The project is both experimental art film and live guerilla performance work. Jaguars in Jumpsuits was shot in 2020 and produced in 2021. Each of the performers of the project was tasked with performing their scenes in public spaces, with audiences witnessing the live filming. In a sense, this turns filmmaking into performance art. There are no crews preventing onlookers from entering the set and questions are encouraged throughout the process. However, there were team-members present to ensure performer's safety. The leadership and core team was all female: writing, directing, producing, performing and editing. "Female" encompasses trans women and queer women-- and the overall project was helmed by a Latine woman of color--Celestina Billington.
"Jaguars in Jumpsuits" is multifaceted in its themes: feminist, socially engaged, hopeful. The project is a dreamlike series of sequences that flow together through movement, dialogue, and song. It revolves around a prisoner's escape from prison and their encounter with two heroes who guide them from a state of fear to a radical awakening of spiritual consciousness. At the core of the project is the creator's connection to her Mexica heritage, and a desire to question the role of audiences in performance work. The first part of the film does not expose the role that audiences play in the film's process, and part two will greater showcase the blurred visages of passerby and interlocuters.
The film's title refers to the prison the character lives in at the start of the film, and the fact that they are wearing the obligatory American orange jumpsuit of the penitentiary. The Jaguar is both a signal to the animalistic nature that the character has been forced to suppress in the modern world.
Jaguars in Jumpsuits was made during the height of the global pandemic. The participating artists were all funded by expanded unemployment income and were able to self-fund the work. Once this income stream ceased, the artists were forced to pivot again as the world reopened. Fortunately, the director, Celestina, was awarded a NY City Artist Corps grant. Using this resource, she produced the project and it was shown at LES' El Clemente Soto Velez, Chinatown's Silk Road Cafe and in Greenpoint at Saint Bimbo. It also showed at Syndey Fusion Festival and in Houston's TXRX Labs.
So much guerilla work today is either satirical in nature (Borat, Eric Andre) or documentarian. This work neither castigates nor appropriates the image of the modern audience, rather, it invites them into the broader aesthetic of the work itself.