5 Latina-Directed Feature Films Breaking out in 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 3.54.21 PMI am happy to see more people vocalize demand for Latina representation onscreen and the resurging interest in solving this messed up disparity issue  (Thank you Gina Rodriguez Golden Globes acceptance speech).   However, the representation issue I find ten times more urgent to address is the anguishing miniscule percentage of Latina CONTENT CREATORS in film and television.

I give you 5 bomb Latina DIRECTORS who are are at the helm of brand new feature films coming out this year, women who are striking through the hostile mass media industry to escape the rule of homogeneity (white male perspective).  Now that is something to celebrate.  It’s not surprising that three of these are documentaries.  The percentage of women directed films in documentaries is higher than in fiction.  Now I can’t say with total certainty these  2 Latina directed U.S. fiction feature length films are the only ones out there this year…actually yes I can…..until someone reaches out to correct me ….and I really do hope to be corrected because only two???????

LOS 33

Director: Patricia Riggen
Writers: Mikko Alanne, Michael John Bell, Craig Borten, Jose Rivera
Producers: Robert Katz, Edward McGurn, Mike Medavoy
Cinematographer: Checco Varese
Music: James Horner
U.S. Distributor: TBA
Cast: Rodrigo Santoro, Antonio Banderas, Cote de Pablo, James Brolin, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, Lou Diamond Phillips, Kate del Castillo, Tenoch Huerta
Social Media: @The33Pelicula

Logline: Based on the incredible real-life story of the 33 survivors of a copper-gold mine in Chile that collapsed and trapping them 700 meters underground for 69 days until their rescue.

Add Riggen to the exclusive ranks of women who fought for and have proved they got the chops to direct big action, Hollywood type genre movies like Katheryn Bigelow, Mimi Leder. The trailer for Los 33 that dropped last week reveals an epic dramatization of the intensely emotional struggle to survive the Chilean mine disaster. The English language film carries a sweeping score by none other than James Horner (and naturally you can hear Violetta Parra’s classic song, Gracias Por La Vida).  Add to that a big hero performance by Antonio Banderas who leads an ensemble cast of well known international actors (including hottie Mexican star of Güeros, Tenoch Huerta!!). Riggen, who was born in Guadalajara but moved to the states after graduating Columbia’s film school in NY,  made a splash with her 2007 film, Under the Same Moon starring a back-then-virtually-unknown-in-the-U.S. Eugenio Derbez, and Kate del Castillo. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival then was picked up by Pantelion, the studio she later worked with on the Eva Mendes starrer Girl in Progress.

Domestic distribution and release stateside is yet to be confirmed. Meanwhile Twentieth Century Fox will be releasing the film in Chile in August, marking the fifth anniversary of the incident, before rolling out the film throughout Latin America including Mexico. For an in-depth account of Los 33, check out current best-seller, “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle That Set Them Free” by Hector Tobar.

ENDGAME

Director: Carmen Marron
Writers: Hector Salinas, Carmen Marron
Producers: Sandra Avila, Carmen Marron
Executive Producers: Hector Salinas, Betty Sullivan
Associate Producer: Bonnie Emerson
Cinematographer: Francisco Bulgarelli
Music: Brian Standefer
Cinematographer: Francisco Bulgarelli
U.S. Distributor: TBA
Cast: Rico Rodriguez, Efren Ramirez, Justina Machado, Jon Gries
Social Media: @GoForIt_Carmen
Facebook

ENDGAME SAN ANTONIO PaperLogline: Shot in Brownsville and inspired by true events, ENDGAME is a coming-of-age story about a young boy who joins the school chess team, and with the help of his coach, embarks on a journey of self-discovery, team spirit and the importance of family.

