Borscht Diez – the festival at sea level that’s Next Level

diezlogo_ez_transparentOn Wednesday February 22, a vortex took shape in Miami known as Borscht Diez, the 10th edition of Borscht Film Festival, which created ripples around the world. It started with the end.  A  funeral pyre where Borscht’s 13 years of past work (via hard drives) was eulogized and then promptly lit and burnt to ashes. The festival closed on Sunday, February 26 with a major phoenix rising boom for Borscht  – whose mission is to put authentic Miami narratives on the map -when locals at the African Cultural Heritage Center watched in exhilaration as hometown set and filmmaker Barry Jenkins’ film Moonlight took home three Oscars; Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali, Best Adapted Screenplay, and major key win: Best Picture.

For those who don’t know  – Borscht Corp is a non profit and artist collective I talk about frequently on my blog because since 2011 their films have been selected at the top festivals around the world. The organism spawned around 2004 and has multiplied into a rising number of unique and unapologetic artists who collaborate across platforms in film, digital and art projects. Borscht’s Day One funder and to this day is The Knight foundation. Borscht represents a wild, pop and savvy storytelling community who sneak relevant cultural perspectives and social/geo/political/tech-driven commentary.  When it comes to American Latino representation at festivals – something I talk about a lot on this blog, Borscht nearly always appears in my WTF is Latino at xyz festival and they found that last year at a major film festival, 50% of US fiction shorts by Latinos were Borscht commissions.

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Borscht

Two of the chief architects of this nuclear reactor, Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva, recently gained the support of Time Warner’s One Fifty which invests in creators, with the goal of creating a pipeline into the entertainment divisions who recognize the need for fresh content in order to stay relevant and reach younger socially connected audiences. Mayer and Leyva have collaborated on many projects as writers/directors/producers and with One Fifty are working on a few exciting things TBA.  Their most recent short Kaiju Bunkaru premiered at Sundance, and they are actively developing their first feature set in Cuba as writers/directors.  The partners in crime have also used Time Warner’s support to continue to spearhead their work of promoting and supporting other up and coming Miami artists.  A few of these include the Meza brothers, Bernardo Britto, Alexa Haas, Monica Peña, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Amy Seimetz, Ahol Sniffs Glue, Jonathan David Kane, Julian Yuri Rodriguez, and Giancarlo Loffredo.

A typical film festival is usually evaluated by the strength of its film selection, but this ain’t no typical film festival – its a whole experience, and one that is curated off the cuff yet quite tight.  The 70 something odd number of features, shorts and videos comprising the program is driven by Borscht made films, Miami related stories, and  natives.  Its audacious vision is pretty organically glued with near future narratives and primal and cosmic evocations –  always with a daring, and often underrepresented point of view.

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Waterworld. photo by Marilyn Loddi

Screenings were held at three main theater venues; The Miami Beach Cinematheque, New World Center, Olympia Theater – which when taken over by Borscht surely broadened those institutions’ reach and seemed to take on a new feel. Outside these established venues, screens were also popped up, intervening public spaces; on the water, in the streets, off a beaten path of an island, on walls inside and outside.  Just like screens were

unleashed, so were stories unconfined to said screens by weaving thematic narratives around each screening event. Like being handed a cacti to accompany you to a film about a conquistador and being told that the questions will be taken strictly from the cacti.  Or the animation bookends at the main film event where sea anemones from the future (fake/future news reel tells us that sea level rise has buried Miami underwater) presented the program while making fun of the blip that was humans and the rubble we left behind that we called “art”.  And then there are the personal experiences in participating that creates yet another story – like the time I kayaked by myself at night a mile out to an undisclosed island location for a screening, thinking that if I flipped over into the lukewarm sea the temperature would be nice but rubbing up on something would give probably stop my heart.

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Cosmic and coral sex inside New World Center

Other big events included Coral Orgy, an immersive psychedelic  projection by local marine biologists/artists Coral Morphologic with a live score performed by Animal Collective,  a vogue ball by Catwalk Miami that was EVERYTHING, an amusing opera piece by Joseph Keckler, performances by Hyperbody, Poor Girrrl and Miami’s very own bad bitch no-nanna-hoe Trina  – and that’s just what I witnessed firsthand.  Of the VR stuff I flexed my empathy muscles being that I embodied Dubya’s body –  naked in a tub, happily painting- thanks to an installation by Tenderclaws.

I moderated a panel called Warn a Brother with Terence Nance about how independent artist like him can preserve their voice while transitioning from independent to working with studios. Like MayerLeyva, Terence is working with One Fifty who made it possible for him to shoot his pilot Random Acts of Flyness for HBO. ‘Mobilize don’t Satiriz’e was one of a few gems that I heard Terence say about his self-expression.  Tamir Muhammad, the artist development engineer responsible for bringing them in is also working with creators like Young Guru, Lemon Anderson and  Melonie Diaz. Tamir moderated another panel called Code Switching your way to the top which included my homegirl, Dilcia Barrera, LACMA Film Curator and Sundance shorts programmer, and Walter Newman from Adult Swim. The convo was about how these cats succeed in an industry dominated by wealthy straight white men.

