On December 7, McDonald’s USA’s nationwide program Spotlight Dorado short film contest announced its inaugural winner. The special event took place at the stunning Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, CA – and we experienced it first-hand.

Upon arrival, the cocktail-attire guests walked on the glamorous red carpet. In front of the red carpet, three detailed set designs captured each of the three creative finalist films. It was interesting to experience the sets, especially since each film was so different.

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The set design of one of the finalists, Jazmin Aguilar’s “Kid Ugly,” featured the Western-inspired short’s bar and distinctive paper bag faces. Another finalist, Lorena Russi’s coming-of-age comedic “A History of Sitting in Waiting Rooms (Or Whatever Longer Title you Prefer)’s,” set design featured candy and soda pop, with a forest background drop such as it did in the film. The last finalist, Jesus Celaya’s lucha libre-led short film “Lucha” Noir set design featured Victorian-Esque props and lit candles. Each served not only as an in-depth look at each film and a photo opportunity for the attendees. 

After the photo ops, we were treated to the film screenings, where Julissa Calderon hosted the night. 

Calderon brought up each of the three finalists to introduce their films; each thanked their cast and crew and expressed gratitude to Spotlight Dorado. Before announcing the winner, Calderon presented each creative with a gift from McDonald’s: a MacBook equipped with everything they might need for future projects.

Calderon then invited the “Encanto” actress, director, producer, and one of the program’s lead mentors, Stephanie Beatriz, to the podium to announce the fan-chosen winner: Jesus Celaya’s “Lucha Noir.” Celaya received a year-long opportunity to work with McDonald’s USA on 2023 creative initiatives and campaigns; he will also receive industry-standard innovative software subscription services. 

Courtesy McDonald’s

Before the after-party, the mitú network was able to speak to the program’s figureheads and the winner about the project.

“This has been incredible from its inception to selecting the filmmakers to be a part of Spotlight Dorado to actually being here tonight; watching the final films has been absolutely incredible because this particular community deserves and needs more support for its artists,” Beatriz told us.

“The fact that McDonald’s and Spotlight Dorado came together and created this place where each of these artists was supported – deeply supported – and not just with mentors, which they had, but also with production value. Each of them was awarded $75,000 to make these films, which means that you’re seeing films with the quality and caliber their stories deserve.”

Courtesy McDonald’s

She continued: “That was one of the most important parts to me because our Latino community, the arts can sometimes feel like it might be something that’s slightly out of reach. That’s not the case. We have stories. We deserve to hear our stories be told. And one of the most exciting things about tonight was watching these films and feeling the audience’s response to them and feeling how intimately so many people in this audience connected with these stories. They may not be like theirs at all. And that was really, really special. It’s why I wanted to be a part of this.”

When asking the freshly-selected winner, the Mexican-American writer, and director Celaya about his future, he said: “I’d love to make ‘Lucha Noir’ a television series and push that and have this just be the start of that ball rolling. There are some other projects as well that I hope to get even more weight behind because now there’s the support.”