IMG_9959 copyAnother talented genre director (and fellow Chicana from Chicago, HEYYY) whose tenacity and talent make her primed to be our Latina Ava Duvernay success story (of course that depends on whether the public (and gatekeepers) support her to make the change to the system to demand her spot in the national mainstream).  I wrote about Carmen’s tireless spirit before, mentioning her first film which she shot, wrote, directed and produced in Chicago called Go For It (which incidentally was Gina Rodriguez’s first feature role). Her latest film is Endgame starring the precocious Manny from Modern Family, Rico Rodriguez, and Efren Ramirez from cult classic Napoleon Dynamite, Endgame is one of those irresistible competition, underdog, against-all-odds stories. Ramirez portrays the galvanizing Brownsville public elementary school teacher and chess afficionado, J.J. Guajardo, who in 1989, upon seeing his 6th grade class take an interest in his chess board, began to teach them on the regular. The class excelled and entered regional competitions, going on to enter and win state championships against schools with far more resources. Echoing the positives of disrupting a broke educational status quo with simply offering access to advanced mental cognition building tools, the film echoes another real life story and seminal Chicano film, Stand & Deliver.  Big difference; that movie was not directed by a Latino/a.

The film is world premiering at the Dallas International Film Festival April 12 &13. Distribution is yet to be confirmed for theatrical/VOD but stay tuned via the Facebook page.

NO MÁS BEBÉS

Director: Renee Tajima-Peña
Producers: Virginia Espino
Associate Producer: Kate Trumbull-Valle
Executive Producers: Julie Parker Benello, Wendy Ettinger, Judith Helfland, Sally Jo Fiefer and Sandra Pedlow
U.S. Distributor: ITVS/Latino Public Broadcasting
Cinematographer: Claudio Rocha
Music: Bronwen Jones, additional music by Quetzal
Cast: Antonia Hernandez, Gloria Molina, Dolores Madrigal, Jovita Rivera, Consuelo Hermosillo
Social Media: Facebook

 Logline: An investigation of the sterilization of Mexican-American women at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the 1960s and 70s

6. Maria Figueroa at courthouse

Sadly, there is an appalling history in the United States of laws and policies authorizing sterilizations of poor women without their knowledge or consent for the “benefit of society”; Buck v. Bell (low-income white women in Virginia), Relf v. Weinberger (young African-American women in Alabama), and female inmates in California. This film focuses on the case of Latinas of Mexican origin in California in Madrigal v. Quilligan.  Shedding light on this horrific human rights violation, the film includes interviews with women who suffered this terrible ordeal and locked the memory away, along with former medical staff and the incredible lawyer who filed this suit forty years ago, Antonia Hernandez. A  long-time coming, supremely valuable and eye opening contextualization of the Chicano rights movement from the late 60s/70s as well as the current reproductive justice movement.

So kind of cheating here, Renee is not Latina per se, but a sister in the struggle to document the Latino community.  Her producer is Latina, Virginia Espino, LA born-and-raised historian, plus I really want to rally support for this film because it is one of those Latina stories that really needed to be told and remembered this year which marks the 40th anniversary of the lawsuit (June 19).  It is ready to be unveiled and seen by as wide an audience as possible. Stay tuned to hear when the film will have its world premiere before its broadcast on Independent Lens in the fall.

NOW EN ESPAÑOL

Director: Andrea Meller
Producers: Aaron Woolf, Andrea Meller
Music: Camara Kambon
Cinematographer: Charlie Gruet
U.S. Distributor: PBS/Latino Public Broadcasting
Cast: Marabina Jaimes, Marcela Bordes, Gabriela Lopetegui, Ivette Gonzalez, Natasha Perez
Social Media: @NowenEspanol, website

Logline: Follows the trials and triumphs of the small group of Latina actresses who dub “Desperate Housewives” into Spanish.

Currently hitting the festival circuit in such reputable festivals as Santa Barbara, Chicago Latino Film Festival, CineFestival, ahead of its showing on PBS Voces, Now en Espanol is such an effective and distinct balance of humor, serious-ness and insider look by Chilean-American Andrea Meller.NowEnEspanol_Still1

