Sarah Fanchon Cohen and Leonardo Rua / Chicago, IL // Bogotá, Colombia
Leonardo Rua is a filmmaker from Bogotá, Colombia who has worked with numerous organizations that make up the Movimiento Social Afrocolombiano (Afro-Colombian Social Movement), the Colombian Ministry of Culture and various TV programs. He is also a member of the Afro-Colombian artist collective Aguaturbia. Through his work, Leo has depicted the immense cultural diversity of Afro-descendant cultures in Colombia. Most recently, he completed a Masters in screenwriter on a film academy in Madrid, Spain. In 2017, Leo met Sarah Fanchon Cohen, an educator and Chicago native, when they collaborated on a grant project she was awarded from the U.S. Department of State. Sarah has taught Special Education, Spanish, and English in New York City, Chicago, and Bogotá, Colombia to students and teachers of all ages. As a Fulbright grant recipient to Colombia in 2015-2016, she taught future bilingual educators at UNICA in Bogotá, before returning to Chicago to coach new teachers in Chicago Public Schools.
The Rua Film team is comprised of Director Leonardo Rua and Executive Producer Sarah Fanchon Cohen. We forge our collective experiences and expertise to demonstrate how digital storytelling and popular education principles can be used as tools to balance traditionally one-sided narratives. We work to increase mutual compassion through the creation of original films that elevate unheard voices.
Truth and Reconciliation, the topics of the SFAI Residency, are two themes that resonate quite closely to our work. Thus, we felt that at SFAI we would definitely be able to develop our ideas further, outside of the Colombian context, and develop stronger bonds and enhance our skills as a team. The showcases, independent work time, open studio sessions, and meetings with our fellow residents all helped us to organize our vision, our work as a film production company, and to design our goals and dreams for the future.
Furthermore, the resources of the residency, as well as the environment it provided us to engage with the community, allowed us to pursue two major projects during our time in Santa Fe. The first was with a Navajo teacher and healer in the Canyon de Chelly, AZ. That was a really special experience that gave voice to a person and a story that had previously been hidden, and also opened a window for us to learn to develop creatively and stylistically exactly what we were looking for. The second major project was creating a short film in collaboration with a co-resident, which showed us a glimpse of the infinite possibilities that we have to expand our artistic work.
We could not imagine a better way to have developed our collaboration than at the Residency. Looking back, the Santa Fe Art Institute is one of the most beautiful and inspiring physical and emotional spaces, and all of the staff there definitely contributed to the development of our ideas and projects. We cannot thank them enough – the artist residency was a really memorable and remarkable time in our careers and lives. The feeling after this experience is a bittersweet one, as we certainly miss all of the people involved – the residents, all the institute staff, the community – who were amazing and fascinating to meet and learn from. But then also it is sweet to have these memories, and have developed these new skills, relationships and confidence. We can only express our gratitude, and our hope to see you all again.