Finding and Championing our own voices – the next generation of independent Latino cinema.

I’m down here in beautiful, breezy and calientito Miami for Latino trendsetting event, Hispanicize.  It’s only day 2 of the conference so as take in panels, schmooze with fellow bloggers, meet cool peeps and do recon on “The State of Latino” I wanted to share this feature article I wrote commissioned by Latin Heat on the narrative fiction films at Hispanicize.  Let me know what you think!?

545485_504841082897212_587587615_nIn the movie Filly Brown, the titular rapper doesn’t come into her own and become Filly Brown until she writes her own words to narrate her reality. In a pivotal and emotional scene, she confronts her mother (Jenni Rivera) behind bars with some hard, bittersweet truth and heartfelt rhymes about what has transpired between them.  The trials and tribulations that came before were necessary to transform and fuel this culminating moment.

In a way, a new crop of Latino filmmakers is going through a similar odyssey.  It seems like we are seeing them embrace their unique voices and take creative risks without deference to what homogenized commercial mainstream dictates.  The manner in which we identify with and are inspired by our mixed cultural heritage is personal and varies greatly, making for countless contemporary storytelling possibilities. Crashing up on the waves of Miami, the films in the Hispanicize film program demonstrate filmmakers boldly turning to genre and carving out their own visual aesthetic.  Whether their stories address or defy traditional Latino cultural themes and convey our bicultural experience, or if they feel unbound and free to tell classic, commercial cinema anchored in their own reflection, it couldn’t be a more exciting time to support this newfound boldness.  Strong female characters is a fixture of the films Filly Brown, Blaze You Out, Gabi and Clara Como El Agua, and in the short film category five of the eight films are directed by women.  Every festival usually has an IT actor, a performer whose films demonstrate the artistic and meaningful films they are selecting to make. In the case of Hispanicize 2013 our IT man is Jeremy Ray Valdez who stars in the features Mission Park, Blaze You Out and Dreamer.

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival served as a successful launch pad for Filly Brown, written and directed by Michael Olmos and Youssef De Lara.  What’s fresh about this classic street rapper making it and fighting for his integrity is that this hustle has typically been represented and dominated by males on film (and in real life).  In a novel take, the filmmakers conceived of a female lead character, which was then fully ignited by Gina Rodriguez’s dynamic performance.  Beloved and established actors Lou Diamond Philips, Edward James Olmos and the late Jenni Rivera round out the high profile cast.  The film was one of 70 films picked up for distribution following its Sundance premiere.  After a precarious year in which the film showed at a dozen film festivals but then the original distributor went bankrupt, Pantelion stepped in to pick it up and on April 19 it will open on 200 screens.   That number is still less than other Pantelion releases.  For comparison, the Eva Mendez starrer, Girl in Progress was on 322 screens, the Will Ferrell comedy Casa de Mi Padre on 475 screens.  It’s worth recognizing where these numbers stack up among other theater releases. Hollywood blockbusters are released on anywhere from 3000-4000 screens.  Recent indie specialty releases like Beasts of the Southern Wild, at its peak amid its Oscar nomination buzz, was on 300 screens, while Spring Breakers went from 4 screens opening weekend to 1,000 plus screens because of the record breaking per theater average.  One of the lessons here is to connect and drive the public to see the film opening weekend if we want to see the traditional distribution model budge.

Blaze You Out Film
Veronica Diaz Carranza as Lupe

Another electrifying female lead character is Lupe in Blaze You Out, played by the vulnerable yet ferocious Veronica Diaz Carranza (Mamitas, Taco Shop).  Unlike the common systemic social ills and wayward people that attempt to keep Filly Brown down, Lupe must rival an elemental and ancient evil in this magic realism tale.  A modern and not-seen-before mythological darkness and manifestation of evil is captured in this thriller in which Lupe confronts the secret underworld to save her sister. Elizabeth Peña, who is deliciously wicked, and Raoul Trujillo duel in the inherently mystical and native rooted New Mexico, set alongside some ominous mestizo iconography. Brushed with a striking and otherworldly cinematic, the film paints this modern dance with Santa Muerte. An inventive take on the drug ‘sickness’ that rampages these marginalized communities and the secrets that keep them chained, Blaze You Out is the type of film that expands the metaphor. Fierce and unapologetic, the film also stars Q’orianka Kilcher (Pocahantas in The New World), Mark Adair Rios and Melissa Cordero, all who possess magnetic talent.

