Chilean American documentary filmmaker Patricia Yáñez hopes to make the world a better place through cinema


PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) – In a spare bedroom at her south Philadelphia townhouse, Patricia Yáñez is working on half a dozen documentaries on everything from the plight of bumblebees to profiles of creative people like Philadanco founder Joan Myers Brown and artist Leroy Johnson.

“If money weren’t an objection, I want to do documentaries on everything,” Yáñez says.

She is the head of Creative Synergy Media, a company she founded in 2016.

“We want to showcase the creatives,” Yáñez said. “I think the contribution we can make is just pass the mic or, you know, shine the light.”

Yáñez was born in 1974, in New Jersey, a year after the Chilean coup that brought military dictator Augusto Pinochet to power.

When she was 4 years old, her parents brought her and her three siblings back to Chile where they lived under the dictatorship until 1990, when Pinochet resigned.

“I am the first generation of directors in Chile after the dictatorship,” says Yáñez, who attended Duoc UC, an institute that is part of a very prestigious university in Chile. “Most of my teachers lived in exile,” says Yáñez.

She graduated right after the 9/11 attacks, and a sister, who had returned to America, convinced her to do the same.

“I remember looking at that passport and realizing that I could come to the United States whenever I wanted and just work.” Yañez said. She has since taught Spanish in the Glassboro School District.

Making documentaries is his secondary passion.

“I now know what I want to be when I grow up,” Yáñez jokes.

She works with an Argentinian editor who lives in Panama and collaborates with a Chilean screenwriter, the teacher who taught her the trade.

“So we do a lot of Zooms,” says Yáñez.

She took out a loan to finance her work and just received a grant from the City of Philadelphia. She is about to release her first completed documentary titled Look, Philly.

“It’s basically a playlist,” Yáñez says, “mostly Bach pieces performed by students, one instrument at a time.”

When considering topics for discussion, she says she looks for issues that need to be addressed.

“I think music education and the preservation of classical music are important. Saving the bees is important,” she says, “honoring and paying homage to someone like Leroy Johnson”.

Johnson is an 84-year-old African-American artist in Philadelphia who Yáñez believes “we in Philadelphia should know about, we should study it.”

“I just see a need in a very organic way and adapt to it,” she says. “I can’t help it … I just want to be part of a solution to something and make a contribution.”

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