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Outstanding Senior on path to lifting voices of women, marginalized communities in film

Amairani Perez Chamu

 

The way things are going, it won’t be long before Amairani Perez Chamu’s name appears as director in the credits of a feature film.

She is focused on achieving her goal of making movies that matter, that help lift the voices of women, Latino and marginalized communities so they will be heard.

“I want to be a success. But my definition of success is to be able to provide opportunities and resources to people who are underrepresented in the film industry, like women and people of color,” Perez Chamu says.

Her time at OSU-Tulsa has been extraordinary. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in American studies, she served as field coordinator for the ¡Unidos Se Puede! mentorship program for Latino middle-school youth.

She also interned for Tulsa film studio Canvas Sky and the Tulsa American Film Festival and worked as director’s assistant on La Nación de las Maricopas (The Nation of Butterflies), which is currently making the rounds on the film festival circuit. The Spanish-language movie was filmed entirely in Tulsa by local production companies Levites Studios and Teletul Films.

Featuring an international cast, the film tells the story of a fictional Latin American country that – through the collaborative power of its people, business and government – metamorphoses from one riddled with crime, corruption and poverty into a country universally admired.

In April, Perez Chamu was named one of 15 OSU Outstanding Seniors, the highest honor bestowed by the OSU Alumni Association. She is the second OSU-Tulsa student chosen for the award.

“It was a complete shock,” she says. “I feel very fortunate.”

A journey unequalled

At age 5, Perez Chamu and her family moved to Oklahoma from Acapulco, Mexico.

She is one of nearly 700,000 young adults – 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.

A community activist, Perez Chamu has served as vice president of Dream Act Oklahoma Tulsa and has been a featured speaker at the Women’s March on Tulsa. She was also a member of OSU-Tulsa’s President's Leadership Society and the Hispanic Student Association.

While growing up attending Jenks Public Schools, Perez Chamu discovered theater arts and her aspiration to break barriers as a Latina filmmaker.

For some, the next step would be to attend a prestigious film school to get started in the industry. But when it came time to choose a college, Perez Chamu decided to stay close to home at Tulsa Community College and transfer to OSU-Tulsa.

New chapter

Although an American studies degree from OSU-Tulsa is more affordable than film school, Perez Chamu also says she is better prepared for the industry than those who chose the traditional route.

Film schools focus mostly on the mechanics of movie-making. But her OSU-Tulsa degree provides a broad education in history, society, culture and politics – all subjects critical to making movies of substance and that add more depth and substance to her work.

As a member of PLS, she learned business and networking skills that she believes will prove invaluable in her future career.

“Being here in Tulsa also gave me a good opportunity to connect with leaders in the community and people in positions of power,” she says.

She eventually plans to pursue a master’s degree in film production. But first, Perez Chamu says she will take more time to build her portfolio by making short films and then she will apply to become a Tulsa Artist Fellow.

Perez Chamu expects to make her first feature film within the next five years.

“A big part of my journey has been in seeing where the film industry lacks representation,” she says. “My work is going to be centered on narratives that aren’t yet explored, like stories about women’s experience or communities of color. That’s what I think people are looking for and that’s what I hope to do.”

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Media Contact: Jamie Edford | 918-594-8024 | jamie.m.edford@okstate.edu