International Voices: David Saenz ’24 Seeks to Inspire and Uplift Through Film and Building Community

When a family is grounded like a sturdy tree, even the most torrential weather cannot tear them apart. David Saenz ’24, who grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico, attributes his bravery, adaptability, and faith to his family. He carries immense passion for filmmaking, remains rooted in his Mexican culture, and hopes to share an aura of positivity in every smile to someone across campus, conversation with someone new, and act of kindness to a stranger.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Saenz moved around many times with his mom, older brother, and younger sister. They lived in Guadalajara, different parts of Chihuahua, moved to Ohio, and then back to the city of Chihuahua. “I had a very flexible perspective at a young age by interacting with lots of people, living in different cultures, making new friends, and adapting to new regions,” he said. Most importantly, Saenz’s childhood led him to develop bravery in every endeavor. “Moving to another country is scary, but I felt ready and grateful that I had learned to adapt.” No matter where he goes or who he’s surrounded by, Saenz remains true to himself, seeking to embrace his essence.

Saenz’s family is the most influential force in his life. “I am the gentleman and man of God that I am today because of my mom and brother. I am my funny, outgoing self because of my sister. Thanks to them I’m here,” he said. His mom is his biggest inspiration. As a smart, loving woman of faith, she has encouraged him to pursue his dreams, setting an example of courage and perseverance.

“No matter what we’re going through, the four of us are always united.”

Ever since he was a child, Saenz was fascinated by cinema and knew he wanted to be a director. He went to Pasadena City College to immerse himself in Southern California culture and strengthen his English speaking skills. In Fall 2021, Saenz transferred to Azusa Pacific University because of the extensive cinematic arts program, ability to learn about filmmaking from a Christian perspective, and opportunities to build connections so close to the entertainment industry.

With directing as his concentration, Saenz hopes to create stories that offer inspiration, hope, and strength to all audiences. “Everyone is fighting their own battles, and if the films I make can encourage them to keep going, that would be my biggest satisfaction,” he said. Saenz values telling stories in unique ways, creating new worlds, and getting to the heart of humanity. His experience at APU so far has given him opportunities to get hands-on experience doing what he loves, learn from peers who share the same passion, and learn from industry professionals who mentor students with faith, leadership, and excellence in mind. This May, his capstone film “KI’EK,” which he wrote and directed, will premiere at the College of the Arts Industry Spotlight at Warner Bros.

Saenz’s journey in the U.S. has taught him to break free from his comfort zone, and to sometimes be okay with feeling alone, knowing that God is always with him, and his family is always cheering him on. “Moving to Southern California has helped me appreciate what I love: my culture’s food, and my family. I learned to be brave and that there are so many ways to grow,” he said. In moments of loneliness, Saenz poured himself into hobbies such as basketball and working out. Ultimately, knowing his family supports him even when he’s away gives Saenz the joy and drive to continue working toward his goals.

Faith in Christ has shaped Saenz in countless ways. He recalled going through difficult seasons when his faith faltered. “Somehow faith always came back to me after those hard situations,” he said. “Faith has broken me and rebuilt me stronger each time.” Saenz strives to continue growing as a man of God, doing everything with Christ in mind to steer his direction.

Saenz aims to implement aspects of his Mexican culture that he values most, such as being decisive, brave, and optimistic while taking risks. “I want to encourage people to have fun, to feel comfortable saying hi to others even if you only saw them once. Make connections and enjoy the good things in life like food, music, and anything beautiful,” he said. Saenz also hopes to share how important it is to think of the legacy each of us leaves, and to take risks in pursuit of what matters most. He’s learned to continue remaining true to himself.

“Never forget where you come from and don’t use your cultural essence as a trend; use it as a strong aspect of your personality.”

Whether he’s trying an artistic technique behind a camera, spending time at the gym with friends, or exploring somewhere new, Saenz’s dedication to implementing kindness, acceptance, and love shines brightly. Like a plant’s firm roots in its foundation, Saenz’s devotion to his faith, family, and heritage have cultivated his growth as a man of God with a mission to inspire others.