By Wendy Soderburg

Winter 1994, Volume 5 – Number 4

Many people think their life stories should be made into movies, but few actually do it.

Cheryl Quintana Leader is one who did, and she did it with style.  Her short film, “Tanto Tiempo,” tells the story of a young Mexican-American woman and her Mexican mother who abandon their heritage to adapt to an Anglo lifestyle.  Eventually the daughter rediscovers the value of her Aztec ancestry, bringing it and her mother back into her life.  The film won MCA/Universal Television’s 1991-92 “Hispanic Film Project” competition.

Leader, whose mother is Mexican and whose father is Caucasian, says that her mother wanted her children to have the most successful life she could give them, which to her meant raising them in a mostly white, suburban area of Torrance, CA.  As a result, Leader never learned to speak Spanish, nor was she exposed to her mother’s cultural background.

Then, a few years ago, a friend told Leader she was entering the “Hispanic Film Project” competition.  “She told me, ‘you should do it, Cheryl,’” says Leader.  “I said; ‘I’m not Hispanic.’  Then I thought, ‘My mother is Mexican, and I’m a part of her.’”

That incident was enough to motivate Leader to write her own story in four days.  She won the competition and filmed her story in five days on a $7,000 budget.  Tanto Tiempo” has since won a CINE Golden Eagle Award in Washington, D.C., Best Short Film in Chicago and San Jose, and been shown at more than 25 film festivals across the country.  It also reunited Leader with her mother and father, with whom she’d had an estranged relationship.

Despite all the awards and publicity “Tanto Tiempo” has received, Leader says, “what it comes down to is really very simple.  It’s about people of all ethnicities coming up to me and saying, ‘That’s my story.’ I tell them, ‘Your stories need to be heard.  So find a way to share them with everyone.’”