When will Latinos get our Black Panther?

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 1.40.42 PM

There’s nothing like a fit of jealousy and frustration to get me motivated in a positive way.  The recent uproar of the Latino community calling out Hollywood about the lack of Latino representation, juxtaposed with the Black community’s successful mobilization towards increasing their representation  – which is undoubtedly fueling Black Panther’s record-shattering box office this weekend – has jolted me into posting a new edition of 8 Indie Movies Made by Latinos to Watch out for. But first, I want to dig into this question of what we in the Latino community CAN do if we ever want to SEE A SUPERHERO LIKE US.

nhmcI started this blog over ten years ago to raise awareness for American Latino film writer/directors.   I was confused and angry as to why there was a staggering lack of authentic Latino representation in mainstream films when I was discovering a number of Latino writers and directors in the independent film festival space.  Not as many as I thought I would find, truth be told, but definitely a steady number of filmmakers whose storytelling sensibilities reflected a culture I related to. I wanted to use this blog to yell “Yo, there are hella talented Latino writers and directors out here”. As if identifying them would be all it would take to make that change.

27021617_1688915677842179_4209939431460812473_o(1)It was around that time I kept hearing that ridiculous claim from studio execs and agents that while they would love to champion more Latino creators, they just don’t know of of any.  This statement persists today and is qualified with…’who are good enough’, or my favorite; ‘high profile enough’ (Insert fit of frustrated fury and bittersweet irony for that last part).

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 8.14.00 PMNewsflash: it takes years and lots of money to develop a creator and build the credits necessary before major studio executives come calling and that Oscar stage beckon.  Which is why, at the risk of sounding like I’m disparaging the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s valuable advocacy, I don’t think that their picketing the Oscars to attack studio heads over Latino exclusion is a fair argument or the most productive use of resources.

Beatriz-at-Dinner-2017-movie-posterIt’s not like there is a consistently eligible pool of Latino writers/directors who the Academy has been overlooking all these years.  Don’t get me wrong, its a damn shame that Miguel Arteta who directed Beatriz at Dinner was technically eligible for a Best Director nomination this year but did not get the campaign needed to make it happen.  Or what about Lemon, written and directed by Afro-Latina Janicza Bravo?  It’s true “For Your Consideration” campaigns are wildly expensive for indie distributors to take on. But we have to ask for the sake of that argument, what other American Latino writers and directors were even eligible for an Oscar nomination?

diadelosmuertos
Lalo Alcaraz, before he was hired on Coco

Representing the Latino diaspora in the Oscars this year is Pixar’s animated feature Coco.  But seriously, don’t play yourself!  Disney’s long-time-coming co-opt of Dia de los Muertos strategically and conveniently leveraged the co-directed and co-written credit of  Latino Adrian Molina ONLY when talking to Latino outlets and to legitimize its Mexican authenticity. Because oh wait a minute, Molina’s name is visibly missing from the official nominee announcement.  All I have to say is they better bring his ass up on stage and let him get some words in if they end up winning.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 10.54.49 PM
Tengo Nagendo EVP at Disney

Lets take a page from the Black community and create our own machine, and do less of that old guard-led raging against The Machine.  While there are a number of film organizations aimed at supporting Latino writers and directors to help develop their voices, its critical to support mid-career storytellers so they may continue to master their craft and realize their #brownexcellence.  We also need to shift a lot more support towards raising savvy producers.  After all the producer is the most critical role for a writer/director to be able to execute their vision.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 1.39.42 PM
Nate Moore, producer at Marvel

The biggest challenge is how to infiltrate the overwhelmingly white agency and studio system. Real change will come when there are Latinos in decision-making executive roles because then we’ll have someone on the inside naturally considering, relating, and understanding the value of bringing in more Latino creators to pitch original ideas. Besides Paul Perez who came to Warner Bros from Pantelion, I don’t know of any Latino executive at a major film studio.  If I’m wrong please point it out to me.