FILMS:  A few highlights.  For the full list of cool crazy films that played go here

OPUNTAI

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Miami native David Fenster’s Opuntia is an experimental film inspired by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Relación. And is narrated by a cactus. The film explores spiritual transformation by way of the fascinating and little known Spanish conquistador turned

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Cabeza de Vaca is inside this cactus

shaman during his 8 year expedition on which he lost hundreds of men, was stripped of everything he had, wandered around naked and miraculously survived –  in part by eating the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. Fenster visits the spots Cabeza de Vaca supposedly journeyed from St. Petersburg, Florida to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and weaves in a psychic medium’s point of view as well as his own personal narrative by including his father and his battle with his health.  A profound and existential adventure this was a work in progress screening.  Watch out for it.

Manila Death Squad by Dean C. Marcial

A young tenacious reporter insists on a sit-down and plays Kings with the temperamental leader of a brutal assassin group in this kitschy Filipino action film. Dean is currently working on a digital series called Midnight Service with his Calavera co-horts regular Borscht producer Brett Potter. They previously made a short film called Sea Devil  – a total masterpiece. Watch here.

[Cries in Spanish] By Giancarlo Loffredo

A young girl sings a song in a Latin cafe.  The vibes and jaw dropping twist on this one. From the dude that brought us Stripper Wars.

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Body Heals by Annelise Ogaard

A dispatch from a plastic surgery vacation, reflecting on beauty in the moment of metamorphosis after the knife goes in, but before the bandages come off. Remarkably transparent and unusual in that usually people hide themselves during their cocoon cosmetic post surgery phase. Brooklyn based creator and Vice contributor Annelise’s pov is about flaunting one’s regeneration.

Great Choice by Robin Comisar

A Borscht commissioned short film about a woman who gets stuck in a red lobster commerial.  The wacky premise anchored by an insanely real problem comes from Ghost Robot director Comisar who has fun doing stuff with Waverly Films.

One Doggone Summer by Julian Yuri Rodriguez

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Niño bueno and MTV no seasons star Julian, channels his dog lover and sentimental side with this sweet, imaginative story about a boy wants to make sure his doggy goes to heaven.

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-10-02-17-pmAgua Viva by Alexa Haas

screen-shot-2017-03-04-at-10-07-44-pmAlexa co-directed the short film, The Glove with Bernardo Britto that debuted last year and is still making the rounds.  Her solo effort is about a manicurist in Miami expressing her inner desires, feelings, and daydreams through a language she cannot speak.

My experience with #BorschtDiez was seriously a portal of senses and provocation. It sparked dialogue around sex and gender, and somehow made time, space and matter truly feel relative.  If you missed it, well you missed out –  this time around. It always comes back around. Til then tune in and follow Borscht’s unique transmission from the 305; Follow @borschtcorp on the socials and head to their website.  Shout out to Marilyn Loddi for the on-the-scene photos.

VIVA BORSCHT

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COMING SOON: 10 EXCITING INDIE FILMS BY AMERICAN LATINOS

No better time than Oscar week to post my annual list of new films made by Latinos. I hope reading about these cool flicks inspires you to seek and consume the stories you value outside the super exclusive corporate media. Before we get to the list, my 3.63 pesos on the #HollywoodSoWhite convo.

I appreciated Dennis Romero’s recent LA Weekly article called “Hollywood’s Diversity Emergency is not Black” in which he gives big ups to the Black community for doing the ‘heavy lifting’ in making the diversity conversation trend. Romero essentially calls on the Asian and Latino community to take part in the dialogue because we stand the most to gain in moving the dial considering the wider gap that exists between Asian and Latinos’ population and their respective media representation compared to African Americans’ numbers.

Using the framework of proportion, USC’s Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity reveals that across the 309 episodes and 109 films they covered, 15% were directed by women (50% population), and 13% were directed by underrepresented racial/ethnic groups (38% non-white).

It makes sense that the percentage of on screen underrepresented characters increases (17.5%) when an underrepresented director is at the helm of a scripted episode or film.
I’m not sure what to make then of a recent phenomenon I have seen within the Latino community; an overwhelming desire/shift to tell stories UNRELATED to their Latino identity. Don’t get it twisted,  I respect the artist’s prerogative and agree that just because you are from a certain ethnicity, you shouldn’t feel obligated to tell that ‘ethnic film’. But if the rationale is that in order to tell a universal story you can’t be ethnic specific, I totally take issue with that, and would argue on the contrary, we just haven’t done it enough to prove it’s not true.  Along these puzzling but no less real lines, I was startled to read in the report, “As (female) power increases, female presence decreases. In film, television, and streaming executive ranks, 46.7% of Senior Vice President-level executives are female.”  What’s up ladies?

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Part of me gets it though, both artist and gatekeeper is faced with the obligation, pressure and responsibility to succeed in a business of mediated platforms.  Unfortunately that usually means don’t stick your neck out, less risk.  But what if we made it our goal to seize and create as many chances to allow ourselves to FAIL, at least as much as the rest get to, because that is how we get to the next level.

Okay enough rant!  Here is my curated list of brand spanking new feature length fiction films written and directed by filmmakers in the US of A who have Mexican/Caribbean/Central/South American roots. Many of these films are in post-production but might be making their world premiere at a film festival or VOD later this year.  As you can tell, some filmmakers clearly chose to tell a story from a specific Latino character/experience, while others drew from their culture in a more abstract, no less personal route.  One thing is for sure though, each of these artists have been hustling their craft for years outside the studio system which is why you can see a distinct genre and aesthetic in their work.  Make sure to check out the links to their previous work.  It is one thing to say there we be underrepresented and quite another thing to be overlooked.

