Cinema student receives prestigious Princess Grace Award

Candy Guinea, smiling, stands in front of a colorful cinema-themed mural.

“I realized you can make a really huge impact by making films," said Guinea. "You can change public opinion and reach the hearts and minds of people you wouldn’t ordinarily have access to. For me the priority was documenting the experiences of the Latino community and queer communities of color.”

SF State graduate student Candy Guinea recently received the prestigious 2016 Princess Grace Award, which honors a new group of emerging artists in theater, dance and film each year. One of only six awardees in the film category nationwide, Guinea is committed to creating films that represent the experiences of queer people of color and Latinos as a tool for social justice.

The Princess Grace Foundation - USA was established by Prince Rainier III of Monaco to honor the legacy of his late wife, American film actress Grace Kelly. The foundation is dedicated to identifying and assisting emerging talent by awarding grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships and fellowships.

“I was really honored to be nominated and feel very lucky to be part of the group,” Guinea said. “The Princess Grace Foundation is wonderful about following you and it’s invested in the professional growth of the awardees and artists, so it’s great to be a part of it.”

A creative work sample Guinea submitted with her application for the Princess Grace Award.

Guinea received a scholarship that will fund her master’s thesis film, a requirement for earning a master of fine arts in cinema.

“My film, ‘Mariposa,’ will document the challenges my spouse and I have faced in trying to get pregnant. While my spouse [Marisa Castro] is the one that will carry, this has been a difficult journey for both of us. There are few resources or examples available that show us how a queer couple can grow their family. So I want to document the different obstacles that queer couples encounter when they are trying to conceive,” Guinea said.

Guinea added that Castro isn’t pregnant yet and that “plan B” is to document the challenges of getting pregnant, which has a lot of relevance for queer couples. “There have been some films about gay parenting, but it’s not very common, even in the queer community, to see masculine-presenting women that actually get pregnant and give birth, or to document that process.”

Assistant Professor of Cinema Scott Boswell helped advise Guinea on her thesis proposal and award application. “Candy developed her thesis film in my class last spring. With its personal and unique take on parenting and gender, it quickly became apparent that she was an ideal candidate for the Princess Grace Award. I’m not at all surprised she won,” he said.

After graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a bachelor’s degree in feminist studies in 2007, she became a case manager for a nonprofit. “Both of my parents are immigrants — my mother immigrated from Mexico in the 1970s and my father and his family fled the civil war in El Salvador in 1980. I wanted to do something that made a difference in the [immigrant] community. The work was very, very difficult and emotionally exhausting.”

Then, four years ago, she took a free filmmaking workshop through an organization called Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project and created a short film that was screened at their film festival. “I had absolutely no experience in film before … and I loved it,” she said. “I thought there was a lot of power in storytelling and in filmmaking, especially from the perspective of underrepresented communities. That’s when I began to pursue film.”  

Guinea says she is interested in creating films that authentically represent the experiences of queer people of color and Latinos as a tool for social justice. Her short documentary films have screened at the Boston LGBT Film Festival, San Diego Latino Film Festival and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. In June, she produced the Queer Brilliance Film Festival, which features films created by and about queer and transgender people of color, with a grant from the Queer Cultural Center and Endeavor Foundation for the Arts.

Assistant Professor of Cinema and Documentary Program Coordinator Johnny Symons has worked closely with Guinea. “Candy has a clear commitment to documenting the nuances of the queer Latinx experience and represents a critical filmmaking voice. She’s been a fantastic student to have in class and has contributed her talents to the Queer Cinema Institute and the documentary program at SF State. I’m tremendously excited to be working with her on ‘Mariposa,’” he said.

“What I really appreciate about the cinema program at SF State is that it’s so well-established — it’s one of the oldest in the country — and there is such a diverse faculty doing all kinds of film work,” Guinea said. “And I like SF State because of its history as a radical institution and its commitment to social justice. I feel like I’ve really been thriving at SF State. I’ve gotten so much out of the program, and the professors are all super supportive and are all about giving students opportunities.”