On another spectrum, with poetic realism, Dreamer, written and directed by young filmmaker Jesse Salmeron, is perhaps the most urgent mirror of the times we are living in with thousands of undocumented youth’s hopes hinging on the proposed Dream Act.  Eschewing obvious political commentary Salmeron compassionately individualizes a character that embodies young American-raised upwardly mobile members of society.  The film’s stylistic aesthetic evokes the painful reality and conveys the existentially horrible feeling of being invisible and disregarded in this country.  Above all, the transcending story is ultimately about the bonds and family we create, and the place we know in our heart as home.  Blood and roots do not always make for family and home. Both the perspective and envisioning of Dreamer makes for a distinguished and salient film.

Sometimes the consequences of forging your own path threatens the formative relationships of your past like in Mission Park written and directed by San Antonio native, Bryan Ramirez.  Echoing the gritty and seminal Chicano movie Bound by Honor (better known as Blood in Blood Out), and with explosive thriller genre swagger and craft, the street crime drama is about four childhood friends who grow apart and enter a web of deception on opposite sides of the law and morals.   The brave decision to go legit is a valuable lesson of breaking out of the cycle. The plot shows there are more possibilities than the only path we have been represented in and perpetuated of how to survive and succeed coming up from the hood.

There is no better place however, to witness the unbridled creative expression, and to track emerging talent than in the short film showcase.  The short film medium is the most inventive and freeing of compact cinema. Unchained by the traditional three act narrative structure, the short film is like a shape shifter in its ability to be anything from an evocative moment, expressionistic portrait, social comedic skit or potent fable.  Among the most groundbreaking artists working today are Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva of the Borscht Corporation.  Their video works that have been shown at MOMA and Guggenheim museums all over the world as well as several major international art galleries and collections. Their short films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, and more than two dozen other festivals and have become viral video sensations. Recently named two of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker magazine they run their own film audiovisual festival in Miami.  Their short film #Postmodem is the most wild and prescient genre mash about our digital legacy- and just outrageously fun and catchy.

If it’s rare to see representative female characters onscreen, than it is even rarer to see female characters written and directed by a woman.  Zoé Salicrup Junco’s short film Gabi is about a woman who finds herself tortured by the vestiges of Puerto Rican patriarchal morality and culture.  Gabi defies the cultural norms and perception of what she should be doing as a modern Latina woman.  The story refers to a Puerto Rican saying that haunts single women in their 30’s: “If such a woman is not married by this time, she must be a slut, a lesbian, or a prude.”  It’s so refreshing, empowering and revolutionary to see reflected a strong and confident woman who trusts her individuality against such embedded oppressed tradition.

Yolanda Cruz, a filmmaker from Oaxaca with a number of documentary features which have been celebrated internationally, makes her first foray into fiction with the comedy short, Echo Bear.  Set in LA’s Echo Park it follows a single gay Latino man traipsing the wild cyberspace of dating in his tight knit neighborhood.  Sweet and tender, authentically raw and gleeful, today’s tricky variant sexual relationship is amusingly portrayed in this underrepresented slice of life.

Inspired by the tragic reality of journalists being targeted and killed in Mexico by the violent drug wars, El Cocodrilo written and directed by Steve Acevedo keeps us at our edge of our seats. Dramatizing our triumphant spirit and primal instinct is what lies at the heart-tugged soul of this gritty story.  Jacob Vargas stars as a journalist on the lam in some undisclosed diner with his young son, waiting to be rescued from the hazard of his profession. The remarkable tone and portrayal of the docu-fiction is flipped upside down and makes for a suspenseful roller coaster. A terrifyingly gravity grips, in the sense of knowing it is an inspiration of real life journalists’ plight, and the risks they take to disseminate truth.

