“I believe in thoughtful cinema—films that make you think, criticize and question yourself and your surroundings.”
Filmmaker and activist, Laura Baumeister DeMontis, was born in Nicaragua in 1983, in the midst of a revolution spanning three decades. She became interested in story-telling from a young age, and studied filmmaking at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC) in Mexico.
She has directed more than six short films in Nicaragua, Mexico and Germany. Her 2014 film Isabel Im Winter has been screened around the world, won best fiction short film at Festival Ícaro, and was shown at the 55th Critic’s Week at Cannes in 2016. Laura traveled with Nobel Woman’s Initiative to Honduras and Guatemala for our Women Land and Peace delegation in 2017, and created two powerful short films to document the amazing women human rights defenders we met on the trip.
What inspired you to get into film?
When I was very young, I grew up very close to my grandmother. She was always telling stories about her life and about my grandfather, and she was very fantastical in the way she told stories. My mother and my uncles used to constantly correct her, saying, this didn’t happen like that! My grandmother would respond with, “Well, sometimes it’s better to have the attention of your public than to precisely recount what happened.”
I always told the grown-ups to leave her be—I wanted her stories to be as big and as dramatic as they could be! This is how I believe that I got attached to storytelling. There isn’t a film school in Nicaragua, but there is an art school. So I started approaching film through video art, installations and performance. But what I quickly realized is that although I felt fulfilled in terms of the aesthetics, I felt it lacked in terms of the narrative. That’s when I turned to film.
As a woman in a field historically dominated by men, do you believe that your voice adds to the shifting of a narrative presented?
Yes, I do. When I started getting into film, I first learned about all the big men of the industry. In all the countries with prominent film industries, some men are practically institutions. But when I was trying to find a voice—something that I could connect with on a deeper level—that’s when I really got into researching women directors. As an audience member, I felt women directors presented a different way of telling stories and put their emphasis on other aspects of life. For instance, sometimes the way these women narrated social conflict had a different texture. Then I realized that this was happening with my own movies. I don’t know if you can identify them as being made by women per se, but definitely that intimate dimension comes through, whether you’re working with conflict or characters.