Carmel Valley actress wins award for role in ‘Paz’ short film

Elena Sahagun with her son Colin at the premiere of "Paz."
Elena Sahugun with her son Colin at the premiere of “Paz.”
(Steven Guersch)

Carmel Valley actress Elena Sahugun’s performance in the short film “Paz” won an Award of Merit for Best Supporting Actress in the 2020 Best Shorts Competition.

Based on a true story, the film shares writer and director Andrew Guitierrez’s mother’s experience growing up in a physically abusive household and her courage to find freedom and peace. In addition to Sahugan’s acting honors, the film also won Awards of Excellence for Latin/Hispanic film and Film Short and was nominated by the American Society of Cinematographers as one of the top films in the country for cinematography.

After a delay due to the pandemic, “Paz” premiered on July 14 at a Buena Park theater —Sahagun walked the red carpet with her son Colin, a rising junior at Torrey Pines High School.

Elena Sahagun as Maria in "Paz."
(Yiyao (Kelsey) Zhu)

A former Raiderette cheerleader with the then-Los Angeles Raiders, Sahagun got into acting in the 1990s and has appeared in 28 films, mostly independent or TV movies, as well as TV shows. Her first feature film role was as a villain in the 1990 action movie “Marked for Death” with Steven Seagal.

After taking a break from acting and moving from Los Angeles to the Carmel Valley area to raise her son, she is just getting back into the industry, “It pulled me back in and I love it,” Sahagun said.

The premiere of “Paz” was about two years in the making —the diverse cast of mostly Latino actors filmed the short over a year ago. As the film was set in the 1940s in San Francisco, Sahagun enjoyed the vintage costuming, cars and details on the Long Beach set.

The role of Maria was a departure for Sahagun as she had to play older for the first time in her career—she admitted it was scary at first the idea of minimal makeup and added wrinkles but she found in the powerful story that she was able to show her range as an actress.

The dramatic short dealt with the difficult topic of abuse and Sahagun said many of the cast members found themselves relating to the story.

“It was very real and emotional….it pushed me to the limit,” she said.

Following “Paz”, Sahagun appeared in a sci-fi thriller called “It Crawls Beneath” and the independent film “American Desert,” which has also picked up awards on the film festival circuit. Taking a step behind the camera, she also recently produced two episodes for a dramedy based on her life as a Raiderette. Called “Always a Cheerleader”, it was filmed entirely in Del Mar and is set in the 1980s, kind of mix between “Baywatch” and “Dynasty.”

With a cast she loves and a very funny script, she said she is excited for what might come next.