Lourdes Portillo, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker and activist whose films such as “The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo” and “The Devil Never Sleeps” helped elevate Mexican and LGBTQ stories in the global cinema ecosystem, has died at the age of 80, IndieWire has confirmed.

Born in Mexico in 1943, Portillo moved to America with her family as a teenager and began making films at 21 years old. She made her directorial debut with 1979’s “After the Earthquake,” a short film that focused on the experiences of a Nicaraguan refugee building a new life in San Francisco. Over the next four decades, she went on to establish herself as one of global cinema’s most prominent advocates for the Chicano movement and LGBTQ rights, using her documentary and narrative films to highlight the perspectives of marginalized people.

Her 1986 film “The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo,” a documentary about the eponymous Argentine human rights group that peacefully protested the authoritarian rule and human rights violations of Jorge Rafael Videla, earned Portillo both a Primetime Emmy nomination and an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary. The film cemented Portillo as a major global filmmaking voice, a reputation she maintained as she worked for the rest of her life.

In 1994, Portillo directed “The Devil Never Sleeps,” a documentary that followed her as she traveled to Mexico to investigate suspicious circumstances surrounding her uncle’s death that led her to unearth new stories about her family history. The film is remembered by many as a quintessential example of Portillo’s ability to combine nonfiction political activism with human-centric narrative storytelling.

Portillo’s final completed film, the animated short “State of Grace,” was released in 2020. As recently as 2023, she was working on a new documentary titled “Looking at Ourselves” that received grant funding from Sundance.

Portillo is survived by her three children.

Reporting by Anne Thompson.

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