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Teaching Tolerance Releases New Classroom Film and Lessons for Grades 6-12

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – On Monday, July 27, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Teaching Tolerance project will release its latest classroom film, “Bibi” – a story told about the intersection of family, identity and belonging through the perspective of a gay, Latinx man and his father. The film will be accompanied by six lessons for grades 6-12 to help students engage with the challenges of moving between languages, places and societal expectations.

The 18-minute film, executive produced by the SPLC, is inspired by the true story of lead actor J.M. Longoria and his relationship with his father. As a child, J.M. had a difficult time expressing himself. So his father would say, “If you can't speak it, write it.” As a result, they communicated via letter writing for many years, often discussing topics that were difficult to talk about in person. Longoria co-wrote the script with filmmaking partner Victor Dueñas, the film’s director. Edward Enriquez-Cohen produced and executive produced the film along with Vanessa Perez who served as producer on the project as well. Additionally, social justice advocate Mónica Ramírez (Justice for Migrant Women) is an executive producer. The film also stars Omar Leyva and Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza.

“As a former educator, it has been my honor to co-create our film ‘Bibi’ with J.M. Longoria, a story that celebrates letter writing and presents it as an alternative way of talking about difficult topics between young people and their parents,” states director Victor Dueñas. “As an openly gay Latino man, I cannot thank the Teaching Tolerance program enough for making our film available to all its members across the country during these trying times. May our film inspire a new generation of letter writers everywhere.”

Longoria said: “I feel like I'm still in a dream. It was incredible to co-develop my personal story with Victor Dueñas into our short film ‘Bibi’, but to have it then executive produced and released by the Southern Poverty Law Center is a true honor. I never would have imagined that sharing my story could help someone express their truth or maybe even save their life. And to anyone who watches ‘Bibi,’ please know that if you can't speak it, write it.”

The classroom lessons, divided into one three-part series for grades 6-8 and another for grades 9-12, use the characters in “Bibi” as a reference point to explore their personal and social identities and to examine how these relate to the concepts of intersectionality, privilege and oppression. Students will explore how writing letters, an important form of communication throughout the film, can facilitate productive conversations. Through the lessons, students are also encouraged to write a letter to Bibi’s father Ernesto, explaining what they learned and why it is important.

“Together, the film and accompanying classroom lessons will be powerful resources for those who work to help young people honor their own and others’ unique identities,” said Monita Bell, interim co-director and managing editor for the Teaching Tolerance project.

“From the first moment I read ‘Bibi’ I was moved to my core and I knew in my soul that we had to bring this story to life,” comments producer/executive producer Edward Enriquez-Cohen. “With that spirit in mind our project was blessed from the very beginning. One of our biggest blessings was that the Southern Poverty Law Center shared our vision and saw the importance of how ‘Bibi’ could help with the mission behind their Teaching Tolerance project. As an advocate/activist for both the Latinx community and our LGBTQ youth, to know that our story could save even one life by watching and learning from ‘Bibi’ means that our mutual mission was accomplished.”

Mónica Ramírez states: “As soon as I was approached about helping to support ‘Bibi’ I knew that it was a film that I wanted to support because of the topic and how beautifully this important story is portrayed. I also knew that SPLC was the right partner because of its long-standing work to promote inclusion in all realms. The film provides the opportunity for a much-needed critical conversation about how we, as a Latinx community and our allies do the work to ensure that our LGBTQ familia is truly embraced and supported for who they are, as well as for who they love.” 

“Bibi shines a light on the power of family acceptance and on the pain of rejection,” notes Monica Trasandes, director of Spanish-Language & Latinx Media and Representation for GLAAD. “It illustrates the way that, very sadly, homophobia can needlessly create barriers between family members and separate parents from the children they love and children from the parents they need and love.”  

“Bibi” will be available for educators to stream through the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project with Spanish or English subtitles at tolerance.org/bibi. The classroom lessons will also be available on the site.