In talking about the diversity of stories from diverse multicultural filmmakers it becomes apparent that the emerging Latino filmmaker is at a critical crossroads.  This is just the beginning.  Let’s not forget filmmaking is a collaborative art. It’s our obligation to fully realize these films by being and nurturing their audience.  These films are but a small taste of what is being developed by new filmmaker voices. Contrary to what most Hollywood studio suits with blockbuster money believe, there are is a vast spectrum of American Latino filmmakers and big movie stars. What there is missing however is the audience. In the era of digital platforms, the audience has more power than ever to validate and demand more of the work they like.  Thanks to the magnitude of social media we can directly and tangibly help artists’ success.  Together we are taking control of enriching our narratives and changing the conversation of what Latino cinema means.  Hispanicize celebrates the social media platform influence to blaze and pierce through the dizzying ‘mestizo’ cultural American popular culture, and to finally claim our voices.

All eyes on Hispanicize – Film lineup announced

Hispanicize-2013-Launch-Image-1024x682Next week in Miami, hundreds of bloggers, marketers, corporate brand reps, music and film artists will be checking in at the Eden Roc Hotel to attend Hispanicize, a social media platform for today’s Latino innovators.  Now in its 4th year, the marketing, interactive, film and music conference was founded by Manny Ruiz, a PR businessman who adopted the term Hispanicize to signify the transformation and growing impact of Latino culture into traditional American mainstream, and who created this convergence to amplify the success of diverse voices in social media.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 9.50.35 AMIn part modeled after SXSW and Ted Talks, Hispanicize aims to be a digital multi-media launchpad and idea stimulating conference tailored towards Latinos.  The event’s journalistic DNA is confirmed by guest co-chair, Soledad O Brien, who just signed off on her morning CNN show capping off a decade of reporting for the news outlet.  For the second year the South Beach setting will host yacht parties, beachside receptions, breakfast and lunch networking, and 100 plus talks, featuring such entrepreneurs in social media like the Latina Mom Bloggers, panels like How Brands and Agencies are Engaging and Collaborating with Latino Bloggers and Getting on Corporate Boards.  The heavily sponsored event, (Procter & Gamble is the presenting sponsor) will include a Diversity Tech Leaders Summit presented by Sprint in which the lesser-known business stories of diverse tech and social media entrepreneurs who are making their marks in digital media will be highlighted.

I have to admit I knew nothing of Hispanicize up until a couple months ago.  Curious, I went on the website and I found the lingo a tad superfluous and hyperbolic.  Words like iconic and mighty are used to describe the relatively young event.  Then again, this kind of grandiose speak is typical in the field of Public Relations so it makes sense given it is a partnership with Hispanic Public Relations Association (HPRA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

I reached out to the founder Manny Ruiz to find out more about the mission of the event and found his enthusiasm and excitement for what he considers a pioneering movement infectious.  It’s hard to argue that this tech and entertainment crossroads gathering makes for an incredible networking opportunity.   Manny called it a “Uniting of these industries to create a symphony” and went on to note it is much more powerful for bloggers to converge at the same place with journalists, marketers, digital, music and film innovators then if you had them out there individually.  Before I knew it I was put in touch with with Roman Morales, the Film Showcase Organizer and I came onboard as Programmer for the film component.  A big reason I stepped in was because I was particularly attracted to presenting US independent Latino films to an audience heavy with social media influence and bloggers, to see if it would indeed create a higher level of buzz, publicity and exposure from the community.

Along with a special screening of Filly Brown days before its national theatrical release, this year Hispanicize will screen six features including the high profile grab of The Weinstein Company sneak preview, Aftershock, the horror comedy produced and starring Eli Roth, directed by Chilean filmmaker Nicolas Lopez.  Also, straight from SXSW the character driven music industry documentary Los Wild Ones about the Wild Records label and family of Mexican American rockabilly acts.  With the exception of Aftershock, all the films reflect a taste of the diaspora of unique, bi-cultural US narratives, and notably are all first features.  Three of the films, Blaze You Out, Filly Brown and Mission Park are being distributed by Lionsgate labels Pantelion and Grindstone. Meanwhile seeking distribution is Dreamer written and directed by the young Salvador-born Jesse Salmeron, which is a poignant and timely story starring and produced by Jeremy Ray Valdez about an upwardly mobile American whose paralyzed by the fear of being deported.  Los Wild Ones is also seeking distribution and should find considerable traction and fans inside the hard core music fan world.