BETWEEN US written and directed by Rafael Palacio Illingworth

From Caviar Content, a multi media company that financed last year’s Diary of a Teenage Girl by Marielle Heller, comes this intense romance drama made by Mexico/Colombia raised AFI grad Rafael Palacio Illingworth.  The film features two incredibly talented actors Olivia Thirlby (Juno) and Ben Feldman (Ginsberg in Mad Men!) as a couple navigating a tempestuous “post-honeymoon phase” while trying to hang on to the chemistry that first made them gravitate towards each other. Rafael starred in his own first film MACHO ( see here,) which like The Force, also tracked a relationship through the initial meet-cute high.  Macho landed with IFC after premiering at the Raindance Film Festival in London in 2010. The film just announced its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

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antibirthANTIBIRTH written and directed by Danny Perez

Danny is two for two, his first and second films have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Raised in Virginia in a Cuban Catholic family, Danny cut his visual teeth while collaborating with avant garde music group, Animal Collective for years.  His first film, Oddsac is in many ways a sensory album for the band. It screened in Sundance’s experimental New Frontier section in 2010. Taking his skills for phantasmagoric imagery and folding hyperreal narrative and social commentary Perez shot the wasteland USA set Antibirth which stars none other than the coolest indie queens, Natasha Lyonne and Chle Sevigny.  The film got rave reviews, having premiered in the much talked about Midnight section at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  A film that’s been called “a debauched progeny of Cronenberg’s classic, The Brood, it has without a doubt the wildest, most bat-shit crazy ending I have ever seen. Must-watch. Stay tuned to hear where it lands more fests and distribution.

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HEARTS OF PALM written and directed by  Monica Peña

Following her first feature, the experimental street docu-fiction film, Ectotherms, which drew comparisons to Harmony Korine’s work, Monica Peña is back with her second feature, Hearts of Palm. The fable like film follows a romance en route to decay between two sentient beings. Peña brings to life her distinct vision with her previous collaborators Brad Lovett aka Dim Past who stars and is behind the sonic pulse of the film, and Jorge Rubiera, cinematographer who beams an otherworldly yet unmistakable Miami vibe. The Cuban American filmmaker is a Sundance Institute/Knight Fellow.   Watch Ectotherms here.  Hearts of Palm is world premiering at the upcoming Miami International Film Festival.

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Lupe21LUPE UNDER THE SUN written and directed by Rodrigo Reyes

Since the debut of his 2012 highly acclaimed and visual border documentary, Purgatorio, Rodrigo Reyes has been developing a number of projects, including this evocative tale called Lupe Under the Sun. Originally planned to be a documentary set in Merced, his hometown, Northern California, Reyes let the story evolve into a hybrid  film about an old Mexican man who has spent his entire life working in the California fields.  When he attempts to get back in touch with the family and life he left behind, he finds out that his absence did not stop them from moving on.  Shot by Justin Chin, his D.P. on Purgatorio, the film casts a neorealist, tinge of black humor aided by the real world surroundings of the agricultural desert suburb.  Lupe Under the Sun was selected to participate in IFP Narrative Lab last year and is expected to finish the film in 2016.

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MARIGOLD THE MATADOR, written and directed by Kenneth Castillo

The prolific independent LA born and raised Chicano filmmaker, Kenny Castillo is currently finishing his 7th feature.  Known for his popular short form series, The Misadventures of Cholo Chaplin which he is currently developing into animation, Castillo has since successfully specialized in urban films led by multi dimensional characters. Marigold the Matador focuses on a single mother from the perspective of an 11 year old girl who deals with her feelings of loneliness and isolation by imagining herself as a Matador in the world of the Day of the Dead. Most of the story  was shot unscripted and the result is a very authentic and emotionally engaging film.  He is currently raising funds to finish the film. The true blue indie filmmaker entrepreneur he is, you can head over to his website and buy a cool Cholo Chaplin shirt, check out his complete body of work, and donate to his film.

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FUGUE written and directed by Jorge Torres-Torres

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I know, not FUGUE, but no film still avail yet
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Artist known as Torres

I only recently discovered the work of this enigmatic filmmaker who’s been lurking along the coolest fringes of art genre.  Among his previous films, 2014’s moody verite, Shadow Zombie won a prize for best “documentary-sh” film at the renowned Chicago Underground Film Festival. Sisters of the Plague starring Josephine Deckker screened at last year’s  New Orleans Film Festival and Outfest.  Back in 2011 Jorge was the cinematographer on Jonathan Caouette’s Cannes documentary, Walk Away Renee.   Yes , he also directs music videos, including this neat Modest Mouse Strangers to Ourselves track.  The Puerto Rican born filmmaker has also produced and shot a number of random videos you can find on his Tumblr.  Upcoming films include a documentary about the Slacker esque Athens, Georgia music scene called A Peculiar Noise, premiering at this year’s Atlanta Film Festival, and Fugue, which follows a woman (Sophie Traub) who wanders around an island lost and out of place.  Having binged on his work recently I can safely say that he casts spells of mad intrigue and strange  dream-state feels.  Definitely an indie auteur you should know.

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greenghostposter_twitchTHE GREEN GHOST directed by Michael Olmos 

Michael Olmos goes family superhero action film in The Green Ghost, his 4th feature film.  It is not surprising that Olmos is collaborating with Marco Zaror; back in 2006 Marko made noise in the Chilean street action thriller, Kiltro which premiered at LALIFF, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival headed by Michael’s father, Eddie Olmos.  Michael’s underrated first film, Splinter in 2006 was shot on the streets of LA and displayed his stylish and gritty directing chops. Olmos went on to co-direct and produce the 2012 Sundance Film Festival U.S. Dramatic Competition film  Filly Brown which catapulted Gina Rodriguez pre-Jane the Virgin.  Zaror has many fans around the world having carved out for himself a string of martial arts action flicks, many of which have played Fantastic Fest where incidentally he and Michael sneaked some footage of the Green Ghost last year.  The film is about a man having to overcome his insecurities to transform into a superhero and defeat the dangerous bruja Lechusa who plans to bring back the wrath of Moctezuma.   Currently in post.

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DADDY’S BOY written and directed by Daniel Armando

Daniel’s first feature What it Was made the Latino/LGBT film festival run.  The story about an actor coming to terms with a recent family loss and her marriage breakup returns to her home in Brooklyn where she runs into an old college girlfriend. The film has raw verite scenes interlaced with poetic close up cinematic imagery.  He has not one but two films premiering at this year’s Cinequest Film Festival next month.  He directed a film called When I’m With You, and wrote and directed an erotic swoon and slow dance film, Daddy’s Boy which indulges in its queer cinema throwback and music interludes as it follows four young men behind the closed doors of a burlesque studio, shedding more than just their clothes and inhibitions.  Daniel has said that he likes films that wander throughout space.   He’s been quoted as saying, “A lot of my favorite films don’t feature characters like this, and I feel I have a responsibility as an artist of color to tell everyday stories from a perspective rarely seen.”

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DON’T KILL IT directed by Mike Mendez

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Dolph, demon hunter

From the director of Big Ass Spider which played at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, comes this supernatural action thriller, starring none other than 80s movies action icon, Dolph Lundgren.  Mike Mendez, born to Salvadorean and Mexican family parents, born and raised in LA has been busy.  After Big Ass Spider he did Lavalantula about giant lava spewing tarantulas. Last year he put together an anthology of scary shorts, Tales of Halloween directed by various filmmakers including Lucky McKee (2002’s May is one of my long time cult faves).  Mendez doesn’t show any signs of slowing his roll which is a good thing for his loyal fans.  His love for genre is evident in his filmmaking, and his action/horror genre is mixed with a  pure sense of humor.

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 FROZEN PEAS written and directed by Alonso Mayo

A real bi-cultural American who spent his formative years in between Lima, Peru and Lawrence, Kansas, Alonso Mayo first moved to LA to attend AFI where he made his thesis short film, Wednesday Afternoon.  In 2013, Gravitas Ventures picked up his first feature, The Story of Luke starring Lou Taylor Pucci, Seth Green, Cary Elwes and Kristin Bauer.  His sophomore effort, Frozen Peas is a funny and honest film about a husband and father to three kids finds himself in the throes of a masculinity panic attack when pressured by his wife to consider vasectomy.

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First Features Alert

To round up the list here are three special mentions of directorial debuts to watch coming soon; Bruising for Besos written and directed by Adelina Anthony, the queer chicana poet who wrote the story for one of my favorite short films, You’re Dead To Me.  A critically acclaimed and beloved solo artist performer, she stars herself in Brusing as Yoli, a smooth talker whose game is put to the test in pursuit of romance. Varsity Punks written and directed by Anthony Solorzano is a high school comedy following a tight knit rambunctious cross country team shot in El Monte starring Efren Ramirez as the coach.   H.O.M.E by Daniel Maldonado which is premiering a the Queens World Film Festival stars Jeremy Ray Valdez as a young man with Aspergers. See trailer for H.O.M.E. below.

Why aren’t there 100 more film producers today like Moctezuma Esparza?

