Joie Estrella Horwitz Discusses Luchita Hurtado, Multi-species Understanding of Life, and the Mysteries of Super 8
Interview by Nick Ramsay
Images from "Green Turns Brown" by Joie Estrella Horwitz 
NR
Your profile in Filmmaker magazine ends with the writer stating that your films “radiate tenderness,” which is certainly true of “Green Turns Brown.” The closeness in your relationship with Luchita Hurtado comes through in the film, which is why I think it fits well in a program of “home video and personal documentary.” The film feels personal and intimate, like a wise elder artist is sharing wisdom with a younger artist, a grandmother who sees herself reflected in her granddaughter, and vice versa. Can you say more about your relationship with Luchita, and how her art inspires yours?
JEH
I worked in Luchita’s studio for a few years archiving her work before I began working with her directly. I started as a studio assistant, which quickly became more of a friendship. She was one of those incredible people who truly listened to everyone with intention. I remember watching her listen to Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie 1 and weeping because I realized I would never be able to hear the way she could. Since I worked in her archive first, I got to understand her art intimately before knowing her so when I finally met her it all made sense. Of course, this incredible creature produced these works! Her art is not pretentious or tedious, they are alive, direct, integrative, spiritual, healing. They speak to her collaborative essence and belief in a multi-species understanding of life. Everywhere she went she collected leaves. I’d look through the books in her home and leaves would come pouring out, she loved to press them between the pages. She looked at their textures, shapes, colors, in a way that beckoned friendship. She loved them deeply. I was most inspired by her commitment to her work for the sake of being in the creative process over creating products. She truly made work for the experience of it, becoming "famous" at 97 years old was a bonus that she didn’t seem to care much about.​​​​​​​
NR
There are so many beautiful images in this film. Luchita holding the green plant in front of her face in the beginning, then the brown leaf at the end are two of my favorites. Your use of Super 8 feels so perfect for the soul of this film- I can’t even imagine a digitally recorded version of this film. It wouldn’t be the same. Can you talk about your approach as a  cinematographer in making this film ?
JEH
I shoot on Super 8 a lot in my work because of the accessibility and magnitude of mistakes embedded in the experience of capturing with this camera. I prefer a filmmaking practice that is easy, something I can do on a whim on my own, not tied to the logistical nightmares that sometimes can come with larger productions. I think ideas require a certain amount of freedom, but they are of a timely nature. Sometimes they beg for expression immediately and I feel the Super 8 allows for that immediacy, while still maintaining a level of mystery. The Super 8 is not a forgiving camera; you feel the bumps, the textures, the movements, the vibration of life. I appreciate its inherent messiness. I actually shot these rolls of film on my birthday in 2019 after we went to lunch at Luchita's favorite diner in Santa Monica, Fromans. After eating we took a walk, and this is when I shot most of the images in the film. It was one of the last times I saw her before she passed away.
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NR
In the film, Luchita says “It’s as important when you finish a painting as when you start it, and you’re the only one who can say that it’s finished.” How did you know when this film was finished? 
JEH
I actually made the edit for this film in one day. I had a strong burst of energy and it came together quickly. I think it is partly due to my relationship with Luchita–my medium deeply wanted to have a conversation with hers. It changed a bit along the way, but the majority of the edit was done very quickly. I think it was one of those beautiful gifts when your stamina meets your creative flow. A wonderful sort of alchemy. It was an easy one for me to make, and I am grateful for that. It told me when it was done.​​​​​​​
NR
Are you currently working on any new projects?
JEH
Yes! I am finishing a film titled Tender Crossings, a ghost story about notions of home on the US/Mexico border where I grew up and I am co-directing a feature with Luis Gutiérrez Arias based on the book by Yuri Herrera, Signs Preceding the End of the World.
Joie Estrella Horwitz is a filmmaker, producer, and curator based in Los Angeles. Filmmaker Magazine named her one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2020. Her current film, Tender Crossings, is a ghost story about notions of home of the US/Mexico border. She is a co-founder of Bahía Colectiva, a community of filmmakers who collaborate in cinematic practice and curation.
Nick Ramsay is a filmmaker and co-founder of Film Diary NYC.