I’m most excited however, my personal pride and joy has to be the shorts film showcase.  Portraying visionary quests for identity, love, truth and legacy and created by multicultural emergent voices from San Antonio, Miami, LA, NYC, Oaxaca and Puerto Rico. This is the medium in which to find the most provocative, daring and versatile young generation of fresh and uncompromising voices.  To name just a few, the short film filmmakers include Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva of the Borscht corporation, Zoé Salicrup Junco, the filmmaker of Gabi who workshopped her feature script of the short at San Antonio’s CineFestival’s Latino Screenwriters Project, Victor Hugo Duran, the Columbia MFA student whose short, Fireworks played at the LA Film Festival last year and is currently shooting his first feature in Mexico called La Victoria, and Steve Acevedo, the director of El Cocodrilo which is a powerful and urgent film about a journalist played by Jacob Vargas on the run from a narco, who participated in NBCU Directing Fellowship.

I’ll try not to go all Spring Breaker debauchery on Miami but immerse myself in the Hispanicize program to cover the dialogue and scrutinize the impact so stay tuned for my report.

See below to check out full film list and links.  Hispanicize will take place April 9 – 13.  For information on how to attend and the schedule click here.

2013 Film Festival PosterBLAZE YOU OUT
(USA, 2013, 90 min)
Writers/Directors: Mateo Frazier, Diego Joaquin Lopez
Cast: Veronica Diaz Carranza, Elizabeth Pena, Q’orianka Kilcher, Mark Adair Rios, Elizabeth Pena
Logline: An unyielding young woman ventures into the ruthless underworld of the town’s heroin trade in order to save her younger sister’s life.

DREAMER
(USA, 2013)
Writer/Director: Jesse Salmeron
Cast: Jeremy Ray Valdez, Isabella Hofmann, Cory Knauf
Logline: Joe Rodriguez is an All American young man.  He’s amiable, well educated and attractive.  He’s graduated from college and is working and excelling in his field.  He’s on his way to achieving the American Dream.  That is until his employer discovers his undocumented status and the life he’s worked so hard for begins to crumble around him.  He must face the possibility of losing his livelihood, his family and even himself.

MARLENE_5LOS WILD ONES
(USA, 2013, 95 min)
Director: Elise Salomon
 Writers: Ryan Brown, Elise Salomon
Featuring Luis Arriaga, Gizzelle, the Rhythm Shakers and more
Logline: Wild Records is an LA indie music label comprised of young Hispanic musicians, it is run by Irishman, Reb Kennedy. Wild is an unconventional family, reminiscent of the early days of Sun Records, all of its musicians write and perform 50s Rock ‘n Roll. If Wild is going to continue to grow and reach broader audiences, its current business model will cease to work.

ku-xlargeAFTERSHOCK
(USA, 2012, 90 min)
Director: Nicolás López
Writers: Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López and Eli Roth
Cast:  Andrea Osvart, Ariel Levy, Eli Roth
Logline: In Chile, a group of travelers who are in an underground nightclub when a massive earthquake hits quickly learn that reaching the surface is just the beginning of their nightmare.

bettermpposterMISSION PARK
(USA, 2013, 120 min)
Writer/Director: Bryan Ramirez
Cast:
Jeremy Ray Valdez, Walter Perez, Fenanda Romero, Joseph Julian Soria, William Rothaar, Jesse Borrego
Logline: Four friends from the rough side of town grow apart when two are consumed by a life of crime, and the other two become FBI agents sent deep undercover – to bring down those childhood friends.

