By Katie Chambers
Let’s welcome new NYWIFT member, Julie Neira Campoverde! Campoverde is an award-winning Ecuadorian filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. She won the BAFTA NY 2021 DLT Entertainment Scholarship with her short horror script for El Chuzalongo as well as an honorable mention for the Nyman Family Project Award in her 2nd MFA year at City College. El Chuzalongo, her Ecuadorian debut, won Best Editing at the CCNY Cityvisions Film Festival. On October 12, 2022 NYWIFT screened El Chuzalongo at its Creative Showcase at the SOHO International Film Festival.
Campoverde uses the horror genre as a platform to create awareness of worldwide issues like the obsession with social media (The Crossroads), dating apps (Saturday Night), and toxic masculinity rooted in Latinx and Hispanic culture (El Chuzalongo).
Campoverde talked with us about her activism, her Ecuadorian roots, and how sci-fi and horror films can help us tackle real-world issues.
Tell us about yourself – give us your elevator pitch!
I am an Ecuadorian horror filmmaker living in Brooklyn, New York. I also work as a freelance sound recordist and have recently completed my MFA at City College where I premiered my thesis horror film, El Chuzalongo. I aspire to create films that delve into my country’s rich culture and focus on underrepresented Ecuadorian experiences, that usually consists of women, the lower class, and indigenous communities.
Congrats on your award-winning script El Chuzalongo! We’d love to hear more about it, and how is the project influenced by your Ecuadorian roots.
The Chuzalongo is just one of the many folkloric legends my beautiful country has. Although it is a mythical story about a monster that preys on young girls, it reflects how society view young women as fragile objects, meant to be kept hidden from the world and not as independent beings, as to preserve their innocence. As a woman having grown up in that society, I went through everything my protagonist Ofelia went through, minus the involvement of an actual monster.
I love my country and my culture, that is why I decided to film in the forests of Loja and work with a talented Ecuadorian cast and crew. They give me so much hope for the future of film in Ecuador because we managed to do so much with so little resources.
But I also recognize that there are some things that must change regarding the way young girls are raised to obey, never question, and always respect authority otherwise you risk your safety and/or social status.
Art is also a big part of our culture, and it should be treated as such, given priority when it comes to funding and education.
Much of your work has an activist element, especially speaking to injustices against women and girls. Why did you choose filmmaking as your pathway for inspiring change?
Humans are visual creatures. We act off what media tells us is okay or not okay. For many generations we don’t question what we learn from our elders until it is too late, thus the cycle of abuse will forever continue. But having a medium like film, shows us domestic violence or sexual violence isn’t and shouldn’t be considered normal and it is not okay for it to be common. We can create a generation of young women and men that respect each other, thus inflicting respect onto later generations. Sometimes for us to reflect on who we are as a society, we must see the damage we’ve done and the repercussions if we don’t change. Film is just one of the many ways we can use art as a platform to show where we are, culturally.
What do you hope audiences will take away from your work?
It is important for audiences to realize the grave issue of violence against women, regardless of age, not only in our community but also in other parts of the world where it is more severe and receives less media attention. A horror film about a mythical monster that preys on young girls might seem silly to some but it continues to serve as a warning to young girls in Ecuador of what you will face as you begin to grow and navigate your way through this world.
You’ve now done several sci-fi and horror projects. Who are some other creatives that inspire you?
Jordan Peele and James Wan. Jordan Peele does a wonderful job of incorporating personal experiences/issues into his work and makes it easy for audiences to relate to. James Wan takes everyday life and makes it terrifying using normal people in abnormal situations. Reality can be scary, but I always feel less alone if I see others go through the same thing.
What is your dream job – where do you hope to be in 10 years?
I love teaching. Children are unafraid to make mistakes and to start over and that is why it is important to influence them at an early age. I dream of opening a school dedicated to the arts in my own town, Azogues, Ecuador in order to help kids (indigenous and otherwise) express their creativity and to show that there is a future in the arts whether it is film or music, writing or design etc. I believe inspiration derives from education and vice versa and I do want to be a part of the change that will come to my community in later years.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? And the worst?
In my country we have a saying for when things get tough and that is “pisa duro.” Which directly translates to “stomp hard” and it is basically saying that one must firmly plant their feet on the ground and not let anything knock you over. I don’t believe I have ever received bad advice. Even if I didn’t take it, I believe that in some way, it helped me.
And what is next for you?
I plan to continue to work in production sound as I hone my skills in post-production sound while I work on my next horror short that will become a feature. My goal is to gather as much experience as possible in order to pass on this knowledge someday to future creators.