La Gloria

A short film written by Stephanie Adam-Santos & directed by Mary Evangelista

A queer, lovelorn teen struggling with depression finds an unexpected connection to her illiterate abuela through the secret language of dreams.


When 14 year old Gloria decides she can no longer bear the existential pain of feeling invisible, she pens a brief suicide letter and tries to take her own life.  But at the sight of blood, her instinct to survive takes over and she saves herself. That night Gloria is visited in her dreams by a mysterious little saint with sad eyes who shows Gloria a reflection of her heartache in a mirror: a sensual but nightmarish encounter with another girl. The next day, Gloria searches for her missing suicide letter, only to discover it's been found by her illiterate grandmother. For better or for worse, Gloria's reasons for wanting to die remain secret. The next day, Gloria accompanies her older brother and his best friend Xochitl to go tagging at an abandoned house in the desert. Gloria and Xochitl have a steamy encounter that ends in painful disappointment for Gloria. As she wrestles with the pain of unrequited love in secret, Gloria makes an unexpected connection with her grandmother, Antonia, that leads to her coming out — an act of self-expression that Gloria had no idea how much she needed. After, Antonia and Gloria share whiskey and a cigar in bed, a silent acknowledgment of suffering and its mysterious role in our lives.  In the dead of night, Gloria wanders alone, following the mysterious girl from her dream toward a revelation of healing & self-awareness.

La Gloria is made through Film Independent’s Project Involve fellowship which aims to heighten diverse voices.


La Gloria is about two big things - a yearning to be seen and that recognition from someone you love. Gloria, our eponymous hero, fourteen and full of pent up feelings and angst sees no way out of the darkness she carries in her and we fear she might even succumb to it. She slips on the floor by accident (fate, really) which rouses in her the natural need to live. We find Gloria in the aftermath of her suicide attempt still aching, wrestling with feverish dreams of a child-like saint who holds a mirror reflecting back nothing but shadowy figures, perhaps a beloved not truly there. The film asks how do our dreams spill into our everyday life and vice versa. In the cosy desert suburbia that Gloria's mother has worked hard to make for her children, what could her daughter have been missing? What could be so wrong? In writing this story, Stephanie Adams-Santos, the writer of La Gloria astutely renders loneliness and suicidality as more insidious and vast than often depicted. She also offers a remedy with Gloria's attempts at connection. For me this is where the film stands out. What happens when two people are haunted by the same dream? When Gloria discovers that Antonia, her abuela, also dreams of the child-like saint, she opens up to her. They form an unexpected bond when Antonia tells her of her own misfortunes in love and for the first time Gloria feels recognized, steady. I feel this is one of the most important feelings for us to set up and convey in this film, because after all isn't it also what love can feel like? 

About Project Involve - Inclusion

Project Involve is a free nine-month artist development program for filmmakers—writers, directors, producers, editors, cinematographers and entertainment executives—hailing from underrepresented backgrounds in the industry. During the program participants meet one-on-one with industry mentors, attend master classes taught by top filmmakers, attend professional networking events and collaborate together to create a series of new short films.

Film Independent’s Project Involve is supported by Artist Development Lead Funder Time Warner Foundation, Lead Sponsors Turner and TikTok and Project Involve Shorts Lead Funder HBO. Principal Sponsors include EFILM | Deluxe, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television, National Endowment for the Arts, SingularDTV and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The program is also supported by 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion, Amazon Studios, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Formosa Group, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Participant Media and The Camera Division. Additional support provided by the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation.