this work that I met Cuco and his manager who threw a party advocating for and raising funds for undocumented families.

This connection naturally led to the opportunity to collaborate on a dream music video in Mexico City, where Cuco’s family is from.

Love and obsession for music videos was instilled in me since an early age.

Name one music video that inspired you that get involved in making music videos? 
Naming just one video is muy dificil! I grew up watching music videos after school everyday on MTV, so the love and obsession for them was instilled in me since an early age. My all-time favourite videos are  Jodeci's Cry 4 U, Sade's No Ordinary Love, and Janet Jackson's Got 'Til It's Gone...

But I think a definitive video that spoke to me on a deeper level and inspired me to keep pursuing the passion for storytelling through music was the Flying Lotus video that Khalil Joseph directed, Until The Quiet Comes. His ability to use imagery in such a poetic way to show the range of joy and melancholy, confronting harsh realities of death has always been an inspiration. 

What are your favourite music video-related jobs of the past year or so, and why?
Akua - Offering. This video was a spontaneous production. One of my best friends, the lovely singer Akua, wanted to visit me in Mexico City. After speaking on the phone about filming some simple IG content for her album, instead we hustled in 5 days to produce and shoot a video that really became a cathartic experience in honoring our fathers and our grief over their deaths in the recent years. Regardless of the low budget, the intention and love we put into that was priceless and it became a symbolic offering for our Pops.

I put a lot of myself into my work, so I feel extremely connected to these videos. 

And Cuco's Hydrocodone was one of those jobs that was so fun and fulfilling to witness my imagination manifested in striking visuals with the help and collaboration of so many talented folks. I put a lot of myself into my work, so I feel extremely connected to these videos. They usually speak to trauma I am trying to process, and for this one I was also moved to speak to Cuco’s recent experiences confronting death after an extreme tour bus accident he had.

What are your favourite other jobs of the past year or so?
My fave job of last year was shooting a project about hugs, in October 2020. I was lucky enough to shoot a commercial project [for Zalando] in Mexico City in collaboration with Vincent Haycock and three other talented directors from around the globe (Maceo Frost, Dafe Oboro, and Tuan Andrew Nguyen) that envisioned the act of hugging in multifaceted ways.

I really needed a hug back then, and I was able to make visuals that fulfilled that desire in a sense. Plus anytime shooting in Mexico City is always inspiring. Here's the official ad.

And here's my own Directors Cut from the project...

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently developing a couple of short films that speak to the first gen perspective and honor immigrant stories. One revolves around LA workers’ trucks, the Latino immigrant community that drives them, and their iconic contributions not only to the infrastructure of a complex city, but also Los Angeles' visual and cultural identity.

Another is a coming of age story of a pregnant teen navigating a new city and her search for independence and strength as a single mother in 1970s Mexico City.  

My advice.... use filmmaking as a language from the soul.      

What kind of work would you like to be doing in future? 
I would like to be directing feature narrative films where I can tap into all my obsessions with history, music, and family stories.

I would also like to be running a bed and breakfast somewhere on a flower farm with my mother.

What advice would you give someone entering your field?
I would give the advice of not letting fear be a hindering force. That's easier said than done, but try to harness your fears to willfully guide you into the unknown. On a more practical level I would insist that young people interested in this field pick up a camera, borrow one, ask for favors, and just shoot things regardless of the kind of budget you have. You have to start somewhere and making work is the best way to learn and find your voice.

My other advice is corny but real: to make things from the heart as much as you can. I would worry much less about impressing others; don't be motivated by the number of followers or views you have, but just try to say, or express something that is important to you. Use filmmaking as a language from the soul.

Dancing is one of my favourite things - in the kitchen between washing dishes...

LIFE:

Tell us something that we don’t know about you…
I have a radio show on NTS called Como La Flor, where I curate the most melancholic, romantic, and cinematic music hailing from Latin America, mostly 1940s-1970s.

When you’re not working, what do you like to spend time doing?
I love spending time in nature as much as I can, away from noise, phones, people, the internet. Dancing is one of my favorite things - in the kitchen between washing dishes, in the living room between emails, in the shower between shampoo and conditioner... It always uplifts my mood.

I also love reading, watching movies, riding my bike, and digging for new tunes for my monthly radio show.

Where did you go on your last holiday (or vacation)?
I spent some time on the big Island of Hawaii with my friend Symrin. We spent most of our time hiking and picnicking, exploring and learning about volcanic energy and trying to get on geological time.

We played Big 2, a card game, on petrified volcanic lakes, drove through peaceful landscapes sometimes just listening to the wind, but often blasting the Betty Blue soundtrack on repeat. Swimming with fishes, and eating papaya with lime juice every morning was also memorable.

My heart really craves being in Mexico with my Mom who I haven’t seen in over a year!

And where would you love to visit?
So many places. Japan, Brazil, Bolivia, the Atacama Desert, to name a few. But lately my heart really craves being in Mexico with my Mom who I haven’t seen in over a year!

What are your favourite currently-running TV shows?
Hmm, I’m not the biggest TV show person. If I’m going to watch something it’s usually a movie, or I’ll binge watch music videos on Youtube. But I do love science/nature docs. The last one I saw that was mind expanding was Night On Earth that uses new camera technology to capture nocturnal animal life.

I feel like Instagram is TV now (although have an on and off relationship with the app). So my favorite IGTV channel lately is this library from Mexico City, where this girl reads excerpts from their archival book collection in Spanish. I like to think of it as intellectual ASMR.