Julio_Richter_(Earth-616)_Avengers_the_Children's_Crusade_Vol_1_6.png
Rictor, a Marvel character created in 1987 about a Mexican-American from San Francisco who has seismic powers.  Character made a cameo in Logan. More here.

As we know there is a systemic tendency inside Hollywood to reboot proven franchises and IP. So we need to make sure Latinos get the shot to put their spin on them.  Just see the African-American community with Tendo Nagenda at Disney backing Ryan Coogler with Black Panther.  By the way, I’m not saying that opportunities should be contingent on creators asked to tell some version of the ethnicity they represent.  They should be included and have the opportunity to tell and pitch whatever story they can tell the shit out of.

El Diablo
Super Villain El Diablo played by Jay Hernandez in Suicide Squad

Regarding Latino talent on screen, I concede that hiring practices in major motion pictures are more affected by who is on screen rather than the talent of the storyteller. Still, it doesn’t diminish the overall long play strategy of focusing behind the camera to position Latino writers/directors/producers. Because as the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study discovered, the outcome of hiring more underrepresented directors will organically translate into more opportunities for underrepresented casting choices.

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 2.30.21 PM
Powerhouse Producer Stephanie Allain with Mel Jones producer/director

Lastly, supporting Latino culture writers and film critics is vital like Vanessa Erazo of Remezcla has pointed out with her twitter thread, because again, those who have a connection or reference to a specific culture can more likely respond and champion the business value of supporting that voice.  This kind of holistic approach from within is more productive than pounding at the gates to demand from a system that does not include our community and one we have already called out as broken be that agent of change. Only then will we see our Barry Jenkins, Ava Duvernays and Ryan Cooglers flex their creative muscles at that next level to gain high profile recognition, and ultimately move the dial on reflecting what our representation actually looks like in this country.

1280-ryan-coogler-black-panther-premiere-GettyImages-912006126
winning

The truth is I’m getting chills watching the African American community’s cathartic joy in celebrating Black Panther’s unprecedented success.  They have shepherded their own industry leaders from multiple angles and in turn have made the impact necessary to create this unstoppable ripple effect which is only going to gain more speed with Ava Duvernay’s upcoming Wrinkle in Time. Will and Jada Smith have donated one million dollars to Sundance Institute which will yield more black creators in the indie-to-studio pipeline.  Forest Whitaker has lifted up many new and fresh black voices by producing alongside Nina Yang Bongiovi through their Significant Productions including Fruitvale Station, Ryan’s first feature, Dope directed by Rick Famuyiwa, Roxanne Roxanne directed by Michael Larnell coming soon to Netflix and this year’s wild Sorry To Bother You by Boots Riley which was just picked up by Annapurna Pictures.

Charles King’s WME background and connection to high profile talent got him to convince investors to get Macro, responsible for producing Dee Rees’ Oscar nominated Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 1.29.25 PMfilm Mudbound, off the ground.  The undeniable and thrilling result of this ecosystem is that more young black kids are beginning to identify with mainstream media heroes!

When will Latinos, who per Forbes will be 30% of the country in 2060, experience that feeling and similar “Defining Moment”. For a hot second in the 80s, wide release films La Bamba and Stand & Deliver gave our community that sense of validation through representation. Its going to take a lot more to pump up the volume so that more than one American Latino writer/director gets the chance to be considered to helm a blockbuster, or make a film eligible and backed with the money to cinch a nomination for an Academy Award.  As terrible in reflecting the diverse American reality as those traditional institutions are, they are still key influences in defining mass culture and inspiring the next generation of artists who might suddenly see the viability in pursuing their storytelling art if they see people like them.

Queen-Sugar-Aurora-Guerrero-QS203b_BTS_0142-1150x767
Aurora Guerrero, filmmaker who has recently directed Queen Sugar, Ava DuVernay’s  television series on Oprah’s cable channel.

