Latinos make up 20% of the US but remain severely underrepresented onscreen. American Girl is a Get Out meets Last Night in Soho thriller written, directed, and starring a Mexican-American sister duo about a young woman dealing with isolation, identity, harsh beauty standards, and consumerism.
Mission StatementGrowing up, we rarely saw Latino stories that were thrilling or empowering. When we do see Latinos onscreen it's often related to crime, gangs and poverty. We are a Latina sister filmmaking duo committed to telling entertaining, gripping stories about the first generation experience we know so well.
About The Project
My sister and I were born in Mexico City and raised in Miami. As kids we avoided saying we were Mexican, as if the word was tainted or dirty somehow. There was a shame piece there and a fear of prejudice. Today we not only celebrate our Mexican background, but it's inspired us to write scripts with Latina leads and first generation themes that we simply didn't see onscreen growing up.
A year ago, my sister Andrea brought a story idea to me. The premise was simple and juicy: a young Mexican woman discovers a portal in an enchanted washing machine. I was immediately hooked and together, we embarked on a year long writing journey for what would become American Girl.
American Girl is a fantasy thriller film about a young woman who discovers a portal into a surreal David Lynch-esque talent show realm where she has the chance to win the cash prize and save her family from bankruptcy. It has all the elements we love about film: vivid production design, mysterious fantasy elements, fast paced dialogue and stylish world building. American Girl is also a portait of a lonely young woman and a love letter to those who feel unseen. Join us in making our film a reality.
"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."
- Ernest Hemingway
Andrea and I write about what we know: the first generation experience. Through Rosario, our protagonist, we explore the painful identity struggle that many children of immigrants face: we do not feel authentically American, but our home country doesn’t quite claim us either. We are a sister filmmaking duo committed to illuminating the identity crisis of children of immigrants because we know that experience firsthand. Our mission is to entertain and spark dialogue, not preach. American Girl is our introduction to the industry as professional filmmakers. This is just the beginning.
Andrea and I are obsessed with stylish fantasy thrillers. Guillermo del Toro, David Lynch, Sofia Coppola, Luis Buñuel and Darren Aronofsky are among our favorite directors. Using a very specific image system, we'll be exploring exciting themes through the eyes of our main character Rosario:
- Isolation - because of the pressure to support her immigrant parents, Rosario self isolates in her daily grind as a way of not being a burden to others and "suffering in silence," a common theme with Hispanic women and martyrdom.
- Beauty standards - our film takes place in the year 2000, a time before the mindfulness in mental health we practice more of today. Yes, Y2K fashion trends are coming back, but we forget about the dark side of this time. The fatphobia and body shaming within this era of fashion was probably the worst in history. Fatphobia wasn’t invented in 2000, but one could easily argue that a rise in Internet access played a pivotal role in Y2K’s hyper-toxic culture. Women were plagued with eating disorders and severe body image issues. The media was incredibly damaging and reckless during this time, with salacious narratives pitting women against each other and body shaming in magazines a regular occurence.
- Identity - Belongingness refers to a human emotional need to affiliate with and be accepted by members of a group. Unfortunately, many children of immigrants feel left out of both their new home country and their parent's country. Through Rosario, we illuminate how this lack of belonging can drive a young person to great lengths to achieve feeling included - even if it means abandoning parts of your core persona.
We’ve never seen an exciting, Lynchian thriller with a Black Mirror style twist about a first generation Mexican-American woman and we think it’s time.
My sister and I have pitched American Girl to a handful of name production companies. We have been offered development deals for the feature length version, but sadly this would mean relinquishing creative control. I wouldn't be able to star in it and my sister would not be chosen to direct. The thought is painful and devastating. After much consideration, we decided to take the same indie route many filmmakers like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Mike Flanagan took: create our own proof of concept as our way of shaking up the industry and retaining control of our story.