That is the $64,000 question left unanswered from last night’s Zocalo Public Square ‘ideas exchange’.  For over forty years Moctezuma Esparza has paved the way for successfully producing Mexican American films, and he himself asked the question why there aren’t more producers leading the charge today. The launch of the series, “What it Means to be American” co-sponsored by leading government cultural institute, The Smithsonian was held at the Arclight Cinemas followed by a free cocktail reception  – to better create community as Zocalo Public Square founder Gregory Rodriguez aptly joked. Moctezuma Esparza, Maya Cinemas theater chain owner and producer of over 40 movies including Selena, Walk Out and Milagro Beanfield War was joined by the fiery Luis Valdez, renowned playwright and founder of El Teatro Campesino.  The two, who have known each other since the 60s, were candid, humorous, and proud of their accomplishments.  Throughout the course of the talk, they challenged the audience of content creators to keep going, upwards, strong, and to have the courage of their convictions.  Luis was, as expected of a wordsmith, full of passionate statements (“We carry within us the legends of the Americas and those stories are not being told”) while Moctezuma in his own elder statesmanship style gave insightful historical references relevant to today’s climate of Latino representation. Both of them asserted there is no use waiting around for “Pendejos”  to greenlight your stories. IMG_4296 At times the panel drifted from the What it Takes to Film the Mexican American Story theme, nonetheless, it was always entertaining.  I could listen to Luis’s tangential anecdotes all day; the time his Frida movie with Raul Julia got fucked because he cast Laura San Giacomo as Frida and Latinas caused such an uproar causing New Line to ax it, his childhood growing up 5 miles from McFarland Texas and the time he went to see The Day the Earth Stood Still at the ol Mac, which changed his life.  We learned that Esparza’s legacy doesn’t stop at the iconic films he’s produced.  He is the founder of charter school Los Angeles Academy of Arts & Enterprise in the Pico Union area, and is successfully expanding Maya Cinemas, providing state of the art sound and projection theater experiences to decentralized Latino communities in Salinas, Bakersfield, Pittsburg and now in Fresno. What’s most illuminating about listening to these pioneers is understanding the political context as well as their unique trajectories. By pointing out social precedents that factor into the Hollywood culture, a greater understanding emerges of what led to their glorious era of iconic Mexican American representation’ in films like La Bamba, Mi Familia, Zoot Suit, Stand & Deliver. What isn’t  understandable is why these universally appealing yet culturally specific storylines have not reigned since, let alone continue to be seen widely in TV and film.  The closest we can gather is the status quo shakeup theory that the sheer size of a remarkably growing population of Latinos threatens, or perhaps is being unconsciously resisted by a media gatekeeper culture scared of changing to reflect the cultural fusion that dominates our reality…..until they figure out how to easily exploit the money making value. What does legalizing interracial marriage have to do with the subject at hand?  Luis mentioned the 1967  anti-miscegenation law in response to a woman who asked ‘When will the change of gatekeeper guard happen’. The Supreme Court decision was the result of decades of protest that took place against this reinforcement of segregation.  It takes a while but if we identify the problem of disparity and engage in personal and social activism to change it, like financially supporting content that represents us, or petitioning government to put in place a law protecting equality, it will happen.  This last comment reminded me of the current ACLU drive to mobilize the government to investigate the studios/networks’ embedded discrimination against women directors through biased hiring practices. Esparza mentioned stars that he looked up to growing up like Ricardo Montalban, Anthony Quinn, Katy Jurado, Jose Ferrer were allowed to emerge as stars because of the national interests during WWII.  The U.S. was courting Mexico as an ally, afraid of the tentacle reach of Stalin and Hitler.  I never thought about it that way.  Esparza noted there is nothing comparable on television today representing heroic Latino culture from the past referencing I Love Lucy, Cisco Kid, Zorro, The High Chapparal. When it came to  addressing the distorted representation in the years after WWII and short lived 80s/90s heyday, Moctezuma intelligently observed the ‘aspirational representation’ malady; the persistence of mass media to perpetuate a so called perfect but homogenized image and story stream.  Mainstream has long re-appropriated other cultures for the hip factor, and after decades of interracial lovemaking our Millennial generation finally, perhaps unwittingly, disrupts this one perfect image, owning their multicultural identity on a whole new (digital) level. When asked about writing what you know without fear of being criticized by your own community of perpetuating stereotypes, Luis answered to be ready to defend yourself.  “You’re not any good if you aren’t being criticized”.  Moctezuma referred to the backlash he got for casting a Puerto Rican (J-Lo) as Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, a Mexican American.  After months of open call auditions he decided Jennifer Lopez was the best one for the role.  Or as to why he chose Robert Young to direct The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, he answered that he wanted Eddie Olmos to star in it, and Eddie wanted to be directed by Young.  Makes sense to me. Spreading cultural sensitivity is necessary but lets be wary of firing displaced attacks without considering the context..  We have no right to demand how artists realize their vision. Wanting to work with the best actor, director, cinematographer etc. is valid. But when systemically marginalized minorities don’t have the opportunity to access creative, entrepreneurial mentorship and funding they are at a deficit and hence scarcity.  Only thing you can do is invest your time, sacrificing your livelihood at times, to practice your artistic craft.  As Luis pointed out he writes plays all the time.  That’s how he got into the movies.  Plays are scripts for movies.  So write.  I want to point out here that this advice is for every single filmmaker regardless of color. WATCH: Luis Valdez 1969 short documentary, I am Joaquin, which Moctezuma Esparza credits as being the reason he got into film.

Maybe there aren’t more power producers like Moctezuma Esparza passionately fighting for producing Mexican American stories because the traditional social and business infrastructure that he broke through is kaput. Its the accelerated acculturation and proliferation of new media that makes this defensive and recurring “Why aren’t there more Latino stories in film and TV” conversation an unproductive and tired framework.  The real work is developing talent and distribution pipelines. Latino content creators are out there telling their stories on their own terms through multimedia channels they own. In the end, its about confidently voicing your personal perspective, honing your signature craft, and being open to new channels that directly connects with audiences. What hit home for me personally was Luis talking about immigration being two ways.  He expressed his honor of having the National Theater Academy of Mexico Bellas Artes perform his play Zoot Suit (noting the hilarity of teaching Chilangos to be Chicanos).  For him to be embraced that way by his origin and to know that he can work in Mexico and be appreciated as an uncompromising artist representing his distinct American identity is something he takes great pride in, as he should.  To inhabit both worlds completely yet define my own bi-cultural American identity (and nurture storytellers by helping them find a platform) has been my journey, and in the last few years more so as I’ve collaborated with my Mexican colleagues in The Morelia International Film Festival and now Ambulante.  Ultimately, I think that’s what being American is all about. #MasAmerican Check out Zocalo’s upcoming events including next week’s “Is LA’s Past Worth Saving”.  Free admission but reservation highly recommended.