Today I listened to her read a short story from the 1960s, where the author describes an absurd apocalyptic environment after a fictional atomic bombing in Mexico City. This one on the poet Pita Amor was also lovely. Here is a rough Google translation of a poem she wrote that brings up constant volcanic themes in my life:

Who on the volcano knows torture?
Only me who, overturning my bitterness,
I am the human symbol of the volcano.
In impetuous ardor my eagerness flies
and my lava spreads over the earth;
He burns the mountains, he wanders through the fields,
approaches the sea, petrifying rivers,
and they do not achieve their tragic detours
uproot the roots of the volcano.
On the contrary, inside are
eternally renewing flames,
that twist like burning branches,
multiplying the immense labyrinth,
without finding a large enough place,
where the fire, overturned and contained,
I was numb for a moment.
Who on the volcano knows torture?
Only I who am him and his bitterness.

What’s the best movie (or movies) you’ve seen recently?
I just rewatched one of my favorite movies, Danzón (1991), by Mexican director Maria Novaro. It’s about a woman who is searching for her missing Danzón partner (Cuban dance popular in Mexico). This search leads her on a journey from Mexico City to Veracruz where instead of finding Carmelo, she finds herself. The cinematography is bursting with colors and life in Mexico, and the soundtrack is right up my alley.

I have also loved rewatching Fellini films like 8 ½ and Nights of Cabiria. Ohhh and I'm obsessed with Steve McQueen's Lover’s Rock. I have only been able to fantasize about making a movie that revolves around slow dancing to good music. Best newest film I’ve seen.

What are your favourite music videos by other people in the past year? 
I absolutely love Nguzu Nguzu’ latest work Just a Touch. So sexy and wish this was a late 80s/early90s erotic thriller film I could stream, a’la Wild Orchid. Living for the final scene of this video. I’m into fabulous embraces.

Speaking of fabulous embraces, I really loved the simplicity and delicacy of the last Bad Bunny X Rosalia video, especially the fire VFX on their hands and bodies when they touch.

Also the last music video that made me cry, which is always a sign of its power, was Vincent Haycock’s vid for Leonard Cohen. I remember telling Vince that I had watched it the day after having a dream about my late Pop, one in which I knew I was dreaming, and only had enough time to tell him I loved him. Gorgeous video.

Favourite music artist(s) in the past year?
Basically everything on my radio show is my favorite music: Ralfi PaganLos Zafiros, Lucho Gatica, Javier Solis [it's beautiful stuff! - ed]... and Sade, The Internet, Kelela, Akua, Erykah Badu

Right now on constant repeat are these albums: WizKid - Made in Lagos; Kali Uchis - Sin Miedo; Cleo Sol - Rose in The Dark; and an unreleased RnB album by an artist named Flores.

Best book you’ve read, and/or best exhibition you’ve seen recently? 
Just saw an incredible exhibit at Deitch Gallery. Shattered Glass group exhibition, which features work by folks I admire very much like Rafa Esparza, Alfonso Gonazelez jr, Dee Alvarado and many more. I had the pleasure of visiting some of them in their studio a couple months back as they were working on their respective pieces. I got to photograph them, their work in progress, and have a much needed catch up after such a sad pandemic year. So seeing the final iterations of their work up and in their full glory was inspiring.

I cannot name a favorite book, but during the pandemic books that kept me inspired and motivated were Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Pablo Costa’s Caderno for Casa De Lava, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents, so many more...

In my work I try to advocate for the basic humanity of people... relegated to the shadows in American society.

Favourite food and/or favourite restaurant(s)?
I cook a lot at home, tacos everything. I'm always looking for new elaborate, spontaneous tacos to make, especially veggie ones.

What’s your favourite political or charitable cause, and why?
I find it strange to call any political or charitable cause a favorite, as we live in a pretty miserable world with extreme economic inequality, environmental disaster, and rampant white supremacy. However, in my work I often try to advocate for the basic humanity of people who are often relegated to the shadows in American society.

I have often focused on issues around immigration in my video work, and have been interested in providing historical context to the corrupt systems that affect communities of color, e.g. this docu-series I had the opportunity to make a few years back investigating the legalization of cannabis in CA through an economic justice perspective. Taking a pretty intersectional approach we cover everything from the war on drugs, to mass incarceration, undocumented labor in the cannabis industry, and women’s roles in advocating for equity in an now legal industry that white men overwhelmingly lead and profit from. 

In my creative endeavors I have felt a strong desire and responsibility to extend any platforms I have access to, to others who want or need their voices heard.

As an extreme empath I cannot make one particular issue or cause a favorite but I would like to live in a society without wars, where ICE is abolished, mass incarceration is ended, police is defunded, the unhoused population supported, where women and the lbgtq community have control of their bodies, with a universal basic income, where we have a reciprocal and respectful relationship with nature, and a place where black and brown folks have equal access to live a flourishing life...just to name a few.

It would also be cool to see Alexandra Ocasia Cortez as President in my lifetime.

Best recent purchase (send photo, if poss)?
This book, a photographic archive of the 1940s Mexican American community in Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles. Beautiful b&w photographs of families that were later displaced and uprooted to build the Dodgers Stadium.​

Work & Life - balance/ imbalance out of five (1 for imbalance; 5 for balance)?
2   :/

• Jazmin Garcia is represented by Somesuch in the UK and US. See her work here              

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    Promonews - 13th July 2021

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