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LatinoBuzz: Filmmaker Vanessa Libertad Garcia's Last Blog Post, Says Goodbye to Family & Friends

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by Vanessa Erazo
August 28, 2013 5:00 PM
9 Comments
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Elizabeth Anweis Vanessa Libertad Garcia on the set of Good Mourning, Lucille

Sometime last week I came across an unusual Facebook post. Amidst the pictures of food, check-ins at the gym, and other mundane facts people like to share on social networking sites was a post about a young Latina filmmaker named Vanessa Libertad Garcia. It was a message of condolence to her family and friends on the account of her passing. As I read through the comments and clicked through the links, I stumbled upon her blog. In a post titled, "All My Love, V" Vanessa says goodbye to her friends and family. It served as her suicide note.

Her letter is honest, raw, vulnerable, completely rational, and almost matter-of-fact. It is clear that she had suffered a long time and saw no other way out.

"In the spirit of the modern age, I've decided to post my suicide letter as my final blog post. I don't really know why other people have chosen to leave behind suicide letters. In my case, I'm writing one just to offer a little clarity on why I've decided to take this route out of existence instead of peacing out the old fashioned way via natural causes, car accident, plane crash, murder, cancer, etc.

Well, quite simply, I've been miserable for a long time. I'd say the chronic melancholia began at age 14 / 15. I could blame this state of lingering sorrow and bitter dissatisfaction with myself and my life on anything under the sun: my family, poverty, the capitalist system, sexual abuse, obesity, other people, alcohol, luck, fate, and God... but that stance would be erroneous. It would merely be a deflection from what I've come to know as the true underlying reason of this seemingly unconquerable gloom: Me.

My inability to adapt to life's challenges and assimilate its lessons into wisdom, gratitude and optimism have left me psychologically torn, emotionally numb, physically exhausted, and spiritually destitute. I do feel, however, that I gave it a damn good try."

Brit Laurén Manor Vanessa Libertad Garcia

For some people Vanessa's choice to end her life is a hard one to understand but, ultimately it was a decision she had the right to make. Despite the sad end to her life my objective here is to celebrate her work as a filmmaker.

Vanessa Libertad Garcia, an American-born child of Cuban immigrants, grew up "between the burbs' and hoods of Los Angeles." Despite the obstacles she faced as a Latina, an out lesbian, and having parents as immigrants she was always an overachiever. She graduated Cum Laude from Loyola Marymount University. She was also a prolific writer and self-published a collection of short stories and poems "The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive."

While still in college, Vanessa was introduced to Anayansi Prado, a documentarian working on her first film. Anayansi hired Vanessa to work as an intern on Maid in America, an award-winning documentary about the lives of Latina domestic workers in Los Angeles. As time went on, Vanessa's duties went beyond those of an intern. She helped structure the story and provided feedback on editing. Anayansi ended up giving her an Associate Producer credit. Even while Vanessa began working on her own projects the two stayed close friends. Anayansi remembers her fondly, "Vanessa was a very loving person. She always told me she loved me every conversation I had with her on the phone. No matter what we talked about she would end it with, 'I love you mama.' She always let people know that she loved them. She was very giving, loving, and selfless. She always wore her heart on her sleeve."

In 2005, Vanessa wrote, produced, directed, and edited a short film A Two Woman One Act. The film is, "set in the mortuary of an LA ghetto, where two Cholas face the repressed lust for each other that has secretly tormented their lives." The film played the festival circuit including Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

A little over a year ago, Vanessa began looking for someone to produce her first feature length script, Good Mourning, Lucille a dark comedy murder mystery. Shannon Constantine Logan loved the story and jumped on board right away as a producer. Shannon helped polish the script and they quickly got financing, starting shooting, and just a few months ago began editing the footage.

A few days before her untimely passing, Vanessa met with Shannon and the editor to screen the most recent cut of Good Mourning, Lucille. Vanessa gave notes on the music, pacing, and sound. Shannon didn't know it but it was the last time she would see Vanessa. "It wasn't apparent at all when I last saw her. She was happy and laughing. Nobody saw it coming. I didn't know she was struggling to that extent, nobody really knew."

Good Mourning, Lucille

Now Shannon is tasked with moving forward, with finishing the film without Vanessa. "I am honoring her last wishes for the movie; it is a little sad and daunting now. The original intention was to get it into a festival and possibly sell it. I really want to make sure it gets out there. I can't wait to show the world what a talented, creative, and funny person she was. It's her memorial this movie. It's the last great thing she made."

It turns out Good Mourning, Lucille might not be Vanessa's last project. She had spent the last few years working on the script for Dear Dios. Anayansi says, "She worked on it for years, it was her baby. Some of her friends, we have been talking about getting together to try and get it made." The synopsis on Vanessa's website describes the film, "An aspiring photojournalist with a lust for bi-women and malt liquor spirals out of control in the hipster club scene and turns bottom-of-the-barrel temp for an LA celebrity tabloid rag."

