IMPERIAL — Among the childhood memories Imperial resident Julius Olivas fondly recalls is waking up to the sounds and smells of his grandmother making handmade flour tortillas.
Aside from having taught him how to make tortillas, the experience would also provide — in due time — the 19-year-old filmmaker with a greater appreciation of his cultural heritage.
That gratitude recently manifested itself in a short film directed, produced and written by Olivas entitled “Manos Que Nos Hicieron,” a homage of sorts to his “nana” that also promotes the importance of preserving such family and cultural traditions.
“Hopefully this film will help pull people in that direction,” Olivas said. “That really is what it is supposed to do.”
The tone and narrative of the short film, whose title translates as “Hands That Made Us,” is especially relevant in the current social and political atmosphere, Olivas said.
Its storyline follows successive generations of a Mexican family, starting with its forebears’ humble roots in Mexico, and transitioning into the lives of their children and grandchildren in America.
The film also is a commentary on assimilation, and how immigrants and their offspring often retain and pass on certain traditions that enrich the lives of future generations.
The concept for the project dates back about three years, to a time when Oliva admits he was not fully mature enough to take it on.
“I never had the emotional capacity to make the project before,” he said. “It’s so personal.”
Filmed in the span of three days in August, the film is in its final editing stages and will likely run about six minutes when completed.
It is scheduled for online release in the coming weeks, and will be submitted to various film festivals that also serve as qualifying rounds for potential consideration of an Academy Award, Olivas said.
“We’re pretty much going to go down the list and submit to as many (film festivals) as we can,” he said.
Olivas is no stranger to ambitious film projects, and has twice worked as a production assistant on projects associated with actor and director James Franco’s Studio4LA during the local filming of two separate feature films in 2015 and 2016.
Last year, Olivas had also directed and wrote “Doce,” a film set in the Valley about a father and 12-year-old daughter whose previously separate lives unexpectedly collide.
Olivas described “Manos Que Nos Hicieron” as a dramatization of a documentary that also is distinguished by its complete lack of character dialogue. In place of having cast members speak on camera, the film instead relies on cinematic effects and a lively musical score.
“It’s more for the control of the emotional range,” Olivas said. “You can present those big concepts in the shots rather than explain with exposition.”
The musical score was left in the hands of local musician Johnny Murillo, who Olivas said has a talent for using samples from different types of music and had previously helped produced a music video for the local young Chicano singer/songwriter Eddie Zuko.
As before, Olivas teamed up with his neighbor and producer Michael Capeci. Olivas also relied on the production assistance of Seven 60 Media, a small local film production company operated by longtime friend Christopher Murillo, whose extended family is also prominently featured in the film.
Seven 60 Media had handled much of the film’s logistics, such as selecting the cast and film locations. The film’s production crew totaled about 30 to 35 people, while it features nine cast members, including five individuals under the age of 8.
“The young talent was especially cooperative,” Olivas said. “All of them were great.”
“Manos Que Nos Hicieron” will be uploaded sometime prior to Oct. 1 to Olivas’ Vimeo channel, https://vimeo.com/juliusolivas
A Facebook page will also be made for the film once it is uploaded to allow the community to follow the movie’s progress, Olivas said.