In case you are like ‘but wait there’s been many Latinos who have been nominated or have won Academy Awards’.  Don’t get it twisted. Keep in mind when I use the word Latino, I make that unpopular distinction between those folks born or raised here who have Latin American and or Caribbean roots and those born and raised outside of the U.S..  That’s not to diminish the amazing work of Mexicans like Alejandro Gonzalez Iñnaritu and Guillermo del Toro, or Chilean filmmakers like Pablo Larrain with their recent English language films, but 1. They ain’t Latino because 2. there’s a disparity of class and resources between aspiring filmmakers born here and those born outside of the states, and unlike their international counterparts Latinos have been profiled and marginalized as ‘people of color’, a U.S. context that comes with very distinct barriers that keep them from global recognition.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 7.24.01 PM
Eddie Olmos

Here is a reality check: The only Latinos nominated in the headliner writing/directing/producing categories has been Gregory Nava in the Best Original Screenplay category for El Norte in 1983 and Lourdes Portillo in the Best Documentary category for The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in 1985.  In the Best Animated Feature, Jonas Rivera won in 2015 for Pixar’s Inside Out which he shared with Pete Doctor.

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 11.23.52 AM
Jonas Rivera

We damn right will claim the Weitz brothers’ nomination for Best Adapted screenplay for About a Boy in 2002. Their grandma Lupita Tovar was a Mexican actor who starred in the first ever Mexican ‘talkie’ Santa.

In the Best Actor/Actress categories the first ever Latino was Jose Ferrer nominated in 1949 who won in 1952.  Since then its only EVER been OG Chicano Eduard James Olmos in 1982 who was nominated for Stand and Deliver. That was twenty six years ago!

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 10.58.18 AM
Benicio Del Toro

In supporting roles, nominees include Benicio del Toro –  two time nominee who won for Traffic, Rita Moreno who won for West Side Story, Anthony Quinn, four time nominated, two time winner, Mercedes Ruehl who won for Fisher King, Rosie Perez and Susan Kohner.  That’s it folks. More than a minute ago and over the course of 90 years of Oscars. WTF.

machete-kills-castOutside of the Oscar world but definitely more of a pop culture mainstream influence our highest profile Latino writer/director/producers is Robert Rodriguez whose success in capturing a wide audience is due in large part because he likes playing in the genres big studio films generally traffic in.  Machete (2010) is a film that cost under $20 million dollars to make.  And its box office made double that (unfortunately the sequel did not do nearly as well).  Whether its the characters in Frank Darabont’s Sin City, the beloved Mariachi character, Machete or Spy Kids, Rodriguez has always tapped into his own type of super heroes and world building.  Yet this guy hasn’t made a film over $40 million – which is considered low-mid studio movie).  If he hasn’t proved it time and time again, he can do a lot with a little, so just imagine what mind-blowing next level cinema he can do with a $100+ million dollar film.  And at the very top is Roberto Orci.  A writer and producer of the most expensive television and tentpole projects in Hollywood.  That’s it right?   1.  that’s two people 2. dudes 3. who can create (write/direct/produce) at the highest scale of this  business.

A WRINKLE IN TIME
ALL THE WAY UP!

Needless to say all of this galvanizes me. We need more Latino CREATORS. I feel the pressure to reach out to my community and do more.  I’ll post more frequently about American Latino storytellers. I’m also doing what I can to bring in and develop more Latino voices in my current role as Creative Executive at Warner Bros Digital Network’s Stage 13.

And don’t forget to check out my latest post 8 feature-length fiction films currently in post that I’m excited for the world to see because they are wildly defiant, visionary, and unique perspectives created by Latinos.

40 thoughts on “When will Latinos get our Black Panther?

  1. Negra With Tumbao February 20, 2018 / 8:59 pm

    Ummm sorry to disappoint you.. as a black Latina, BLACK PANTHER IS FULLY AND UTTERLY MINE.

