Since Sunday night’s Oscar telecast the interwebs have exploded with fury about the omission of Lupe Ontiveros in the Academy’s In Memoriam segment. I didn’t think to add my 2 cents until right now because frankly I wasn’t surprised at all. But now I got something I think worth sharing. I was combing through my computer for some video and I ran into this clip I took of the late great Lupe at last year’s NALIP where she delivered a moving speech in her irresistible, witty, loving spicy way to bestow the Lifetime Achievement Award to Rita Moreno. You know what I get out of this? It’s our responsibility and ours alone to value and recognize our people. Are we really so appalled and shocked that the Academy denied her membership? What good is it to ask the Academy to explain and question their commitment to Latinos? I suppose it could be looked as a tongue in cheek PR move because clearly that is not on their list of To Do’s, let alone their sensibility. What really gets me is that it seems like we are seeking validation from an elite society of homogenized, old white males, half of them retirees. I believe the significance of the Academy Award is more an antiquated status symbol, a vestige of show business like the stars in my neighborhood’s Hollywood Walk of Fame, than a recognition of achievement.
If this incident serves to fuel and spill our community’s amor and tribute to La Dona Lupe’s legacy, that is indeed a positive. But hear her words in this clip. How she shares her sincere admiration, love and respect for Rita Moreno. It makes me think, its more beautiful, powerful and honest when we ourselves elevate and commend our mentors, peers and younger generation. Another key observation in this clip; Notice Lupe calling out Ms. Moreno by way of inviting her to be part of NALIP, essentially pointing out that this highest Entertainment Awarded Puerto Rican woman, is not part of the National Association of Latino Producers, a grassroots organization which struggles but continues to support a young crop of filmmakers with labs, workshops and development opportunities. “Show up once a year”, Lupe says. ” We need figures like you.”
Goes to show that there are members of the Academy who are brown. I take more issue with the Hollywood Latinos who having personally faced and overcome barriers and stereotypes, yet once on the inside, don’t take the obligation or responsibility seriously as self identified Latinos, to keep the gates open.
Described as the largest gathering of Latinos working in media in the U.S., the 13th annual National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Conference presented by Time Warner, most actively by way of HBO Latino and NBC Universal, and The National Latino Media Council, took place this weekend at the model tourist convention hub, Universal City Sheraton. NALIP finds itself in a bit of a transition following Kathryn Galan’s departure as Executive Director who spent almost eleven years at the organization shaping it into what it is today. The search is still on for a replacement but guiding the transition as Interim Director is the affable Beni Matias who started with NALIP from its inception. A couple of the board members are new, including Rosa Alonso, founder of My Latino Voice who will lend her digital marketing expertise to the organization. These high level leadership changes can potentially bring about a revitalized and evolving mission to NALIP’s growing legacy. Covering the conference for Latin Heat Online Magazine, I greatly enjoyed the ability to observe and take part with an inquisitive gonzo-like spirit. Indeed I’d be remiss if I did not approach the significant Latino organization with an on-the-ground, critical eye, especially now while it is in a very ‘review mode’ on how to continue to stay relevant. Its crucial to recognize its monumental formation and landmark achievements. Equally as crucial is to identify how to pragmatically further the conversation it began thirteen years ago about US Latino representation in front and behind the camera. Most important is to distill the relevant but sometimes incongruent messaging – for instance, the Robert Rodriguez keynote illustrated a polar opposite way of thinking to that of Ron Meyer’s keynote (Do we want to Break Out or Break In to the mainstream?), which makes for an intriguing forum of deeper discussion.
What to expect from Chicana from Chicago’s multi-part NALIP coverage? A couple of case-studies/interviews with Rashaad Ernesto Green who epitomizes the DIY mentality which made his feature debut, Gun Hill Road a unique success story, the filmmaker Michael D. Olmos and his star, Gina Rodriguez of Filly Brown who embody the US Latino pop culture flavor.
I’d like to recognize the influential Gatekeepers at non-profit, artistic development institutions responsible for introducing the most fresh, diverse and underrepresented voices to audiences, like Shari Frilot, Senior Programmer at Sundance Film Festival, Tamir Muhammad, Director of Feature Programming at Tribeca Film Institute and Richard Ray Perez who is the newest and welcome U.S. Latino staff addition at Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program. I’m also most excited to give you a heads up on fresh new film and multi-media projects in the works, and I’ll make sure to dish on the fancy Awards Gala.
I found the theme of NALIP 2012’s, “Diverse Voices, Universal Content” sounding futuristic and empowering, yet initially too broadly defined and perfunctory. I strongly feel that the more focus we can bring to next year’s themes, the better we’ll be able to advance conversation. That said, I’ve identified a few key points that were strong merits of this year’s NALIP, and an excellent way to frame and contextualize what was really being said:
Training our content producers and artists, to not only compete but to raise the bar and expectations in every industry.
Advocate and encourage our friends of color and diversity in all professions, in particular policy-making fields, towards becoming ‘Decision Makers”
The need to vocally and financially support ‘our own content’, as peers but especially obligate those in a position of power who represent us and utilize our fan-dom (Robert Rodriguez with his new El Rey network)
Networking and sharing with peers, and takeaway the hard lessons learned by our elders, those who first paved in-roads into mainstreams, like Rita Moreno and Jerry Velasco, recipients of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Developing our individual and personal voices with which we distinguish our mestizo identity while simultaneously relating the universal the power of storytelling
Overall, I found NALIP an absolutely positive and celebratory environment. . I’m happy to share my thoughts but I would love and need to hear from YOU. I invite you to engage and kindly ask you to share your comments and observations from this year’s NALIP, and in general the landscape of US Latino representation in media as you’ve experienced it.