SHORTS FILM SHOWCASE~

 postmodem#POSTMODEM
(USA, 2012, 13 mins)
Writers/Directors:   Lucas Leyva, Jillian Mayer
Cast:  Jillian Mayer, Kayla Delacerda, Amy Seimetz, Arly Montes, Jesse Miller, Shivers Thedog
Logline: A comedic, satirical, sci-fi pop musical based on the theories of Ray Kurzweil and other futurists, #PostModem is the story of two Miami girls and how they deal with technological singularity, as told through a series of cinematic tweets.
@borschtcorp

FIREWORKS
(USA, 2012, 11 mins)
Director: Victor Hugo Duran
Writer: Kevin James McMuillin
Cast: Roger Cruz, Alberto Castañeda, Irene Sorto, Azucena Benitez, Edgar Vanegas, Julio Duran, Victor Hugo Duran, Kevin James McMullin
Logline: During the Fourth of July in South Los Angeles, a teenage boy and his brother scour the neighborhood for fireworks in order to win the admiration of a girl.
@victorhugoduran

clara-photo02-small CLARA COMO EL AGUA  
(USA, 2012 10 min)
Writer/Director: Fernanda Rossi
Cast:  Kathiria Bonilla León, Sixta Rivera, Rubén Andrés Medina, Alfonso Peña Ossoria, Stephanie Quiles Reyes, Eyra Aguero
Logline:  Clara is the only light-skinned and clear-eyed girl in an all-black neighborhood. Teased incessantly, the children claim her unknown father is actually a “gringo” tourist. However, Clara was told a different story, and to find out the truth, she will venture into the magical waters of the bioluminescent bay all on her own.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 12.21.44 AMECHO BEAR
(USA, 2012  6min)
Writer/director: Yolanda Cruz
Cast: Joe Nunez, Hugo Medina, Tzina Carmel, Donato López, Lobo Manet
Logline: Bear, a single gay Latino man in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, looks for love online. Fearing traffic, he searches locally, but soon discovers how geographic convenience can turn to heartache overnight.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 12.33.47 AMVINCENT VALDEZ: EXCERPTS FOR JOHN
(2012, USA, 12 min)
Directed by Mark and Angela Walley
Logline: Two years in the making, this beautifully shot and perfectly paced short documentary captures the creative process of painter Vincent Valdez, as the artist works on a series of pieces dedicated to a childhood friend John Holt Jr. an Army combat medic who died in 2009 after serving in Iraq.

MoviePoster_1EL COCODRILO
(2012, 15 min)
Director: Steve Acevedo
Writer: Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Cast: Jacob Vargas Hugo Medina Shannon Lucio Manuel Uriza
Logline: A Mexican journalist and a cartel assassin collide in a diner, with tragic consequences for both.

REINALDO ARENASshark
(USA, 2012, 3:29min)
Writer/director Lucas Leyva
Shark: Alberto Ibarguen  
Man: Epifanio Leyva
Logline: Told from the point of view of a dying shark, ‘Reinaldo Arenas’ metaphorically captures the current state of the aging Cuban-American exile community, many of whom have still not come to terms with the Communist Revolution that changed their lives forever. The film culls from various Cuban films and works of literature to create not a singular voice, but a feeling of a particular moment in time

GABI
(2012, USA  20 min)
Writer/Director:  Zoe Junco
Cast: Marisé Alvarez , Dalia Davi , Roy Sanchez Vahamonde , Aris Mejias
Logline: A Puerto Rican saying haunts single women in their 30’s: “If such a woman is not married by this time, she must be a slut, a lesbian, or a prude.” This is the story of that woman…
@gabifilm

Ojos! 5 Hot American Latino films to discover in 2013

Peep this and pay mind folks, especially Festival Programmers and Distributors.  Here’s my list of the most exciting American Latino independent fiction films coming through the pipeline ready to break out and make noise in 2013.

All are first features by wildly original voices who are remixing potent multi-cultural heritage and inventing their own unique brand of genre.   So much talent!  Makes this Chicanita proud.