    Why not ask that about “Iron Man” or “Thor”?
    😑

    • Kenneth Castillo February 21, 2018 / 10:18 am

      Maybe read the whole article and not just the headline before you comment.

      • Negra With Tumbao February 22, 2018 / 11:10 pm

        I read the entire article but why don’t you fuck off before you comment?

    • Delvin February 23, 2018 / 9:50 am

      I think she is talking about “Iron Man” and “Thor”– she’s talking about movies in general. And she’s giving mad love to Black Panther: “The truth is I’m getting chills watching the African American community’s cathartic joy in celebrating Black Panther’s unprecedented success. They have shepherded their own industry leaders from multiple angles and in turn have made the impact necessary to create this unstoppable ripple effect which is only going to gain more speed with Ava Duvernay’s upcoming Wrinkle in Time.”

      She’s basically calling out the industry for ignoring Latin stories. She’s not saying that Disney’s Black Panther is not utterly for you. She agrees with that. I’m not sure I understand your point— and please don’t get mad at this comment….

      • thatlesbianintexas February 24, 2018 / 11:12 am

        “Please don’t get mad at this comment”

        You sound like a little punk. Stand by what you say with pride.

      • blaque cat with the bowler hat February 24, 2018 / 11:33 am

        if the author was talking about ‘iron man’ or ‘thor’, she would’ve written ‘iron man’ or ‘thor’. it’s very telling that black panther was used as the example and not a different mainstream, hugely profitable film with a white cast. dare i say, it comes off as slightly disingenuous? while the movie was well-received by nearly everyone, especially people of color (i.e. nonwhites, but not necessarily black), it particularly resonated with BLACK audiences the world over. hollywood finally produced a big budget film with an unambiguous, nearly all BLACK cast, excellent writing, direction and production. is the author trying to pull a kanye? “yeah, the movie with the black ethnic people was cool and all, but what about meeeee? we [white, lighter skinned] latinos should be represented before them. pick meeeee.”

        hollywood’s racism has been more than apparent since its beginnings. however the blatant racism in the representation of blacks and darker skinned populations in other cultures is continually downplayed. why is that white and lighter skinned latinos can huddle under the ‘people of color’ umbrella while dismissing their own colorism and treatment of darker afro-latino brethen? peep how latinos with afro features are overwhelmingly portrayed in the spanish speaking media.

        i understand the need for inclusive positive representation of different cultures, but to champion this only after popular productions by ‘others’ like black panther, a wrinkle in time or girls trip (looking at you ms. gina rodriguez) get positive attention is lazy and self-serving.

      • Delvin March 5, 2018 / 12:44 pm

        thatlesbianintexas— add troll to your name thatlesbianintrolltexas– fits you well.

    • MEB March 2, 2018 / 3:49 pm

      Preach hun.

      Don’t give any negative feedback attention

  2. Rodrigo Reyes February 21, 2018 / 6:57 pm

    It was interesting to read your perspective and how you parse through the relationship between Latino filmmakers and the industry writ large.

    From my point-of-view as a creator, two things stick out. One is the lack of solidarity amongst fellow Latinos, if in fact I qualify as one. We do not have a cohort akin to what happens in the Black community. We do not galvanize support and rally around each other in a similar fashion. Maybe this comes from the sheer variety of experiences and backgrounds? In terms of class, culture, and race. Even our relationship to Spanish is all over the spectrum. I think this is a long-overdue conversation that needs to happen in the community.

    • Negra With Tumbao February 22, 2018 / 11:11 pm

      How can we unite when latinos are equally as racist as gringos? That’s a serious question btw.

  3. Rodrigo Reyes February 21, 2018 / 7:00 pm

    The second thought comes from the production side. The industry often does not trust us to tell our own stories or has a pre-disposed view of what we should be saying and how to interpret our reality. Creativity blossoms with trust, and artists need to be trusted to find their voice. That kind of investment will pay off in distinct, beautiful voices.

