As organizers prepared for the opening of the Santa Cruz Film Festival, an award-winning Los Angeles filmmaker and his crew visited locations throughout Santa Cruz County, capturing interviews and images relevant to the memory of Eduardo Carrillo, a prolific painter and muralist who taught at UC Santa Cruz from 1972 until his death in 1997. During his lifetime, Carrillo painted constantly and exhibited widely, often in the context of the Chicano movement, which exerted much of its newfound voice through the arts. Carrillo’s art has now found new audiences, thanks to the devotion of his widow, Alison, who, along with many friends and former students, established a virtual museum, the Museo Eduardo Carrillo, to preserve and promote Carrillo’s work. The Museo exists on the Web; a scholarship in Carrillo’s name supports young talent; his paintings now rotate through a permanent gallery at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento where a full-scale retrospective is planned for 2013, and now a feature-length documentary about his life will assure that the artist takes his proper place in history.
The executive director of the Museo, Betsy Anderson, was a student of Carrillo’s at UCSC. After seeing a series of short films by director Pedro Pablo Celadon, called Voces Vivas, portraying both prominent and unknown Mexican Americans through vivid, insightful interviews, Anderson approached Celadon to direct the film, Eduardo Carrillo: The Mural Years. It wasn’t Carrillo’s art that attracted Celadon to the story.
“Here we have a not-very-well-known Mexican American Latino artist with an uncommon passion and drive—a beloved teacher with a rare talent for being fully awake to each person he met—what they needed, what was most useful for that person at that time,” says the director. “In society he was an underdog, he didn’t have a voice. Eduardo had a rich Chicano/Mexican past and a very close family that influenced him strongly, while he also had powerful European influences; he struggled to express both. I share that underdog quality and the duality of influences: it allows me to jump in to this story and be immersed in the telling.”
Chilean-born Celadon has made more than 30 documentaries and television programs, garnering numerous awards. “I try to portray the people who never had an opportunity to be heard,” he says. After a day at UCSC and a visit to the site of Carrillo’s extraordinary mural, Birth, Death and Regeneration, now painted over, Celadon interviewed Alison Carrillo and heard Eduardo’s stories from a trio of artists whose murals once covered the county: Eduardo Ramos, Carmen Leon and Ralph D’Oliveira. “Every person I have interviewed has a remarkably humble attitude; all concerned with the same issue—of having a lasting tribute to this man who so affected their life.”