June 1994

by Mark Kirby

Chalchiuhtilicue, the Aztec Goddess of the Fourth Sun, was chosen to light and heat the world for 312 years.  Jealous of her position, Tezcatlipoca, the Black God of Night, taunted and tease her, claiming she burned so brightly in order to prevent other gods from approaching her.  In her frustration at these false accusations, she wept, and her tears put out her light and ended her fortuitous reign. – from “Tanto Tiempo

Change the time-frame and the names and this could be the biography behind this month’s member profile, with one major difference:  this industry professional has managed to turn the tables on fate and has transformed her early misfortune into hope – for her and all those she has touched.  Creating light in the darkness is what Cheryl Quintana Leader is all about.

Leader was born in Phoenix, Arizona.  “My mother‘s Mexican, my father’s Anglo; he convinced her not to teach us her culture, so that we would be successful in America.  She believed him and completely cut us off from any knowledge of her background.  We never knew what was missing.”  As such, the family moved and the children were raised in a mostly white, suburban area of Torrance, California.

“I was one of four girls in an abusive and alcoholic family.  I’m the only one who graduated high school and college.  I felt if I went back it would affect me, and I would be caught again in a routine of abuse and failure.”  She never allowed this to happen. 

Leader’s first film, “Tanto Tiempo” (So Much Time) debuted in August 1992, and is the moving story of a young Mexican/American woman.  Mia, and her mother, Luz abandon their heritage to adapt into an American lifestyle.  Confronted with her past, Mia rediscovers the value of her Aztec ancestry and brings it and Luz back into her life.  The project was a healing process for Leader.  “I’m trying to get in touch with that (the Latina) side of me, because that makes me whole; it makes me one person.” 

Although written in four days, prepped in five weeks, and shot in an amazing eleven locations in five days, the film has garnered a plethora of awards including: MCA/Universal Television’s Hispanic Film Project, the CINE Golden Eagle Award, the National Gold Apple, and Best Short Film in Chicago’s Latino Film Festival and San Jose’s “Cinequest” Film Festival.

In 1993, Leader founded INDIVISION (short for Independent Vision), a television and film production company dedicated to producing high quality entertainment and enriching stories with positive multi-cultural images.

While at INDIVISION, Leader produced and directed “Healthy Babies” (Bebes Saludables) that focused on the importance of prenatal care for Latinas.  The video production was based on a 1992 March of Dimes report which studied the problem of the lack of access to prenatal care for the Latino community.  The video, an Award of Excellence winner in San Jose, as well as three public service announcements, was produced through a contract awarded by the City of Long Beach, and was completed in both Spanish and English targeting women in their teens, mid-twenties and early forties.

Leader’s plate will be full for the next several months. INDIVISION is currently working with CBS to develop “The Yale Murder,” a true crime story, and “Hot Tamales!,”a half hour sitcom about two strong Latina business women.  In addition, the company seeks to develop “La Perla,” a feature film, by the end of the year in Galveston, Texas.

A former athlete, Leader credits her strong visual ability and infinite determination to her own gymnastics training.  “Mentally preparing my body to do aerodynamic feats has crossed over to transferring my thoughts and ideas into direct visual forms on film or tape.  And, if my stories can inspire thought and create awareness in others, I feel successful.”

Throughout her inspirational career, Cheryl Quintana Leader has been just that:  a leader that has shown – and that continues to prove – that the legend of the fourth sun goddess does not have to be the end of anyone’s story; we all have tanto tiempo in which to make a difference.  “What it all comes down to is really simple.  It’s about people of all ethnicities coming up to me and saying, ‘That’s my story.’  I tell them, “Your story needs to be heard.  So find a way to share it with everyone.”