It’s official #LALIFF2013 open for submissions

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After celebrating its Quinceanera in 2011, it took a hiatus in 2012

It appears that The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival is back this year after canceling what would have been last summer’s sixteenth edition.  Without much fanfare, no press release or even news item on their website, yesterday @LALIFF tweeted that the call for submissions was open and shared the link to the entry form.  Yet there are no festival dates specified, only that it will take place (sometime) in the fall. For anyone who submitted last year, the submission page encourages you to reach out to them directly:  programming@latinofilm.org.

Last year I wrote a rather lengthy post about LALIFF’s sudden flatline here. In it I interviewed Moctezuma Esparza, Ben Odell, Douglass Spain, Alex Rivera among many other filmmaker and industry vets and luminaries who have participated over the course of many if not all of LALIFF’s history.  Repeated attempts to reach figurehead Edward James Olmos went ignored.   A lot of the community was confused at such a quietly suppressed shutter, and shaken that the festival had to hit the brakes so sudden and hard after accepting submissions and in some cases inviting films for the 2012 edition.  For fifteen years LALIFF had been the fundamental forum in our great city of Angels for US and Latin American filmmakers.  In many cases it was the ONLY place US Latino films had a real shot of screening.  I was personally appalled that the mainstream press didn’t bother to lend weight to such a cultural riptide, let alone pick up the story, so I took it upon my amateur self, counting on just my personal experience and contacts to examine it closer.  It was the very first film festival I ever worked on.  Like many filmmakers and filmgoers, it kind of changed my life.  I took that passion for nurturing original Latino films and went forth into the world working at high profile film festivals, mainstream and specialized, to gain a wealth of programming experience, most influentially at Sundance and Morelia.  It’s been seven years now, and every year I make sure to reach out to LALIFF with the hopes of capitalizing on my ever growing network, relationships, programming insight and producer skills I’ve accumulated to apply it towards making LALIFF’s infrastructure and programming sustainably stronger.   It is only natural, like wanting to give back to your alma mater once you’ve made it because you feel that at long last you can actually make a real impact to something that made such a difference to you.  But for either vague reasons given (or sometimes no response at all) my eager interest to help has never been taken up.

This year once again I offer myself up to do what I do best, steering an innovative programming vision and implementing a well executed festival.  It’d be easier for me to sit back and critique its’ weaknesses but what is the use, or greater good in that?   Instead, I’m saying right here, right now, Eddie, Marlene, I’m here, ready and willing to get my hands dirty and help make this institution reach its full potential and thrive once again.

Are you down for collaborating with the festival?  Will you be submitting to LALIFF this year?  How do you feel about its return?  Cuentame.

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Are you?

#HotSec Friday – LAREDO, TEXAS a short film by Topaz Adizes

Announcing a new weekly feature:  Every Friday I’ll upload an eye-opening short film capturing the modern and authentic bi-literate American experience made by a talented multi-cultural American Filmmaker to Know.

To inaugurate the series I’m pleased to post the short film Laredo, Texas by Topaz Adizes, which screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.  With such short sighted, stat-driven, divisive and one sided media-induced rhetoric swirling around immigration reform and undocumented labor presently, this film offers a compassionate, layered and intimate glimpse, humanizing the issue and demonstrating its psychological depth.  At just about 11 minutes, the story quickly simmers and cuts into the heart of the compelling conflict between two points of view, which we get to see play out in a way that feels credible, because the circumstances that have led these two completely seemingly different people in such close proximity is a common instance of how life revolves.  Substantial, economical and veracious, it’s hard to tell this is a ‘scripted narrative’ and not a straight up documentary – a unique quality Topaz crafts in his films which tend to delve into the interconnection of national and cultural identity and how it confronts perception and ideology, all within a framework of transnationalism and globalism. His work has screened at numerous international festivals, and his Americana Project, shot around the world explores what it means to be American and is available for educational purposes.  He is currently working on a couple new feature films.  I highly recommend you get to know his meaningful, sociological and humanistic docudrama storytelling.  Check out his work on his website.

WTF is Latino at SXSW 2013?

Back by popular demand here is my second in the “WTF is Latino at xyz Festival series”.  This time I’m taking a peek of what kind of Latino we got at the weirdest film junkie happening in Austin, the sweaty, youthful and hip South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival.

Last year, provocatively hitting that American Latino crack was Los Chidos by Omar Rodriguez Lopez.  It could have easily been thrown to the ravenous midnight wolves of the festival but instead Festival Director, Janet Pierson recognized the socio-cultural critique underneath the Neanderthal nasty, and boldly offered it up on the main storefront display of its Narrative Competition.  There was also an entire shorts program presented by those Miami based hooligans, Borscht Corp.  They return with their new short, #Postmodem, AND add this to your SXSW schedule, Cuban-American multi-media artist Jillian Mayer will be on a panel called Vagina Puppets and Fair Use.

kevin hernandez
Kevin Hernandez

So what does this first look reveal? There are lots of beautiful brown faces appearing in front of the camera, in particular emerging actors doing their ‘crossover’ thing like Francisco Barreiro and Genesis Rodriguez, popular Tigerbeat cover star Selena Gomez in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, young blood Kevin Hernandez in Short Term 12 (The Sitter, Get the Gringo) the feature based on the acclaimed short by Destin Daniel Cretton, and then there’s handsome Marcus DeAnda who delivers a moving performance in the small town gay drama, that just premiered at Sundance, Pit Stop by Yen Tan.