Profiling Marcela Bordes, Ivette Gonzalez, Marabina Jaimes, Gabriela Lopetegui and Natasha Perez, the film is quite plainspoken and sympathetic about the struggle of the actor in Hollywood. Like the comedy fiction film (also directed by a woman!) In a World, by Lake Bell,  the film offers a rare behind the scenes and insight into the voice acting industry. Few actors make make careers out of this, others pick it up for income, but in the end it is a highly distinct skill to dub millions of shows.   It’s really fascinating perspective on the representation of Latinas onscreen and off. What I love most about this film on top of it being an important tool for dialogue and change, is that the filmmaker injects a whimsy tone (apropos Wisteria Lane) which makes sparking this conversation and call to action so much more effective.  You have no reason to miss this as it premieres on Friday, April 24, 2015, 10:00-11:00 p.m.  (check local listings) as part of VOCES, Latino Public Broadcasting’s arts and culture series on PBS. To get a taste of the ladies’ charm and humor check out the trailer:

OVARIAN PSYCOS

Director: Kate Trumbull-LaValle & Joanna Sokolowski
Producers:Kate Trumbull-LaValle & Joanna Sokolowski
U.S. Distributor: ITVS (broadcast)
Cinematographer: Michael Raines
Music: Jimmy LaValle
Cast: Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade
Social Media: Facebook

04_Prod Still_Xela Mariachi PlazaLogline: Follows the story of an all woman of color bicycle brigade, the Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade. Based in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in Eastside Los Angeles, the Ova’s are a collective of unapologetic, politicized, young Latina women who host monthly bike rides every full moon for women and women-identified riders.

jkmontage3Ever since I interviewed Kate during her film’s Kickstarter, I’ve been madly anticipating this, so I’m pleased to scoop that it will be ready late Fall thanks to ITVS coming in with finishing funds. Protegees of esteemed film ladies like Renee Tajima Peña and B. Ruby Rich, the ladies have spent more than two years riding with the Ovas for this documentary.  Says Joanna, “There are lots of bike groups in LA, but what’s unique about the Ova’s is each ride has a socio-political theme and ends with a group discussion. They dialogue about everything from violence against women to the gentrification of Boyle Heights”.

The Ova’s s leadership is run by the collective who work “To Serve, not to Self Serve.  Credited as founder is activist and music artist, Xela de la X who formed this rad collective in 2011 with the mission to cycle for the purpose of healing, reclaim neighborhoods, and create safer streets for women on the Eastside.  Currently being edited the film should be ready for the Fall if not early next year.

In case you are wondering Trumbull-LaValle is two generations apart from family in Northern Mexico.  Which I only add as proof that last names and color of skin are not indicators for knowing whether someone identifies as Latino/a or not.

Which leads me to reiterate, I really hope these 5 are not the only Latina directors with films coming out this year.   Calling out an A.P.B. to Latina directors with a feature length film (fiction especially) in production or post, holler at your girl chicanafromchicago@gmail.com!

WTF is Latino at Sundance 2015? – A closer look

We are only a week away from the avalanche of discovery that will unfurl at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, so let me give you a heads up on everything Latino.

First, a slew of qualifications, caveats and disclaimers; I like to differentiate between U.S. born artists of Latino heritage and international artists. Second, keep in mind “Latino sounding last names” does not indicate who is Latino behind a film (and a Latino sounding last name does not necessarily indicate that person identifies as Latino and or tells Latino stories). I mention this to emphasize Latino identity is often subjective and always complex.  Lastly, these are not reviews or spoilers but a quick reference for those interested in tracking emerging Latino talent and topics.

Left Tony Revolri is of Guatemalan descent
Left Tony Revolori is of Guatemalan descent

Perhaps more ubiquitous to spot are the Latinos in front of the camera; J-Lo plays Lila opposite queen bee Viola Davis in Lila and Eve. John Leguizamo has a role in The Experimenter, the late Elizabeth Peña has a wicked cameo in Grandma opposite Lily Tomlin. Tony Revolori (Grand Budapest Hotel) plays the Latino kid in Dope. Scott Mescudi is Christopher Abbot’s friend in James White.

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Robert “Beef” Lorie

Exciting acting debuts to watch out for include Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in Sean Baker’s pulsing Tangerine and Robert Lorrie in The Strongest Man by Kenny Riches, both in the indie gem Next section.

