Carmen Oquendo-Villar

2013 – 2014

Ms. Oquendo-Villar receives The Robert Giard Fellowship grant of $7,500 for her documentary film Diana de Santa Fe, to allow her to prepare for the principal photography stage of her project, enabling her to recruit a film crew with experience shooting quality footage in precarious situations such as conflict/war zones.

Ms. Oquendo-Villar’s documentary, Diana de Santa Fe, follows Diana Navarro, a transgender sex worker in Colombia, working in Santa Fe, a barrio close to Bogota’s financial district. Santa Fe was declared a ‘tolerance zone’ in 2002 by the city government where sex work is tolerated.  The film examines Diana’s daily life as a sex worker in a violence-ridden neighborhood of Bogota with its own rules and laws. Instead of just fending for herself, Diana has instead reached out to the other sex workers in need, in effect becoming a leader and caregiver in her community, and abandoning sex work as her primary source of income. The film will follow the process though which Diana transforms her home in Santa Fe into a center for battered and injured sex workers.

On receiving the fellowship Ms. Oquendo-Villar said, “It is a great honor to be selected this year’s Robert Giard Fellow. Like Mr. Giard, who came later in life to photography, my journey to becoming a filmmaker also comes later in my life. Because of this, I feel an urgency to my work and telling stories rarely told—stories I believe Mr. Giard would also feel are extremely important.  I am drawn to dramatize these stories in a humane, yet complex, manner. Over the past 8 years, I have explored race, gender, and sexuality through documentary portraits of the Latino transgender community (Boquita, Mizery, The Needle and Camil). Now, I have embarked on telling the story of an entire neighborhood, Santa Fe, having Diana Navarro, a transgender, Afro-Colombian sex worker and advocate, as its guiding figure. With the support of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Fulbright and Encuentros Cartagena (Festival Internacional de Cartagena de Indias), I have been able to complete the research stage and shoot preliminary footage.”

Carl Sylvestre, President of The Robert Giard Foundation, said “Carmen Oquendo-Villar’s projects are as bold as they are creative.  She allows us to spend time with marginalized individuals whose stories are seldom told.  This latest project promises to result in a daring film, and we are pleased to support its completion with the largest fellowship devoted to art centered on sexuality, gender, and issues of LGBTQ experience.”