Because of our relationship with our generous grant WAVE (Women at the Very Edge), we have an excellent relationship with Sundance and have an extensive film festival plan. Once American Girl the short is released, we'll not only embark on the festival circuit and promote the film around the country, but also have the sort of leverage that is needed to retain our seats at the table once larger conversations take place.
Your contribution will go directly to:
- hiring the production design team to build our surreal Lynch-esque TV realm on a sound stage
- hire our talent (we are holding casting calls for 5 roles)
- obtaining quality camera & lenses (Arri, cooke, anamorphic lenses) to distinguish between the dull laundromat & fantasy TV show realm
- adequately paying & feeding our cast & crew
- executing our film festival & publicity plan
We appreciate the read, thanks for your help in making our vision a reality and introducing our unique voice to the film industry!
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About This Team
Andrea Riba - Director / Writer
Andrea Riba is a Mexican-American filmmaker and the director/co-writer of American Girl, selected as an MFA thesis through a highly competitive selection of scripts at USC School of Cinematic Arts. During her MFA at USC, Andrea was awarded the George Lucas scholarship, a highly prestigious scholarship. The first generation experience is at the heart of her work, featured in Hunger magazine and LadyGunn to name a few.
Sofia Riba - Executive Producer/ Writer / Lead Actor
Sofia Riba is Mexican-American actor and producer. Recent credits include FBI (CBS), Whistler Camp (Blumhouse), Juliet in Romeo & Juliet (Powerhouse Theater). She is represented by Professional Artists Agency and Ad Astra management.
Matthew Wilder - Director of Photography
Matthew Shoichi Wilder is a Tokyo-born cinematographer based in Los Angeles. He has photographed numerous commercials, music videos, and short films including Magnolia Bloom, which was selected to premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. Matthew is a graduate of Columbia University and USC's School of Cinematic Arts MFA program. He recently completed production of the feature film Phantom.
Bunthoeun Real - Assistant Director
Bunthoeun Real is a Cambodian American Filmmaker who has developed a proficiency in storytelling through learning from the award-winning faculty members. He was awarded the prestigious Annenberg Graduate Fellowship at USC for his dedication to his craft. Though he tends to make grounded realistic family dramas, he loves science fiction and martial arts films.
Joanna Fernandez - Producer
Joanna Fernandez received a BFA in Film and Television Production from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Joanna has interned for Martin Scorcese’s production company, Sikelia, as well as for producer Jon Silk (Silk Mass), and Beau Flynn’s production company (Flynn Picture Co.) Attending USC's MFA program, she was the recipient of the Jeffrey Jones Award for Excellence in Writing and is currently working as a showrunner’s assistant for the upcoming AMC/Spectrum show Beacon 23.
Hassan AJ - Producer
Hassan Al-Jahni is a Qatari filmmaker who is inspired by the world of untold Arab stories.. Al-Jahni was the recipient of the Doha Film Institute’s Qatari Film Fund for his short animated film titled Emsahar. Al-Jahni has a BS in communication and a concentration in film and Middle Eastern studies from Northwestern University. He is also currently pursuing his MFA in Film and Television Production at the USC.
Lauren Herrel - Producer
Lauren Herrel is a producer, casting director, and activist. Upon completion of her college career, she had already worked on the popular show “One Tree Hill,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and with Sarah Finn Casting Co. on hit movies such as “Captain America” and “Iron Man 2” for Marvel. She has cast and produced on projects for Walt Disney Studios, Sony, Screen Gems, ABC, CBS, Lucasfilm, and independent production houses, among others. Lauren is on various committees to champion diversity & equal representation in the entertainment industry and was a mentor for Start With 8 Hollywood via Women of Color Unite.
Cecily Lo - Editor
Cecily Lo is a Taiwanese-American video artist, editor, and experimental filmmaker originally from Washington, DC. Lo has created commercial video content for HBO, Showtime, and several Broadway musicals. Their work and words have been featured in countless publications, including Interview Magazine, NYLON, Lyrical Lemonade, Booooooom, and Girlgaze Network, as well as festivals and exhibitions around the world.