    • Roberto zapata February 22, 2018 / 8:07 pm

      When we unite and protest .like the african american do, but before that ,we have to be prepared and ready .we need to write,produce act and direct our own stories like very few latinos are doing .you are one of them, on the other part our own people doesnt support Latino films Hollywood has them hooked to their formula of heroes,heroins saving the world .yes audiences need their dose of that action hero formula. Same story different characters but .IT SELLS. thats what the studios want MONEY NO ART we can make movies that have a good story ,action, drama etc .but their not interested on our stories.

  4. Roberto zapata February 22, 2018 / 8:03 pm

    When we unite and protest .like the african american do, but before that ,we have to be prepared and ready .we need to write,produce act and direct our own stories like very few latinos are doing .you are one of them, on the other part our own people doesnt support Latino films Hollywood has them hooked to their formula of heroes,heroins saving the world .yes audiences need their dose of that action hero formula. Same story different characters but .IT SELLS. thats what the studios want MONEY NO ART we can make movies that have a good story ,action, drama etc .but their not interested on our stories.

  5. T. Minor February 24, 2018 / 3:30 am

    You got Coco.

  6. factorygirl85 February 24, 2018 / 4:39 am

    This completely sounds cry babyish; “Wah, black people have superheroes, why can’t we have them too?” Never mind the fact that the Latinx community was completely silent over the years at all the white superheroes. Only when black people get a little something(Black Panther and a couple of years ago, Latinx community whined about not being on Empire), here ya’ll come. First, how about addressing the exclusion of Afro-Latinxs? Second, how about addressing the racism of Afro-Latinx in the community, you guys are no better than white people when it comes to racism, and third, stop injecting yourselves and writing whiny like pieces every time blacks get a piece of something, but mainly, address the exclusion of Afro-Latinxs in your films and movies.

  7. Melly February 24, 2018 / 4:39 am

    I think you all should start with addressing the racism and colorism within the Latino community first. Many afro-latinos are excluded from many of your own art and productions, telenovelas for example. I mean look at your post, the only one you halfway mentioned (only a picture) was Ms. Saldana. This is why many afro-latinos jumped to support Black Panther. I think this film is important to African Americans because of the pride overall within, past all the infighting, colorism, etc. Coogler is getting his just due, he has been at it a while. And while yes it was a superhero movie he integrated a lot of the culture into the film, even as an African American being raised in the streets of Oakland, CA. Support your own, ALL of them, mobilize, support OTHERS, make your own films, get more people in the directors seat and figure out what works. Then keep at it.

  8. laSUWJDUHWU February 24, 2018 / 5:43 am

    Lol so pathetic.

    1.) Do some Latinos whine and throw rocks when Asians or whites come out with their own movies? Or do they only get nasty and competitive when Black people come out with a movie that features them in a good light?

    2.) When will Black Latinos be featured on Telemundo TV?

    3.) Why isn’t disgusting anti-Black racism and jealousy so prevalent amongst Mexicans not being discussed instead of movies?

    4.) At least the author admit she was jealous lol. A very common ‘phenomenon’ against Black people/success in that community.

  9. Christina February 24, 2018 / 6:14 am

    That’s funny. When superhero movies like Captain America come out, I don’t hear things like this. This is just like Gina Rodriguez talking about Latinx superhero movies. When the white superhero movies come out, there’s silence.

    Oh and I never see Afro-Latinos on channels like Telemundo. I wonder why that is. Before asking for a Latino “Black Panther”, you should be including black people from your own culture into your TV shows & the like. Don’t expect back from black people when you shun blacks of your own.

  10. cheri February 24, 2018 / 10:48 am

    You Latinos are equally as racist as white people. You deny it but you know it. In fact you are worse for the most part. Don’t most of you identify as being white and spain and your motherland? Why don’t you cry to your white race about being excluded. LEAVE BLACK PEOPLE AND AFRICANS OUT OF THIS!

