Dallas filmmaker shows how health care disparities are behind higher COVID-19 risks for Latinos

Dallas, Texas – Filmmaker Lindell Singleton has made health care inequities a focus of the documentaries he’s directed during a 20-year career in Dallas.

So when a colleague working as a health care executive brought up the absence of Spanish-language COVID-19 resources for Latinos, he saw an opportunity to reach a community that’s been hard-hit by the coronavirus.

“I firmly believe that documentary film can be a tool to shine a light on relevant social issues,” Singleton said. “From the beginning, I felt that we had to make the picture and make the documentary entirely in Spanish.”

Latinos account for 56.1% of all coronavirus deaths in Texas and 39.6% of all infections in the state, and are more likely to die of COVID-19 than white Texans, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Oak Cliff’s 75211 ZIP code, whose residents are predominantly Latino, has had among the largest number of active cases of any ZIP code in Dallas County.

Singleton and the team at his production company, Limeville Entertainment, worked with the Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic, a nonprofit with locations in West Dallas and Oak Cliff, to create the short film, ¿A Quién Quieres? (Who do You Love?).

The 10-minute film features interviews with doctors from Los Barrios Unidos, animations explaining how the virus spreads and clips of people sharing why and for whom they wear a mask. The film will be free to download and share, and will also be available on the Limeville Entertainment YouTube channel Nov. 1.

Singleton said he hopes the project will encourage people to take the appropriate measures to protect loved ones from the disease.

“It’s fundamentally more than just the feeling of love,” he said. “It’s about what you’re willing to do for others, for your family, for those close to you, for your community…That’s just what kept coming back to me about this piece: Who do you love? And if you love them, what are you going to do about it?’”

Los Barrios Unidos’ mission since 1972 has been to deliver health care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Of the clinic’s 27,000 patients, 88% are Hispanic, 59% are uninsured, and the vast majority are essential workers who cannot afford to miss work being sick or quarantined.

As a result, the movie’s explanation of basic preventative measures like masking and social distancing is key, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Davis said.

“It’s probably not going to solve the whole issue right now because the issues with health disparities are so real and so tough, but it is going to decrease the incidence,” she said.

The clinic’s doctors and staff lent scientific credibility to the movie and an equally important cultural understanding of what would resonate with Latino viewers. The film’s strength is in its scientific clarity as well as its cultural sensibility, CEO Leonor Marquez said.

Simply regaling facts would be a disservice to an audience whose experience of the pandemic affects their cultural and economic wellbeing in addition to their health, Marquez explained.

“What we did is give a little bit of science behind it and also the realities of what our patients go through,” Marquez said. “But when you’re working backwards from ‘who do you love’ and ‘who are you taking care of’, that reframes it. It gets to become this fight.”

Davis said with so many conflicting messages on the coronavirus, building trust and clarity through projects like ¿A Quién Quieres? will be critical to helping Texans overcome the pandemic. The spread of the coronavirus is controllable, but it requires individual decisions and sacrifices for the sake of others.

“I can’t save or heal anybody. I can’t give a prescription. But what I can do is make a film about it, I can create something around it,” Singleton said. “That’s just my way of trying to make my part of the world better­ – by doing what I can do.”

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