Let’s start with numero uno:

1.  WATER & POWER – from Chicano wordsmith warrior and Culture Clash iconoclast, Richard J. Montoya, produced by Mark Roberts. This is the screen adaptation of Montoya’s 2006 play originally performed at the Mark Taper Forum.  Rife with the City of Angels’ legends, haunts and lore, the Chicano noir tale (how cool is that?) takes place over the course of one fateful night.  An intense story unravels centered on twin brothers nicknamed “Water” played by Enrique Murciano and “Power” played by Nicolas Gonzalez who were born and raised on the East Side streets playground – one grows up to be a senator and the other a high ranking cop.  The amazingly gifted musical artist and composer Gingger Shankar (Circumstance, Charlie Wilson’s War) has contributed music to the film.   The project participated in the 2007 Sundance Institute screenwriters & directors lab.  A madly prolific playwright (a regular Berkeley and Yale Repertory Theatre collaborator), I got a chance to see Montoya’s uproarious and thought provoking American history redux play, American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose last fall (read the LA Weekly feature review here).  An uncompromising artist with a thundering voice all over the pop culture pulse and map, Montoya’s first feature film tops my list of films to watch out for in 2013.  Can. Not. Wait.

Like the Facebook page to stay on top of future premiere announcements and here’s a pic on Mark Roberts website

Film contact: <mark@robertsdavid.com>

PARDON ScreenGrab 1
Hector Atreyu Ruiz as Saul Sanchez – stuck between a rock and hard place

2.  PARDON – written and directed by R.F. Rodriguez and produced by his production company BadMansSon.  A story that deals with a cholo ex-con who returns to his barrio ready to go on the straight and narrow but soon finds himself pulled by his old gang familia may sound familiar, but never has it been as emotionally excavated and depicted with such sensitivity and complexity.  Hector Atreyu Ruiz is Saul Sanchez whose driving motivation is the chance to reunite with his estranged daughter.  Guided by a sympathetic parole officer, played by Tracey Heggins (from the 2008 indie African-American gem Medicine for Melancholy), Saul tackles catch-22 circumstances towards his mission and confronts a growing uneasiness and threat from his vatos who continue to test if he’s still down.  At its core the film is an exploration about  fatherhood and coming home, and speaks to the social phenomenon of absentee fathers as the result of incarceration, an issue predominantly afflicting Latino families and communities.

PARDON ScreenGrab 3 Set in Highland Park, Rodriguez, a USC film school grad, shot the feature before graduating, having fleshed the story further out of the short film he made of the same name.  His project mentor, Patricia Cardoso (Real Women Have Curves) encouraged him to do more with it and this is the amazing result.   With earnest and raw performances, the moving and powerfully directed film marks this a sign of a true filmmaker talent discovery.

Website, Twitter

Film contact <contact@badmansson.com>

rbe_13. RECOMMENDED BY ENRIQUE written and directed by Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh and produced by their NY based company En Passant Films.   Shot in border town Del Rio, Texas (the U.S. side of the Rio Grande) with an offbeat hipster cast of  young non-professionals plucked locally, the quirky, mystical tale is about an aspiring actress and an old cowboy who each arrive into town with respective plans and expectations, only to end up waiting for something to happen.  Forced to wait out their time,  they’ve nothing to do but explore the bewitching town and its people.  Lino Varela plays the Cowboy and Sarah Swinwood, a Canadian newcomer actress nails the airhead wannabe star.

This is the second feature film from Texas native Daniel Garcia and Lebanese born Rania.  Their first film, OK, ENOUGH, GOODBYE screened at San Francisco International Film Festival among other world wide festivals, and the duo were included in 2011’s Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film.  Undertones of a Twilight Zone type of dimension and the spellbinding pull of the dusty town are perfectly captured – as anyone who’s been in these strange little Texas towns can attest.  Unexpected and unpredictable, this definitely gets my recommendation.

rbe_2

Screen Shot 2013-01-07 at 1.08.25 AM
Luz!  played by Iliana Carter Ramirez

 

 

 

 

4.  VINCENT & LUZY (FKA On the Run) written and directed by Alberto Barboza and produced by Cinético Productions. A charming, hip and modern fairy tale love story between a soulful graffiti artist,Vincent, played by Miguel Angel Caballero, and sexy tattoo artist, Luzy played by Iliana Carter Ramirez.  The film captures and romanticizes the happening, multi-culti rockabilly/emo scene and counter culture of Boyle Heights and features lots of home grown talent and spots like Self Help Graphics, the community visual arts mission center.  The posters created by Vincent in the film are designed by rising street artist, El Mac (Miles MacGregor).  You’ll recognize some of his murals around LA like this one on Hollywood and Wilton, one of my favorites.  He just did the album cover for No Doubt.

