Professor Alicia Díaz's film

Dance film connects Puerto Rican and Richmond tobacco workers

December 16, 2020


Director and UR professor Alicia Díaz’s award-winning dance film, which uses performance to draw connections between the struggle of female tobacco workers in Richmond and Puerto Rico, is currently on view as part of the “Commonwealth” exhibition at the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art.

Alongside UR colleague Patricia Herrera, Díaz co-created and directed the commissioned film called "Entre Puerto Rico y Richmond: Women in Resistance Shall Not Be Moved" for the exhibition, which runs through Jan. 31, 2021.  

“I am thrilled that the film is getting exposure and that these linked histories of resistance and liberation between Puerto Rico and Richmond, Virginia, can be shared with the public as we envision a more just and equitable world,” she said. 

This work is about memory and history and telling untold histories and stories.
headshot of  Alicia Díaz
Alicia Díaz

Associate Professor of Dance

Filmed in a former American Tobacco Company warehouse in Richmond, the film honors Black female tobacco stemmers who worked in segregated facilities in Richmond, Puerto Rican tobacco factory workers, and anti-colonial activists Dominga de La Cruz Becerril (1909-1981) and Luisa Capetillo (1879-1922). 

For this project, I invited a team of multi-disciplinary artists and activists to co-create the film through a highly collaborative process,” Díaz said“It is about evoking ritual and history and performance all together. What is important is how looking back and reclaiming these stories help us situate ourselves among activism today.”

The film was awarded the “Best of the Fest” at the 2020 Afrikana Independent Film Festival and "Best Experimental Film" and the Logcinema Art Films Festival. It also was nominated as the “Best Experimental Short,” “Best Screendance Short,” and “Best Production Design” at the Los Angeles International Film Festival’s Indie Short Fest. It’s also the official art-house selection for the WRPN Women’s International Film Festival, and the official experimental short selection for the Golden Short Films Festival.

“All of this work is about memory and history and telling untold histories and stories,” she said. “Reclaiming those stories as a way to think about how we act today and how we move forward is part of the work that I have also been doing with students at UR.”