A single compliment gave the Real Women with Curves director all the yes! she needed.
Growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, I thought about becoming a writer, but instead I got a master's degree in anthropology and archaeology. I met Kogi Indians, Colombians of African descent, people with amazing stories, but I knew that nobody would read my research papers about them. I wanted to express myself and have an audience. I thought, Film has all the things that I like: music, images, and writing—I'm going to try to do that. I had a better chance of being an astronaut than a filmmaker in Colombia, though. So in 1987, when I was 25, I came to the United States to study filmmaking at UCLA as a Fulbright scholar. Making my first film for school was incredibly difficult. I didn't know what close-up or medium shots were, or even that you directed actors. I thought, Well, they'll do their job. I was so surprised to discover they were expecting me to direct them! In the credits, instead of writing, "Directed by" I wrote "Survived by."

The second year I made a ten-minute movie to learn how to tell a story visually. The Air Globes was about when I was a child and my sister and I sent letters, tied to balloons, to Niño Dios, what we call Baby Jesus, who lived in heaven and brought Christmas presents. I used the movie to apply to an editing class taught by Barbara Marks and Richard Marks, a three-time Oscar nominee for editing. Everyone had to show his or her movie to the class, and Richard and Barbara were always very tough in these critiquing sessions. After I played The Air Globes, no one spoke. I thought, Oh no, they hated it. And suddenly Richard was asking, "How did you do it? This is the most beautiful, amazing movie. You don't need to do anything. It's ready." The Markses have edited some of the most important films of our generation, and they saw something special in my movie. That moment changed my life because I realized I had talent, I had something to say, and I had an audience.


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