It is sad to think that at 29 years old Vanessa Libertad Garcia felt like she had nothing else to give this world. By most accounts her friends describe her as full of ideas, extremely brilliant, and incredibly creative. Even at her young age she accomplished an impressive body of work. It is this artistic legacy that her friends and family hope she is remembered by. Anayansi expressed the wishes of Vanessa's loved ones, "Because she took her own life we don't want the dignity of her life to be diminished. We want to honor her for who she was. Vanessa was a loving person who was loved by so many people. She was accomplished, was a great artist, and had a great relationship with her family. She had lots of friends. She was always surrounded by friends. Mental illness like any other illness needs to be treated. There are stereotypes of depressed people as sad and lonely. She knew people loved her deeply. She was loved and supported by her mother and sisters as an artist and a lesbian. There was a beautiful memorial on Sunday where we all shared about how selfless she was. There were stories after stories of her helping people, of how giving and loving she was."

Suicide and mental illness are topics that rarely come up, particularly in the Latino community. There is stigma attached and the result is silence and secrecy. Depression and mental illness are invisible. They are not like other diseases which manifest before our eyes. It is hard to ignore that someone has cancer or a broken bone. But many with depression suffer in silence. If we as a society can learn to be compassionate and understanding about these issues those in pain may be willing to come forward and seek treatment. There is no cure for depression but with medical treatment it is a manageable condition.

I did not know Vanessa Libertad Garcia and cannot judge her situation or second-guess her decision to end her life. But, something about her story really touched me. I hope the same is true for the rest of you.

If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

Written by Vanessa Erazo. LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature on SydneysBuzz that highlights Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow @LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook.

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9 Comments

  • Sub | March 28, 2014 7:06 PMReply

    I feel I have an understanding of where she was coming from. Suffering from depression since a young child. Now I'm almost 40. The clouds finally cleared for me. So sad they did not for her. Unfortunately she will just be sent back to work out the issues again, in another time and place. Time is a flat circle, an eternal re-occurrence. It's not a belief. It's physical concept, it doesn't involve supernatural reincarnation, but the return of beings in the same bodies. Time is viewed as being not linear but cyclical. She will eventually have to face what she ran from, we all do in one life or another. Pobrecita.

  • Mitchell Kohan | March 2, 2014 9:28 PMReply

    What a sad, tragic tragic event... I truly hope she's in a better place.

  • Libertad Castro | September 23, 2013 3:36 AMReply

    Hi this is Vanessa's mom. Ana could not have described my daughter any better. She was Beautiful, Talented, Witty, Loving, and very loved and shelter by me. Yes, she did battle with depression for many years. However, I want to make a statement that even though Vanessa's depression was real; It was the brutal bulliness and unscrupulous criticism that she faced for the last two months in the finishing of "Good Mourning Lucile" by an unscrupulous person whose name I will not mention that actually pushed my daughter over the edge of that 18th floor hotel room. Bulliness need to stop! It is claiming many lives. Not only children face bulliness in school but adults face it as well. I say this with the certainty that I am not being unjust. And for those who may disagree there is no ill comment that anyone can make that would hurt me more than the loss of my daughter. This scrutinizing pain and big void could never be matched. Love and blessings to all of you who so greatly loved my daughter, Vanessa Libertad Garcia.

  • November | September 6, 2013 10:27 PMReply

    Yes, Diem & Iris, you are correct. Just as with the black community, mental illness and depression are stigmas and seen as things you don't talk about. Things you can simply pray away.

    Besides the stigma, many mental health professionals don't understand cultural behavior so Latinos and other people of culture are misdiagnosed or prescribed medication inappropriately.

    For those that seek help, I recommend NAMI, there is a West L.A. branch. There was an NAMI Urban L.A. that served a black and Latino population:

    NAMI Urban Los Angeles
    4305 Degnan Blvd., Suite 104
    Los Angeles, CA 90008-4948

    Telephone: 323-294-7814

  • November | September 6, 2013 10:28 PM

    Note: I meant to write, "...other people of color..."

  • iris | August 30, 2013 9:11 AMReply

    I agree with DIEM. In addition, it is very common to hear or be judged as "crazy" if you seek for psychological help. I blame that to ignorance and taboo within our culture.

  • Alexander Anselmo | August 29, 2013 1:55 AMReply

    I feel and share her pain. As a Latino I think it's BS to claim that this is a Latino problem. I find it very pathetic to try and affiliate suicide to a Latino only club. It's a human problem that multiple societies, especially American society pretend doesn't exist. I wish and hope things will get better. But as they say "one death is a tragedy, one thousand deaths is a statistic"

  • Diem | August 29, 2013 3:06 PM

    I think you misunderstood what was meant by that. Mental illness, depression, and seeking therapy is taboo for Latinos because there is a stigma that exists that if you seek treatment or if you have a mental illness then you are "crazy." The only way to make sure this changes is by spreading awareness and getting people to seek help.

  • JaySee | August 29, 2013 4:01 AM

    Just wondering who affiliated suicide to a "Latino only club"?

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