While onscreen talent is substantial, the films written and or directed by American Latinos in this crop is considerably less than so. By my preliminary account, we got three; Carlos Puga (Burma), Victor Teran (Snap) and Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spiders).  I’d love to be corrected.

(Descriptions pulled from festival, italic footnotes by me).

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

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Marlene Perez of The Rhythm Shakers, photo by Daniel Funaki.

Los Wild Ones
Director: Elise Salomon
Wild Records is an indie label reminiscent of the early days of Sun Records. The label is based in LA and run by Reb Kennedy aka Mr. Wild Records and is comprised of young Latin musicians who write and perform 50s Rock n Roll.

With rockabilly and Mexican rock bands like Rhythm Shakers, AlexVargas, and Pachuco Jose y Los Diamantes signed to the old school label (they don’t do advertising and they are actually going back to vinyl instead of CD production) this is the perfect music doc representing American Latino culture to premiere at SXSW and in which audiences will discover a trove of hybrid Latino influenced music treasures.

NARRATIVE COMPETITION

Burma
Director/Screenwriter: Carlos Puga
On the eve of an annual sibling reunion, a troubled young writer is sent reeling with the arrival of an unexpected guest. 
  Cast : Christopher Abbott, Gaby Hoffmann, Chris McCann, Dan Bittner, Emily Fleischer

Festivals love it when their shorties come back to premiere their features. Chilean born Puga played his documentary short film, Satan Since 2003 at SXSW 2011 and returns with his first narrative feature in which Christopher Abbott shows off some serious dramatic acting chops (HBO’s Girls, Hello I Must Be Going). 

NARRATIVE SPOTLIGHT

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Behind the scenes photo of Francisco Barreiro, photo by Patrick Rusk

Loves Her Gun
Director/Screenwriter: Geoff Marslett, Screenwriter: Lauren Modery
This romantic tragedy follows a young woman’s transition from flight to fight after she is the victim of street violence, but will the weapons that make her feel safe again create problems worse than the ones she is escaping? 
  Cast : Trieste Kelly Dunn, Francisco Barreiro, Ashley Rae Spillers, Melissa Hideko Bisagni, John Merriman

Francisco Barreiro is a rising Mexican star whose recent acting credits include horror films, Here Comes the Devil and Somos Lo Que Hay (We are What we Are).  This marks his first English-speaking role.  Go Paco!

Hours
Director/Screenwriter: Eric Heisserer
Set mostly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hours is the story of a man who battles looters, the elements and exhaustion for two days in a hospital while his newborn daughter clings to life inside a ventilator powered only by a manual crank.  Cast : Paul Walker, Genesis Rodriguez 

In Casa de Mi Padre, Genesis played the envious role of Sonia, the female lead who gets manhandled by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna’s characters and falls in love with big oaf Will Ferrell.  Competing for laughs she held her own opposite the comedic giant and proved she was more than a dime a dozen token Latina bombshell. Before being plucked for that role she was mostly seen in telenovelas so it’s nice to see her find more diverse work like this drama and the upcoming comedy with Jason Bateman, Identity Thief.

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still from SXSW

Go For Sisters
Director/Screenwriter: John Sayles
Bernice and Fontayne grew up so tight they could ‘go for sisters’. After twenty years apart, they are reunited when Bernice is assigned to be Fontayne’s parole officer- just when she needs help on the wrong side of the law.
Cast: Edward James Olmos, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Yolonda Ross

This was not on my radar at all, but what a cool surprise to learn of a new film by ‘bootstrap’ John Sayles (among his body of work, Lone Star and Casa de los Babys offer distinct povs of Latino culture). Eddie Olmos, the original Chicano movie gets top billing.

VISIONS

Elena (Brazil)
Director: Petra Costa
Elena moves to NY with the dream of becoming a movie actress. She leaves behind Petra, her 7-year-old sister. Years later, her sister Petra goes to NY to look for Elena.

This personal and impressionist docudrama by Petra, a NY based filmmaker and actress is a 2012 grantee of Tribeca Film Institute’s Latin America Media Arts Fund.  Apparently her country’s Filmmaker Godfathers, Fernando Mereilles and Walter Salles greatly praised the film when it premiered last fall in Brazil and prestigious doc fest in Amsterdam, IDFA.

Snap
Directors: Youssef Delara, Victor Teran, Screenwriter: Victor Teran
A stylish psychological thriller set against the underground dubstep DJ scene that takes the audience on a dark and terrifying journey into the depths of the psychopathic mind as it threatens to explode into horrific violence.
Cast : Jake Hoffman, Nikki Reed, Thomas Dekker, Scott Bakula, Jason Priestley

From the team behind Filly Brown, co-directors and producers Delara (Iranian/Spanish) and Teran (Chicago born son of Nicaraguan parents), comes a brand spanking new film that takes us inside the mind of a DJ in a story that is as sick and heavy as the thumping and synth sounds of its Dubstep score.  Gina Rodriguez, the eponymous Filly Brown lead who ignited audiences with her breakout performance has a small role.