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Cartel land

There are eight films that have Latino subjects. Two films in U.S. Documentary Competition are about the U.S./Mexico border, which makes me very happy (not the anguishing realities portrayed in the films but the fact that Sundance recognizes the urgency of the conversation and supports these filmmakers novel perspectives in tackling the complexities of the ongoing drugwar.

U.S. WRITERS/DIRECTORS

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon in the U.S. Dramatic Competition with Me, Earl and the Dying Girl. This successful television writer has been quoted  about his bordertown childhood; “Laredo is in my DNA, as much as Nuevo Laredo (Mexican state across the border) is in my DNA”.

Kyle Alvarez who has Cuban roots, is at the festival with his third feature, The Stanford Prison Experiment.

Daniel Garcia who recently was named “Filmmaker to Watch” at the Independent Spirit Awards co-directed the enigmatic film, H. in Next. He is from Texas and has family from Mexico.  Check out the trailer:

10891650_10153504452223761_1003665519324158567_nIn the shorts program we got Reinaldo Green with the powerful Stop, Ryan Gillis with animated short film Palm Rot and Ronnie Rivera and Bernardo Britto are the co-directors of The Sun Like a Big Dark Animal.

If we are including writers/directors born and raised in another country but based in the U.S. let’s add:

Rodrigo Garcia – The Colombian born Mexican long time LA resident is back in Premieres with Last Days in the Desert shot by Mexican Oscar winner DP Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity).

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Kristen Wiig and Sebastian Silva

Sebastian Silva from Chile based in NY returns with Nasty Baby featuring another juicy dramatic performance from Kristen Wiig following last year’s Skeleton Twins.

And two international filmmakers who are making their English language debuts:

Claudia Llosa from Peru wrote and directed Aloft starring Jennifer Connelly and Cillian Murphy which premiered at last year’s Berlin Film Festival.

J.M Cravioto makes his English language and fiction narrative debut with horror midnight movie, Reversal.

It’s worth noting not one of these films feature Latino actors with the exception of Silva who stars in his film, and Reinaldo Green’s Stop. And I will take a step further to comment those films do not have a storyline that reflects a Latino experience (I know, we can debate what qualifies as a Latino experience).

PRODUCERS AND MORE

Mimi Valdes – the former editor of Latina and Vibe Magazine and now creative director of Pharell Williams’ multi-media company is a co-producer on Dope with Nina Yang and Forest Whitaker (Fruitvale).

Felipe Marino of Occupant Entertainment produced creature feature, The Hallow. Named “Producer to Watch’ by Variety, the U.S. born of Colombia descent producer previously brought The Wackness to the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

The Borscht Corp powerhouse are behind shorts Papa Machete shot in Haiti and the previously mentioned, The Sun Like a Big Dark Animal.

Nicolas Lopez (Aftershock) co-wrote Eli Roth’s Knock Knock starring Keanu Reeves showing in Midnight.

Mexican cinematographer Lorenzo Hagerman shot Rick Alverson’s Entertainment.

SUBJECT/THEMES

Cartel Land by Matthew Heineman. Senior Programmer David Courier’s description is on point; “Brilliant, dangerous, and provocative, Cartel Land is a chilling meditation on the breakdown of order and the borderline where life trumps law.” Here’s an interview with the filmmaker that includes clips of the movie:

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 4.08.35 AM
Western

Western by Alex and Turner Ross. If you saw their previous film, Tchoupitoulas you are familiar with their beautiful, observational and visceral style.  Motivated by finding the real iconic cowboys of the dusty old frontier, these two consider this part of their American trilogy.

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The Angulo Brothers of The Wolfpack

The Wolfpack by Crystal Moselle – Its best if you know nothing going in and I will wager that this one will be one of the most talked about films at the festival. I will only mention the pack are the children of a Peruvian man.

The Strongest Man –The lead character’s thoughts and voiceover is uttered in Spanish throughout the film.

Royal Road by Jenni Olson talks about the Mexican land before it became the United States.

Fresh Dressed by Sacha Jenkins– documents the shift from when cats started settling beefs on the dance floor and on the mike instead of violence. Fashion and hip hop style created by urban (read: blacks and Latinos)

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Venus Extravaganza in Paris is Burning

Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston –celebrating its 15th anniversary a special Collection screening of the film will take place on January 26 at 3pm at the Egyptian. Love love love this film. The House of Extravaganza was one of the first Latino/a Harlem balls. RIP Angie and Venus.

