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Daniel Reyes, a master’s student in folklore, is a filmmaker with interests in documentary film, Latinx diaspora of the South and the diverse traditional music genres of Texas and Mexico, including Conjunto, Cumbia and Corridos. He recently co-produced Cantina, a short documentary about La Perla, one of the last Tejano bars in East Austin, Texas and the effect of gentrification on long-time residents.

Daniel Reyes

What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?

I was taking online courses through the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke during the summer of 2018. At the time, my wife and I were living in San Antonio with our one-year-old daughter. We were considering a move outside of Texas to a family friendly city that would provide us with creative and professional opportunities. We researched Durham and the Triangle area and became excited with the region. I researched graduate programs at both Duke and UNC, and became interested in UNC’s master of arts in folklore, an interdisciplinary program that would still allow me to explore documentary filmmaking, while working with faculty members who are leaders in their respective areas. The program turns 80 next year, and I’m excited to be part of this history.

Tell us about your area of interest.

My interest is in documentary filmmaking, with a focus on Latinx and working-class communities. I recently co-produced a short documentary, Cantina, about La Perla, one of the last Tejano bars in East Austin, Texas, where gentrification has impacted the community and its long-time residents. I’m also interested in exploring how this documentary can be made more accessible as a teaching tool in education, diversity training in higher education, and for public screenings to promote community engagement.

What is an important lesson that you learned in the military that has helped you in grad school?

I repaired air traffic control radars in the Air Force. The job was very demanding and high-stress. We learned to move and act quickly and become resourceful as air traffic controllers relied on us for any problems that arose. With radar problems that were harder to troubleshoot, I learned that sometimes you have to step back to look at the larger operation of the system to narrow down the problem. This is the same with graduate school. During times of stress or uncertainty, I remind myself to look at the bigger picture, gain perspective and narrow my focus to those areas I can change. And I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask for help.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?

The goal with my master of arts in folklore is to continue doing documentary work, collaborate with diverse communities on cultural projects, build relationships with other folklorists in the field and work in a leadership role at a cultural center, museum or nonprofit.

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