SXGLOBAL

Diario a Tres Voces / Three Voices (Mexico)
Director: Otilia Portillo Padua
We are always told that love lasts forever like in children’s fairy tales, but the reality is that people change and relationships expire.

I’m very happy to see this beautiful and lyrical documentary, which had its world premiere at the Morelia International Film Festival, included in the program.  It is by far one of the most moving glimpses into the female psyche I’ve seen.  – A simply elegant and intimate glimpse of three women in three different stages in their life and how they perceive and appreciate the romance they’ve met, loved and lost.

https://vimeo.com/58650971

Dog Flesh / Carne de Perro (Chile)

Director/Screenwriter: Fernando Guzzoni
The life of Alejandro, a solitary, fragile and unpredictable man, who is crushed by the hostility of his mysterious past.
Cast : Alejandro Goic, Amparo Noguera, María Gracia Omegna, Alfredo Castro, Sergio Hernández, Cristián Carvajal,

Add Fernando Guzzoni to the growing list of young talented filmmakers from Chile with this chilling feature directing debut. A haunting and psychological post-Pinochet drama – (a reminder of the vast imprint left on the country still reeling and seeking reconciliation in the aftermath of its cruel dictatorship regime), it was awarded Best Film in the venerable San Sebastian Film Festival’s New Directors Competition and recently screened at Rotterdam.

SPECIAL EVENTS

FlacoJimenezSanAntonioThis Ain’t No Mouse Music!
Directors: Chris Simon, Maureen Gosling
Roots music icon Chris Strachwitz (Arhoolie Records) takes us on a hip-shaking stomp from Texas to New Orleans, Cajun country to Appalachia, searching for the musical soul of America.

Features five time Grammy winner, King of the Accordion, Flaco Jiménez, a Tejano musician from San Antonio.

HEADLINERS

Evil Dead
Director/Screenwriter: Fede Alvarez, Screenwriter: Rodo Sayagues
Five friends, holed up in a remote cabin, discover a Book of the Dead that unwittingly summons up dormant demons which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left to fight for survival.
Cast : Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore

Alvarez - still from Collider
Alvarez – still from Collider

Uruguayan born filmmaker caught Hollywood’s attention in 2009 immediately after uploading his disquieting and innovative sci-fi short film, Panic Attack. Suddenly Hollywood was on the line and Fede soon met with Sam Raimi.  Four years later and the eagerly anticipated Evil Dead remake and Fede’s directing debut will world premiere at SXSW where it is slotted as one of the main Headliners (reason#132 to love SXSW) In this awesome interview with the geeks at Collider, Fede remarks on the whole recent ratings arbitration with the film, “You know you Americans are crazy, right? The whole ratings system is like “cuckoo!”, he says, referring to the puzzling prescription dose of sex and horror the MPAA deems fit for U.S. mass consumption (mutilation ok, boob no way).  Sony releases Evil Dead in April.

MIDNIGHTERS

Big Ass Spider!
Director: Mike Mendez, Screenwriter: Gregory Gieras
When a giant alien spider escapes from a military lab and rampages across the city of Los Angeles, it is up to one clever exterminator and his security guard sidekick to kill the creature before the city is destroyed. Cast: Greg Grunberg, Lombardo Boyar, Clare Kramer, Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Patrick Bauchau

A devoted horror buff and filmmaker (Killers, Gravedancers, Convent) Mike grew up in Pasadena and would work at his parent’s Salvadorean/Mexican restaurant on Hollywood Blvd when he wasn’t making movies with friends.  Check out his wicked website. 

SHORTS

Si Nos Dejan
Director: Celia Rowlson-Hall
If they let us, we will love each other all our lives.

Homegirl may not be Latina but she knows her classic Mexican ballads from which the title is based (Luis Miguel and Rocio Durcal are among the many great singers who have covered this song). Spanish is THE ultimate romance language and it’s perfectly infused into Celia’s beautifully shot and offbeat cosmic love short.

The Village (Brazil)
Director: Liliana Sulzbach
The daily life of the dwellers of a microtown in the the south of Brazil which is about to vanish.

Boy Friends
Director: Hugo Vargas-Zesati
A man disturbed by a dream awakens to realize his unconscious has called his self-awareness into question. When confronting himself, misfortune brings the temporal world into perspective.

This is insanely hilarious and now that I read this logline, ingenious.  Young Texas filmmaker.

Dance Till You Drop
Directors: Eric M. Levy, Juan Cardarelli
She thought the house was safe, but under the right circumstances, anything can be dangerous. Even a dance montage.

Juan Cardarelli is originally from Argentina. Together with Levy they are Render Guys, a motion graphic house (Toy’s House, Gasland).  Their first feature film Congratulations! played last year’s Austin Film Festival

#PostModem
Directors: Jillian Mayer, Lucas Leyva

#PostModem is a comedic satirical sci-fi pop-musical based on the theories of Ray Kurzweil and other futurists. It’s the story of two Miami girls and how they deal with the technological singularity, told in a series of cinematic tweets.

The party starts March 8-17.  Follow them on Twitter @SXSW and check out the mega diverse action/info/passes to attend here

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.

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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

 

 

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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