PBS Premiere: July 13, 1999Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Interview

Lourdes Portillo, filmmaker: I didn't know who Selena was. And I said, "Well, who was shot?" and they said "Selena" and I said, "Who's Selena?" And I started seeing everyone's reactions, and the coverage on television. I think it was my own kind of internalized racism that I could not believe that this brown girl had gotten to be so famous. I did not believe it. So that's when I decided to make a film about Selena. I thought it was really important to focus on the family. Because the family had like a story to tell.

Selena's Sister: I think that's what hurts the most, is that she was so giving, so caring. And there's a lot of people out there that take - that took advantage of her.

Portillo: Also, I decided to focus on the fans. Her hardcore fans are the very young girls. They saw in her who they could be. 'Cause they couldn't be like the blonde Barbie, so they could be Selena.

Portillo: A little girl may see herself in Selena, whereas an older woman can see like, you know, something different. And the men of course see something entirely different. She's a repository of a lot of ideals, a lot of desires. I think Selena's a complex role model. She's very sexual. And in our culture, to be very sexual is a dangerous thing.

Portillo: I think the most important thing in telling these stories about, you know, Selena, and about, you know, Latinos and Latinas is that we need to look at ourselves in the media. We need to see ourselves portrayed. If there had been a Selena to look up to, or a Sandra Cisneros on the television, it probably would have made me feel like I belonged in this country. We need to see our experiences validated, otherwise we don't exist. And if we don't exist, we have, you know, we become diminished, you know, by the media, and we can't allow that to happen.