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Making it in America

Making it in America by Joris Debeij is a short film about a Salvadoran immigrant in Los Angeles.

And now for straight up INTERNATIONAL FILMS:

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Paulina Davila in LiveForever

From Mexico/Colombia in New Frontier is Live Forever or QUE VIVA LA MUSICA! by Sundance alum Carlos Moreno (Dog Eat Dog, All Your Dead Ones), a sexy, music driven film starring a magnetic new Colombian actress Paulina Davila

Short film, Spring from Mexico which played at the Morelia Film Festival by Tania Claudia Castillo.

Wild Tales from Argentina/Spain by Damián Szifrón

The Second Mother by well-known Brazilian filmmaker Anna Muylaert

The Games Maker by Juan Pablo Buscarini in the Sundance Kids section is from Argentina.

And a MUST-EXPERIENCE at the New Frontier is virtual reality film Assent by Oscar Raby a Chilean who lives in Australia. Description: In 1973 my father witnessed the execution of a group of prisoners captured by the military regime in Chile, the same Army that he was part of. Assent puts the user in my father’s boots as we walk to the place where that happened.

And lastly, presenting short films in the Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation are alumni Marialy Rivas, the hip director from Chile of Young and Wild, and actor/filmmaker Diego Luna.

To check out the entire lineup of films, screening times and descriptions go here.  To meet the directors, check out Sundance YouTube Meet The Filmmakers series here.  And lastly follow all the haps as it haps @sundancefestnow

@ScarfaceREDUX directed by YOU – make a 15 sec video clip for @BorschtCorp screening party IN MIAMI!

unnamedI been out of touch on here for a while but I had to stop to pop this post up because my crazy vatos in Miami are prepping their sick @BorschtCorp Festival (Dec. 17-21) and YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT by participating in this insanely rad crowdsourced project remaking the iconic film #Scarface.

How does it work?  Go HERE pick out a 15 second clip, then remake the scene however you want, with sockpuppets, animation, children, cats or good ol live action on your iPhone, GoPRo or whatever you got around. Send it to Borscht, they’ll upload to their social media people will vote and you’ll get a piece of cred when your clip ends up in the final re-imagining of Brian DePalma’s classic AND based on how many votes you clock, you just might win 2 tickets to party in Miami.  More info on the site: scarfaceredux.com. Read more about the balls to the wall festival here.  So whatever your doing this weekend PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT. Because its Due Monday December 8th at 11:59pm. I already picked out the clips I’m doing (ice cold Michelle Pfeiffer)!

That’s FANTASTICO! – Submit your genre projects to the 2014 Fantastic Market


El Mercado Fantastico
 is back.  The international co-production market for genre films is putting out a wide alert to find projects made by Latino filmmakers currently in development, pre-production or post.  Finalists will go to Austin during this year’s Fantastic Fest (September 18-25) and be hooked up with potential production partners, sales agents, and distributors.  The market is co-produced with CANANA and El Rey so you know the platform will attract heavyweight investors and partners.

Seize this unique opportunity to fast track your film, and who knows, your film could be distinguished in a future Fantastic Fest program with as many uncouth visual reference icons that fit your crazy film’s themes i.e. Fishhook Violence, Puppet Sex, Pedophilia, Decapitation, Lactation….  You have until May 31’st to submit.Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 10.42.21 PM

Along with accepting classic genre staples like horror, action and fantasy, projects can run the genre gamut and include animation, westerns, dark comedies, sci-fi, basically anything other than your run of the mill drama.  In its second year, the market will select 12-14 projects and new this year, will select four films in post to screen as works in progress.

Machete Kills Fantastic FestSince 2005, Fantastic Fest has nailed its epic niche of being the ultimate festival for a ravenous movie geek audience who embraces the rigorously curated fantastic program. And the international film marketplace has taken note, snapping up rights to several film titles that have screened in the Fantastic Fest program. El Mercado Fantastico feels like a natural step for them to incubate their specialty and sustain their grip on all films fantastic.

