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Madera cousins win film award

For The Madera Tribune

The movie “First time Home” was made by four Madera cousins and recently earned the Rising Voices Award at the Portland Film Festival and will be shown during the Smithsonian Museum’s Mother Tongue Film Festival.


What started as a trip to visit their ancestral village for four Madera cousins turned into a documentary that won the Rising Voices Award at the Portland Film Festival and will next be shown at the Smithsonian Museum’s Mother Tongue Film Festival ( in February.

Noemi Librado-Sanchez, 17, Esmeralda Ventura, 21, Heriberto Ventura, 21, and Esmina Librado, 22, made a trip to Oaxaca in Mexico to visit ancestors in 2016 and, after figuring out what to do with the clips connected them together into a film entitled, “First Time Home.”.

“We didn’t bring the video to make a film,” Librado-Sanchez, who was 12 when they made the trip, said. “We filmed them for ourselves and to make memories. We thought about what we can do with these clips.”

Librado-Sanchez said they weren’t sure what they were going to do with the clips they filmed. After about a year, the four cousins decided to combine them together to make a movie out of it.

“We put our heads together,” Librado-Sanchez said. “I came up with the idea to put it together in a movie. We continued with the process. It was hard because we had to do Zoom calls because our cousins and I aren’t in the same place. When COVID hit, that’s when everything got harder because we couldn’t travel. Everything was done over the phone or Zoom.”

That’s when family friend Seth Holmes, a professor of anthropology at the University of Southern California, stepped in to help out.

“Seth is a family friend of ours since before I was born. We’ve known Seth for a long time. He’s been helpful and like family for us,” Librado-Sanchez said. “It was his idea to put this into the contest. We all put our heads together of what we could do. Seth was the one who entered it into the film festival after we put it together and found a song for it and a cover. It was a long process.”

Since Librado-Sanchez and her sister, Esmina, lives in the northwest, the film was entered in the Portland Film Festival and received an award.

“It was really cool. It felt so surreal,” Librado-Sanchez said. “It started off as films we were going to keep as memories. It went to become something that can change someone’s point of view.”

Now, the film will be shown at the Smithsonian Film Festival.

“I am beyond thankful,” she said. “I have to thank God for everything and my family for supporting us. It’s really crazy because it started off as something to keep as memories and now it’s something big.”

Librado-Sanchez was born in Madera, but was raised in Washington.

“I wasn’t in Madera for long,” she said. “My parents were going to come to Washington, but before they left, my mom had contractions and I was born.”

Librado-Sanchez moved to Washington at about two-years-old, but made frequent trips to Madera as her parents came to the Valley for work and to visit cousins.

“They (my parents) lived a Madera for a while, but they also traveled to Washington for seasonal work,” she said. “ I only came here when they came to Madera.”

Librado Sanchez and her sister made the trip through California to pick up her cousins, who live in Madera, and continued to Mexico with Holmes, who provided the iPad.

“At first it was exciting, but I really didn’t know what emotions I would have going through with it,” Librado-Sanchez said. “I knew who they (Mexican cousins) were and about them and how they were related. I never met them. They were strangers in a way.

“Everything was filmed on the iPad. We learned to use it. That’s all we learned to record. We did get some help to edit and put together.We didn’t bring the video to make a film. We filmed them for ourselves and to make memories.”

Librado-Sanchez is a senior at Burlington-Edison High School in Washington and hopes to get into journalism.

“I also want to do a film,” she said. “I want to write a book. I have some non-fiction ideas I want to write about.

“I feel like this is an opportunity that I can’t let go. I’m really proud of it.

“I want to be an inspirational speaker and a writer. I just want to be able to do something to help others with my story and things I’ve been through.”


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