Screen Shot 2013-01-07 at 12.33.29 AM

An eclectic soundtrack featuring local Vallenato band, Very Be CarefulHermanos Herrera, Irene DiazDoghouse Lords and more.  The cast also includes ol’ G’, Sal Lopez (American Me) and Lupe Ontiveros in what may be her last film role before she passed away last year (she also has a small role in Water & Power).

Fresh, exuberant and inhabiting a distinct, heightened magical street reality, Vincent & Luzy might be the first film to truly reflect this young, vibrant artist subculture, making this one a hot flick to track.

mailFilm contact: info@CineticoProductions.com

Website

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-01-05 at 9.04.14 PM

5. BLAZE YOU OUT – written and directed by Mateo Frazier and Diego Joaquin Lopez and produced by Alicia J. Keyes.  Set in the rarely seen mystic world of New Mexico, this young female driven thriller is uniquely atmospheric.  Starring the rising young talent, Veronica Diaz Carranza (Mamitas) along with a terrific cast including Elizabeth Peña, Q’orianka Kilcher, Raoul Trujillo and Mark Adair Rios, all who ignite the screen. Diaz stars as Lupe, a DJ who is forced to venture into her town’s heroin trade underworld in order to save her younger sister Alicia’s life.  To do so she must confront mysterious occult figures and harness the power within her to connect with the divine that surrounds her.

Blaze You Out Film
Ms. DJ Diaz

I was thrilled to hear that Lionsgate picked up the film at AFM a couple months ago.  Lionsgate/Grindstone will release the film July 2013.   6 Sales is handling rights to rest of world.  Intense and wicked and unlike anything else this is a sizzling genre film to look forward to.  In the meantime, check out the press kit, pics and more on their site.

mailWebsite, Facebook

 

 

 

MUST MENTION

Screen Shot 2013-01-05 at 7.21.14 PMCHAVEZ –  written and directed by Diego Luna and produced by Canana Films, Mr. Mudd and backed by Participant Media.  Given it’s a biography of an iconic Chicano figure, labor rights activist Cesar Chavez, and Luna is an international name talent, this project has already attracted major press coverage ever since it was first announced so it doesn’t really fit my ‘Discovery’ profile.  That said, it is a highly anticipated and important film. I really hope the film opens wide and mainstream – although Participant will likely need a partner to make this happen in the U.S.  Michael Peña, the Puerto Rican actor catapulting towards leading man roles and already a regular in big Hollywood films (he’s in Gangster Squad opening this weekend), embodies a young Chavez.  It wasn’t quite ready for Sundance so it’s possible the film will bow at a high profile festival like Cannes or Toronto.  Although I’m hoping Stephanie Allain, director of Film Independent’s LA Film Festival will go hard after the film to wrangle what would be a fitting LA gala premiere.  Diego Luna proved his salt as the filmmaker of Abel, an eloquent and heart-stirring portrait of a little delusional boy who pretends to be the man of the house since his father left. Peña recently shared his approach was to be truthful to Cesar the MAN not necessarily the legend or myth generated by his colossal perseverance and labor rights feats.  All eyes will be on the representation of such a querido and influential figure.   My bet?  All in.  I trust the filmmakers and cast will deliver a resonant and accomplished cinematic film worthy of the inspiring civil rights story, and more importantly re-introduce Chavez to mobilize our millennial generation.

Do you have a hot independent American Latino film recommendation I should track?  Holler at your girl.  Email me at <chicanafromchicago@gmail.com>

Next up,  Non-Fiction American Latino films to track in 2013