NYWIFT Talks: Latinx Representation in Film & TV

Welcome to NYWIFT Talks, a weekly series to bring updated news and vital information about the impact of COVID-19 and current events on the media and entertainment industry. Industry professionals will be in conversation discussing what you need to know about theatrical releases, digital advances, virtual tools, festival opportunities, production updates and more. 

NYWIFT Talks are free for all to attend.

On this week’s NYWIFT Talks, we speak with educators in film/television to discuss the representation in film. What is lacking, what is misrepresentation, and what work still needs to be done in order for the voices of the Latinx community to be appropriately amplified.

Speakers will include Frances Negron (Columbia University Professor and Filmmaker), Mercedes Ilarraza (Actress), Ben Lopez (ED, National Association of Latino Independent Producers- NALIP), Maria Corina Ramirez (Filmmaker), and Jesus Hernandez (Latin Reel). Moderated by NYWIFT Board Member, Zenaida Mendez.

Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Time: 4PM ET
Cost: Free



Frances Negrón-Muntaner is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and scholar. She is the recipient of Ford, Truman, Scripps Howard, Rockefeller, and Pew fellowships as well as a Social Science Research Council and Andy Warhol Foundation grants. She is the author of Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture, and the editor of several books. Among Negrón-Muntaner’s films are AIDS in the Barrio, Brincando el charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican, and War for Guam. She is currently completing various films, including on Valor y Cambio  and writing an intellectual biography on Arthur Schomburg. Negrón-Muntaner is also a founding board member and past chair of NALIP, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, and the founding curator of the Latino Arts and Activist archive at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript. She has received various recognitions, including the United Nations’ Rapid Response Media Mechanism designation as a global expert in the areas of mass media and Latin/o American studies (2008); the Lenfest Award, one of Columbia University’s most prestigious recognitions for excellence in teaching and scholarship (2012), an inaugural OZY Educator Award (2017), the Latin American Studies Association’s Frank Bonilla Public Intellectual Award (2019), the Premio Borimix from the Society for Educational Arts in New York (2019), and the Bigs & Littles Impact Award (2020) for her work as a mentor, artist, and scholar. She also served as the director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race from 2009-2016.

Mercedes Ilarraza is a Dominican-born actor, writer, and director, and podcast host. Mercedes has written and directed several short plays and films, most of which have socially conscious themes. Her play, Pelo Malo touches on self-hated beliefs and embracing the journey of “natural hair”. Her recent play, Waiting Room, touches on gentrification and its effects on the people who were living there before. She made her TV acting debut on The Village on NBC. Her Podcast, “Rocio and Mercedes” celebrates Blackness from a place of love and celebration.



As Executive Director, Ben Lopez is responsible for the overall design, strategic vision, and execution of all domestic and global endeavors for the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, NALIP. Ben’s portfolio includes the NALIP Media Summit, Latino Media Fest, Latino Media Market, Diverse Women in Media Initiative, #LatinxGoldOpen, and the Latino Lens Incubator Series. Ben serves as a year-round industry liaison and curator of executives and content creators, working with key industry professionals who can accelerate their careers forward and match them with opportunities around the world. Ben’s passion for data-driven initiatives, roots in content creation, and inclusive storytelling led to contributions to industry reports and his role as the Executive Producer of the Latino Lens Incubator brand. Over the last six years, Ben’s role has expanded to SPLATAM content expert, curator of US-based Latinx and LatAm talent, and consultant to major Hollywood studios, networks, and production companies as well as the partnership with Goldhouse and the launch of the #LatinxGoldOpen movement, to amplify Latino-centric projects for financial success on opening weekend. An advocate and champion of #Diversity, #Inclusion, and #Belonging, Ben has been quoted on domestic and global publications and outlets, such as Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, NYT, and Slate France. In addition, Ben has delivered keynotes and participated in speaking engagements in the world’s leading festivals and markets including Cannes Lions, Telluride, Outfest, New Filmmakers from Spain, DocsDF, DGCine in the Dominican Republic, SANFIC Co-Prod Market in Chile, MIP Cancún, Sundance, TIFF, SXSW, Tribeca, FICG & Morelia, and European Film Market in Berlin.

Venezuelan-born, Miami-raised actress Maria Corina Ramirez earned her B.F.A. in Acting from New World School of the Arts. Her debut feature Bridges premiered to sold out audiences and much acclaim at the 38th Miami Film Festival, 20th Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and the 25th Urbanworld Film Festival in NYC. Prior, she starred in and co-wrote Pearl Street Films and Complex Network’s series, Grown, an HBO’s Project Greenlight winning digital series. She has starred in two NBC-Telemundo TV series, two Cine Latino films, and over a dozen national campaigns and commercials. Her solo theatre piece, Supa’Nova, won an artist residency at Miami Theatre Center and a producer’s scholarship for the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival in L.A. Her work is dedicated to amplifying and humanizing the female and Latinx experiences.

Jesus Hernandez graduated from Film Directing at the University of Arts in Havana, Cuba. He started his career as a director at Cuba’s ICAIC and worked at Muestra Joven and the Havana Film Festival. During his career, he has worked with directors like Fernando Perez, Fatih Akin, Paddy Breathnach, and Eugene Jarecki. He is living in New York City since November 2014 when he moved to coordinate Documentary Fortnight at MoMA, and worked after at the 2015 Nantucket Film Festival. He worked at Charlotte Street Films in close collaboration with film director Eugene Jarecki since 2016. He is Associate Producer and Production Manager of The King, which premiered in 2017 Cannes Film Festival and had its US Premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Since 2019 founded Latin Reel, a social impact initiative focused on addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion through film.

Zenaida Mendez (Moderator) is Director of Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center. Zenaida has an intensive career in public service, community activism, television production, and filmmaking. As a social justice activist she is an avid voice for tolerance, has many years of experience working as an advocate for women’s, & LGBTQI+ rights, as well as economic, racial and environmental justice. She first became involved in public access television as a member of Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) board of directors and as an independent television program producer. In 2006, she became MNN’s Director of External Affairs and as such was responsible for leading a successful outcome of the cable television re-franchising process. In 2015, Mendez became Director of MNN’s newest television studio in East Harlem/El Barrio, in New York City and is responsible for strategic and operational management of the Media Center. She also develops dynamic event-based programming initiatives, including developing partnerships with local nonprofits and community groups. Mendez earned a BA in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Masters degree in Public Administration from the City University of New York, Graduate School of Public Affairs.

October 13 @ 4:00pm
4:00 pm — 5:00 pm (1h)

Free Virtual Q and A



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#nywift | @nywift

NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.