Director of Programming Rodney Perkins, along with Festival Director Kristin Bell are and heavily scouting for submissions. They received around 100 submissions last year and Rodney told me that overall, the quality was very high.   Out of the 16 participating projects, a majority were by directors and producers who have had previous films in the festival.   Rodney says they are looking to mix it up with bringing new talent to the surface, but also choosing projects by filmmakers with proven track records in making good movies and the quality of their new projects.

Fantastic Fest Here Comes The Devil
The crew from Mexican film, Here Comes The Devil, winning Best everything in the Horror section in 2012

Rodney commented, “Some of the most interesting genre directors in the world are based out of countries like Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Brazil and Uruguay. Fantastic Fest has featured numerous films from these and other countries. A lot of these talented people don’t get recognized globally, particularly in the U.S. We want to do what we can to help them make films and expose their work to a broader international audience.”

Juan Of The Dead
Cuban Alejandro Brugues, dir. of  Juan of The Dead, whose project, The Wrong Place, won last year’s inaugural market.

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Like Rodney says, since its inception, Fantastic Fest has supported and premiered films from Spanish filmmakers like Nacho Vigalondo (Time Crimes, Open Windows), Eugenio Mira (Agnosia, Grand Piano),  Chileans like Ernesto Diaz Espinosa (Kiltro, Mandrill), Nicolas Lopez (Santos, Aftershock) and Mexicans Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Here Comes The Devil), and Jorge Michel Grau (Somos Lo Que Hay), among other filmmakers from all over South America and the Caribbean. 

A number of projects that were in pre-production when they participated in the inaugural market last September are already coming to fruition.  Notably Isaac Ezban’s feature debut El Incidente, produced by Andrea Quiroz (Here Comes the Devil), is completed and will screen at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window showcase at Cannes Marche du Film.  Edgar Nito’s project Tatewari is steadily advancing and recently announced a new associate producer. The team from Uruguayan project Small Town found the producing partners for their film, Dios Local from the market last year. Dios Local is almost complete and is represented for international sales by the French company Elle Driver.

Narco_006
Narco Cultura. Now on Netflix and iTunes

So what are you waiting for?  I know there has got to be more than 100 Latino made genre projects out there.  They aren’t just looking for international Latinos but U.S. native Latinos to represent. At least one of the filmmakers/producers should be some kind of Latino. Get your application together to submit asap.  I was on the documentary jury last year which awarded Best Documentary to Jodorowsky’s Dune and Best Director to Shaul Shwarz for Narco Cultura (Now on Netflix and iTunes) so I know firsthand this festival is a vital film festival.  Plus, there’s really nowhere else you’ll find such sanctioned festival shenanigans like Helicopter Hog Hunting, Filmmaker Shotgun outings, the Schlitz chuggin Award Ceremony rite, Nerd rap, Karaoke and Debates that are settled with a good ol boxing fight.

@FantasticFest

 

AMC Turns on Edward James Olmos’ ‘Water & Power’

Originally posted on Variety:

Richard Montoya’s “Water & Power,” backed by Edward James Olmos, has set a May 2 launch through the AMC chain.

Olmos came on board last year after seeing the film at the L.A. Latino Festival and approached AMC. The film will open in Los Angeles and several other cities.

“‘Water & Power’ embodies filmmaking quality and artistic value that engages me,” Olmos said.

“Water & Power” bowed on stage in Los Angeles in 2006. Montoya wrote, directed and produced the drama starring Enrique Murciano, Nicholas Gonzalez and Clancy Brown about a California senator who must help his crooked cop brother out of a crime that has backfired on L.A.’s Eastside.

Murciano plays the politician, nicknamed Water, while Gonzalez is the cop, Power.

“For a truly indie film like ours, it’s a lifeline to getting ‘Water and Power’ to the eastside and beyond,” Montoya said. “This is an organic film that…

View original 32 more words

#SXSW2014 Storytelling for Change: Diego Luna on the making of Cesar Chavez

Tonight at 6pm at the Paramount is the North America premiere of Cesar Chavez a film directed by Ambulante co-founder Diego Luna.

