Filmography

Night Passages

In the face of serious illness there is also the opportunity for happiness and reflection. Responding to the filmmaker's cervical cancer diagnosis, Night Crossings is a personal journey through the subconscious via chemotherapy- and radiation-influenced dreams, ultimately examining what defines our experience of being human.
2013 -- documentary
Funded by a grant from Chicken & Egg Pictures

Al Más Allá

When a clueless filmmaker leads a fictional documentary crew through a Mexican beach town to interview local merchants and tour guides, she quickly discovers more than information stands between her and the truth. A hybrid documentary that creatively blends reportage and narrative techniques, Al Más Allá investigates the contemporary realities of shifting global wealth and drug trafficking along the Mayan coastline of Mexico.
2008 -- 43 minutes -- experimental documentary

My McQueen

An innovative document of the filmmakers in the process of conceptualizing their film. The filmmakers document the influence of Steve McQueen and his movie, Bullit, on masculinity, the city of San Francisco and ethnicity. It is a witty and exciting piece that is a reflection on filmmaking itself.
2004 -- 20 minutes -- experimental documentary
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Señorita Extraviada, Missing Young Woman

Señorita Extraviada, Missing Young Woman unfolds like the unsolved mystery that it examines -- the kidnapping, rape and murder of over 350 young women in Juárez, Mexico. Visually poetic, yet unflinching in its gaze, this haunting documentary unravels the layers of complicity that have allowed these brutal murders to continue just south of the US-Mexican border. Relying on what Portillo comes to see as the most reliable of sources -- the testimonies of the families of the victims -- Señorita Extraviada documents a two-year search for the truth in the underbelly of the new global economy. The result is a shocking and brutal portrait of Ciudad Juárez, "The City of the Future."
2001 -- 74 minutes -- documentary
Funded by ITVS, MacArthur Foundation, Soros Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts
$315 Click here to order this film

Culture Clash: Mission Magic Mystery Tour

A satirical comedy about the Mission District in San Francisco.
2001 -- theater performance
Funded by Flintridge Foundation, Rockefeller Multi-Arts Production Fund, The NEA, Fleishhacker Foundation.

Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena

Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena explores the mass adulation and explosive posthumous recognition of Selena Quintanilla, the Tejano rock singer murdered by the president of her fan club in 1995. Pushing beyond the mainstream media's fascination with her violent death, Portillo interviews Selena's family and friends as well as the devoted fans who pilgrimage to Selena's grave in Corpus Christi, Texas, to pay homage to the slain star. Moving and provocative, this humble investigative portrait explores Selena's cultural significance as a pop icon and shines a light on the hopes, fantasies, fears, and realities of young Latinas today.
1999 -- 47 minutes -- feature-length documentary
Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation Intercultural Film and Video Fellowship, Mexican Fine Arts Museum Center, Tribeca Media Arts Fellowship, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
$250 Click here to order this film

Conversations With Intellectuals About Selena

This film is an outrageous and lively exchange among leading Chicana intellectuals in this country who debate the value of her status as a role model, the film offers a fresh look at the voice and image of this uniquely enduring Mexican-American icon.
1999 -- 57 minutes -- documentary
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This Is Your Day (Hoy es tu Dia)

Playing with the experience of watching Spanish-language television in the context of contemporary realities, This Is Your Day samples from the TV shows of the flamboyant astrologer Walter Mercado and the notorious news footage capturing the police beating of undocumented Mexican workers in Riverside, CA. A complex soundtrack with excerpts from such sources as a Sandra Cisneros poem, read in her own voice, an Astrid Hadad mock-ranchero song Bala Perdida, and the Revolting Cocks with Gilacopter accompanies the dual-screen projection of these images. Long Beach Museum of Art and L.A. FreeWaves -- 1998 Cineteca Nacional de Mexico -- 1999
1998 -- video installation
Funded by the U.S. Mexico Fund for Culture.

13 Days: A San Francisco Mime Troupe National Tour


1997 -- theater play

Sometimes My Feet Go Numb


1994 -- 2 minutes -- performance video
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The Devil Never Sleeps (EI Diablo Nunca Duerme)

Early one Sunday morning in July, the filmmaker receives a phone call informing her that her beloved Tio (uncle) Oscar Ruiz Almeida has been found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in Chihuahua, Mexico. His widow declares his death a suicide. Most of his family, however, cry murder and point to a number of possible suspects: his business partner, his ranch-hand, and the widow herself. In The Devil Never Sleeps, Portillo returns to the land of her birth to investigate her uncle's identity and sudden death. Finding clues in old tales of betrayal, lust, and supernatural visitation, she blends traditional film genres and experimental techniques to capture the nuances of Mexican social attitudes and family order.
1994 -- 82 minutes -- documentary
Funded by the Independent Television Service and the National Latino Communications Center.
$300 Click here to order this film

Mirrors of the Heart


1993 -- 60 minutes -- documentary
Produced by WGBH in Boston PBS's series, "e;Americas"e; National Broadcast.

Columbus on Trial

Inspired by the controversy surrounding the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of America, Portillo fashions a fanciful version of a courtroom were Columbus to return from his grave to stand trial. Cross-examined by the Latino comedy group Culture Clash, Columbus is charged with atrocities against the Native peoples of the New World, including the rape and violent treatment of women. Satire and parody rule in this dynamic document about American history and colonization.
1992 -- 18 minutes -- performance video
Funded by The National Endowment for Humanities
$205 Click here to order this film

Vida

In this playful melodrama, a young Latina woman in New York struggles to come to terms with the dangers of AIDS. Commissioned by AIDSFilms in New York, Vida encourages AIDS awareness and safe sex practices in the Latino community, particularly among young urban women.
1989 -- 10 minutes -- short narrative
Produced by AIDSFILMS.
$100 Click here to order this film

La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead

La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead offers a personal look at the Mexican celebration of the dead, the sacred days when the souls of the departed return to visit the living. Tracing the Days of the Dead tradition from its roots in Indian culture to its manifestations in contemporary Chicano communities, this unconventional and visually arresting documentary contemplates the loving and sometimes humorous Mexican cultural attitudes toward "that constant companion," death.
1988 -- 50 minutes -- documentary
Funded by the Corporation For Public Broadcasting.
$200 Click here to order this film

Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1986, Las Madres: The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo documents the courageous political actions of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of Argentine women who gather weekly at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires to remember the children who "disappeared" during the Dirty War (1976-1983). Undeterred by relentless intimidation by the military government, the mothers stand together for justice, as a national conscience, to demand to know the fate of their missing loved ones. Both an overview of Argentinas tumultuous recent past and a riveting profile of an woman-led resistance movement, Las Madres continues to provide an uplifting example of human rights activism and oppositional struggle today.
1986 -- 64 minutes -- documentary
$255 Click here to order this film

After the Earthquake / Despues del Terremoto

This dramatic short follows Irene, a young Nicaraguan immigrant living in California, as she faces new challenges -- particularly in adjusting to the cultural, political, and economic differences between life in the U.S. and life in Nicaragua.
1979 -- 27 minutes -- short narrative
Funded by the American Film Institute Filmakers Award
$230 Click here to order this film

 

Filmography