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American studies student aspires to break barriers as Latina filmmaker

OSU-Tulsa student Amairani Perez Chamu aspires to direct Hollywood films.

 

OSU-Tulsa student Amairani Perez Chamu is taking the ‘road less travelled’ to reach her dream of becoming a movie director.

Although film school is the typical path to a career in the industry, Chamu said pursuing a bachelor’s degree in American studies at OSU-Tulsa is not only more affordable but will provide more depth and substance to her work.

“I feel like when you’re in a film school, you watch a lot of films purely for how they’re made,” she said. “My classes here – on history, society, culture and politics – are critical to making films that matter. It helps me better understand what kind of film an audience would relate to rather than just making a film because you know how to make one.”

At age 5, Chamu and her family moved to Oklahoma from Acapulco, Mexico for a better life.

She is one of nearly 700,000 young adults – typically referred to as Dreamers - who were brought to the U.S. as children and are protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“As a DACA recipient, it has always been very important for me to be vocal about my future in this country and continue fighting for the rights of those who cannot raise their voice,” she said.

From shy girl to activist

While growing up in Jenks, Chamu was shy and in search of an outlet. She found her passion in theater arts and then found her message – standing up for women and marginalized communities.

She is vice president of Dream Act Oklahoma Tulsa and was a featured speaker at the Women’s March on Tulsa in January. She is also a member of OSU-Tulsa’s President's Leadership Society and the Hispanic Student Association.

While serving internships with Canvas Sky Studios in Broken Arrow and the Tulsa American Film Festival, she became more certain about her decision to attend OSU-Tulsa rather than an expensive film school.

“During my internship with the festival, I started noticing a lot of directors who were submitting projects didn’t always have film degrees and they were making such amazing movies,” Chamu said. “Working alongside other students who actually attend film school has taught me that set experience and knowledge about working in the industry is something that can be paired with various degrees, not just film majors.”

Chamu sees need for more perspectives in film

Because of her background, Chamu has a perspective that isn’t often represented in Hollywood.

“When I think of Hollywood, I often think of the much-needed positive change that needs to happen in terms of representation of women and people of color,” she said. “My experiences as an activist have allowed me to garner more knowledge about the way that marginalized communities have been and are being oppressed by Hollywood.”

She often reflects on how far she has come in pursuing her dream.

“I always keep the image of a younger version of myself in the back of my thoughts, thinking back to a time when I didn't know if college would even be an option because of my immigrant status,” Chamu said. “But I persevered and I overcame obstacles. If there’s hope, there’s always a way.”