Hear his candid thoughts about making the movie with the Chavez family at this morning’s Participant Media panel

REZETA – Mexican feature film wins Special Jury Award at Slamdance

REZETA written and directed by Mexican born but trans-nationally influenced Fernando Frias, was recognized with a Special Jury Award Prize at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival which celebrated its 20th anniversary last week.  It was the U.S. premiere of the film after its world premiere at the Morelia International Film Festival in 2012.  The story is about an Albanian model named Rezeta (played by the naturally charming Rezeta Veliu) who flies in to Mexico City for a work stint and develops an unlikely relationship with a down to earth, blue collar guy who works construction on set and who doesn’t fall all over her like most men do.  It’s an unexpectedly genuine, credible and revealing take on the opposites attract friendship romance, and one enjoyably surprising in its sympathetic and dimensional portrayal of a jet set beautiful model, who in many ways, her world savvy independent experience and maturity becomes much more of a threat to the men in her life than her looks.  Here’s the trailer.  Read on for my post Park City interview with Fernando – a talented up and coming voice to watch out for.

1. How was your Slamdance experience?  What is something that people might not know about Slamdance?

Slamdance is fucking fantastic. It’s all about filmmaking at its purest form. Slamdance has a very unique stamp. They dare to program great work that defies convention and they help create communities around genuine filmmaking. They have kept loyal to their famous phrase: “For filmmakers by filmmakers” for 20 years now. There’s a lot going on during the festival and still all the staff are extremely friendly and have such great attitudes. People might not know that the festival has been around for that long and that they have discovered people like Christopher Nolan and Lena Dunham, among many other big names.

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Film Still of Rezeta
2. What’s the next script you are working on?
It’s a story about a very particular Mexican kid around Queens. I had one earlier draft that I wrote for a class at school but when I came back to it, I found that it went in a very different direction that what I originally had in mind. The good thing is that after realizing that, I wrote the story in prose as a short story in the voice of my character and I had the great luck to be selected  winner of the  Bengala-UANL award (Nuevo León University). It’s a first edition contest open to all writers, journalist and filmmakers from Mexico and the objective of such a great contest is to find good ideas for scripts and help them throughout their developing stage. After I found out that I won, I got so excited that I completed a new draft in 2 weeks. I am currently revising it in 2 different workshops.
20140120-Slamdance-DSC_01065. What kind of culture do you belong to?
I’d say I belong to the DIY culture but I don’t know how much will that do for an answer. I can tell you that I’m Mexican born and raised in DF with parents who came from opposites sides of town.  I grew up traveling to unknown places because my mother worked for more than 25 years in Airlines, so we had standby tickets and we would go to the airport not really knowing where we were going too. It was cool because we could only fly on low season so I missed school and I wouldn’t know where we were heading until the very last minute… I guess this made an impact on me because all my work ends taking place around cultural differences…
6. What was the most inspiring thing you did or saw in Park City?
I have to say that winning the Jury award  for best narrative film at Slamdance was a huge surprise and really exciting but I also had a blast snowboarding, something that is kind of new to me.
7. What other US Latino filmmaker have you recently discovered or follow?
I discovered Alejandro Fernandez from Chile. I really love his film To Kill A Man which played at Sundance and won a big award. At Slamdance I think I was the only Latino but I might be wrong. As for names, I have to say that this last year I saw two amazing movies from Chile and Brasil: Gloria by Sebastian Leilo and and Neighboring Sounds by Kleber Mendoça. 
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Fernando is pretty modest.  He’s a Fulbright scholar in NY at Columbia, and his experimental documentary, Calentamiento Local (which means “Local Warming) won the Digital Prize at the Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival known as FICCO in 2009, the penultimate year of the once IT festival.  A highly lyrical, romantic capturing of the symbiotic, magnetic relationship of ethereal beaches and the sensual bodies who traipse and fall in love on them in  Mexico. You can see the full film here.  Fernando has also made some really cool artist portrait commercials for Converse.    
Check out more of Fernando’s work on his vimeo channel