  11. thatlesbianintexas February 24, 2018 / 11:24 am

    The reason why the Latin American community can’t come together is because they don’t all identify as Latin American. Some of them live their lives as white people; in fact, many Latins who are in fact the skin color white has had more opportunities in the film industry than even black people. There have been numerous Latin stories told in the main stream media all the way from Pan’s Labyrinth to Spy Kids, to Columbiana to Desperado-some of which you mentioned in your post.Most recently Disney came out with two Latin movies, one of them was an animation.

    Another thing is Latin people make fun of Latin people who don’t speak Spanish, and they make fun of Latins who are proud to be American. So you have the Latins who think they’re “true” Latins and the ones who are Americans through and through regardless of if their 1st or 6th generation.

    Colorism is rampant in the Latin American community. When you watch Latin shows on Mun2 or Univision, every one is “white”. In Hollywood, it’s no different. Most of the Latin Americans are white. The reason why it’s hard to hear Latin voices in Hollywood is because most people who are Latin American would rather live a “white passing” life in the industry. Every one except for Zoe Saldana is white. Latin Americans who actually have color to their skin are the ones being ignored; the ones who don’t pass for white..

  12. thatlesbianintexas February 24, 2018 / 11:30 am

    I also want to say there are tons of Latin Americans in the industry who are Latin but don’t have a Latin last name. I find it interesting that you’re ignoring their voices. You’re excluding the ones who are multi-racial, and multi-ethnic. Jada Picket Smith is mixed with two types of Latin. Cameron Diaz has Latin in her. And there are even more! But see that’s what I’m talking about, the Latin community picks and choose who they want in their community. Latin people don’t have a set physical appearance like African Americans and Asian Americans; as a result, Latin Americans don’t accept all as Latin Americans regardless of their ethnic/racial background. That’s the problem; there’s exclusion in an already excluded community.

  13. jim March 2, 2018 / 7:43 pm

    When you guys grow the balls to challenge white people yourselves, instead of hiding behind black people while simultaneously stabbing those blacks in the side with your anti black racism.

  14. Delvin March 5, 2018 / 12:40 pm

    “When you guys grow the balls to challenge white people yourselves, instead of hiding behind black people while simultaneously stabbing those blacks in the side with your anti black racism.”

    –Are you black or white or a sell out? So Latinos don’t challenge racism? Grow the balls to challenge white people yourselves? Geez how divisive can you be? What happened to coalitions. Are you saying Latinos are anti-black? What a gross generalization that shows your prejudice– you Anti-brown. You sound like a white dude trolling. Did you vote to build that wall???

    “is the author trying to pull a kanye? “yeah, the movie with the black ethnic people was cool and all, but what about meeeee? we [white, lighter skinned] latinos should be represented before them. pick meeeee.”

    “Lol so pathetic.

    1.) Do some Latinos whine and throw rocks when Asians or whites come out with their own movies? Or do they only get nasty and competitive when Black people come out with a movie that features them in a good light?

    2.) When will Black Latinos be featured on Telemundo TV?

    3.) Why isn’t disgusting anti-Black racism and jealousy so prevalent amongst Mexicans not being discussed instead of movies?

    4.) At least the author admit she was jealous lol. A very common ‘phenomenon’ against Black people/success in that community.”

    –Is the author throwing rocks at Black Panther??? She’s supporting the film but is asking for a Latin super hero, why is that offensive??? You can have both.

    “You Latinos are equally as racist as white people. You deny it but you know it. In fact you are worse for the most part.”

    Reading all the comments on this section its clear the author has a large black audience who happen to very anti-latino. There are races beyond black and white– that fact is not anti-black. laSUWJDUHWU even calls out “Mexicans” for being jealous– from Mexico?

    A lot of hate is on this page. Please be more public with your comments though– like in real life not behind a computer screen. Crabs in barrel as they say….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s