Dreamer short film wins film festival award in Czech Republic

Ozzy Osuna Original Article: Cortometraje de Dreamer gana en festival de cine en la República Checa - La Opiniόn

Osvaldo Ozuna narrates the story of a young man trapped between poverty and drug trafficking on the border.

Osvaldo Ozuna, 24, is the director and producer of the short film "Muñecas," which has won two awards. (Jacqueline García)

While Osvaldo Ozuna was looking at the updates on his Facebook page last Sunday evening, he came across some news he couldn't believe.

His short film had won an award in the category "Best Student Film" at the Prague Independent Film Festival (PIFF) 2017, in the Czech Republic.

"I got up, I walked [around my house], and then I went back to look at the page to see if it was real," said the young man to La Opinión. He is a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Ozuna wrote and directed the short film "Muñecas," which narrates the life of a young man on the US-Mexican border, and he is trapped between poverty and drug trafficking.

For Ozuna, growing up on the border city of Ensenada, Baja California, and hearing countless stories similar to the main character's, it was common.

"But there was a story that always stuck in my mind," he recalled, who didn't hesitate to infuse this character with life as soon as he had the chance.

Ozuna's script captivated Salvador Carrasco, his professor, who directs the film production program at Santa Monica Community College (SMC). So much so that it won as the film class term project.

"Muñecas" narrates the story of poverty and drug trafficking, and it was filmed in Rio Colorado AZ. (Supplied)

"When my professor told me I had won, I couldn't believe it, but that gave me a lot of self confidence... An undocumented youth like me had won," he stated.

In 2014, Ozuna had begun filming "Muñecas," a 25-minute short film. And at age 21, having the winning script conferred him the title of producer and director. He also had a crew of more than 20 people under him, most of them film students in their final year.

"At the beginning, I didn't know what to do. I teamed up with the students who knew more, and I sought their advice," he said, who, in spite of having written a spectacular script, had no experience directing short films.

Overcoming his own tragedy

The Ozunas emigrated to the United States in 2003, just like many immigrants in search of a better future.

"I was excited when I found out we were near Los Angeles because I knew that there were more things to do and more of a future," Ozuna thought at that time. He was still a boy of just ten who always had a passion for art.

The family of five settled in Bell, California. They all had tourist visas, but when they expired, their status was

Ozuna vividly remembers the day his high school counselor "bluntly" told him that with his undocumented status, it was going to be hard for him to obtain a college education, but that it was possible.

Osvaldo (first from left) emigrated with his parents when he was ten. (Supplied)

"Mr. Viveros [his counselor] helped me a lot and gave me options. I didn't think that I would go to a community college, but when I heard that Santa Monica College is the number one college to transfer students to universities, I chose that one," said Ozuna, who at that time dreamed of attending a university.

In 2012, with DACA's approval, Ozuna felt he was on the path to success.

However, while he was working on his short film, and when it seemed everything was going great, Ozuna was stricken by two unfortunate events.

His sister, 30, who lived in Texas and was the victim of domestic violence, was deported in 2015, and her four children were left behind, alone.

"It was very painful because we had to do something for my nieces and nephews," said Ozuna. "[My parents and I] had to go pick up those four children and bring them back with us," he remembered.

Then, they had to battle with all their might for legal custody of the children. And despite the fact that the father of the children is a US citizen, his conduct did not help him.

The Ozunas won the legal battle, but amid the family problems and lack of money, Ozuna was not able to renew his DACA permit.

"I had to drop everything I was doing, and I went to work at a furniture factory where they didn't ask for papers," he confessed.

"When I started working, my boss thought I wasn't going to last, but I stayed because I needed the money... The work was really hard and heavy," this Dreamer told us, who assures that he knows many stories of immigrants who work long hours making furniture.

After seven months, Ozuna was able to reestablish himself; he renewed his work permit and continued with his project.

Ozuna with Professor Salvador Carrasco on the Muñecas set. (Supplied)

His achievement as a director

"My short film was a success because I surrounded myself with people who know more than I do. I had to learn very quickly," he affirmed.

Ozuna, a very creative and visual person, attempted to cover all bases. In his script, he spoke of an "endless river"; to find it, he traveled to the unincorporated area of Cibola, Arizona, on the Colorado River.

"We spoke with authorities to request the permits, and as it was an unincorporated area, it was easier. They helped us a lot," said Ozuna, who at the same time remembered his limits in the country.

"There was a scene that might have to be shot on both sides of the border, and to do so, my classmates decided that I would stay on this side," Ozuna remembers humorously. In the end, the scene wasn't shot.

Ozuna directed a group of more than 40 people to shoot the film. (Supplied)

After six days of filming in Arizona, the group filmed the other part in the city of Palmdale, California.

At the beginning of the year, the film was sent to different festivals, and Ozuna has seen the fruit of his arduous work.

In April, he won the 2017 Silicon Beach Festival under the category of "most inspiring short film," and in July, he participated in the 2017 Nahal Student Film Festival in Iran.

On August 6, he was a 2017 PIFF winner; however, his undocumented DACA status did not allow him to attend.

"I knew I was a finalist, but I didn't have money to apply [to apply for the travel permit]," said Ozuna.

Professor Carrasco said that at a time when worldwide migration dominates the headlines, the short film "Muñecas" is the human reality behind the statistics.

"One of the film's great ironies is that its own director cannot leave the United States because of his migratory status. However, his voice can still cross borders through the power of narration," said Carrasco.

Ozuna (left) beside Alex, one of the actors, who embodied the main character, Pablo, in Muñecas. (Supplied)

However, Diana Ringo, the PIFF Festival's director, said that the judges consider that Ozuna has great potential as a director.

"We showed six student films at our festival, which were selected from around 100", said Ringo. "Our judges were impressed by the combination of artistic elements of "Muñecas" and the high quality of the production. The story was unique, moving, and provocative. It was well received by the audience."

PIFF is in the process of emailing Ozuna his recognition.

The experience that Ozuna has gained during these years has also opened doors for him professionally.

Not too long ago, he completed an internship with Village Roadshow Pictures, and was recently hired for a feature film with SIBA Media, an entertainment production company based in Los Angeles.

Ozuna said that he is passionate about art because at the end of the day, he said, film is like any other career: team work and communication are key.

"It's like in politics when they want to pass a law or like science when they work on a project. Everything is a conversation," he asserted.

He assures that attaining success is surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do. "As a winner [of the script at SMC], I had two options: to believe I was the best because I'm an undocumented alien who won, or learning from others."

Ozuna chose the latter.

To read more about Ozzy, visit SMC Film Wins Prague Independent Film Festival Award.

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