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

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

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

Ambulante California – unveiled at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival

Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, co-founders of the traveling documentary film festival, talk about the inception of Ambulante, the power of cinema, and the upcoming launch of Ambulante California. Coming soon September 21 – October 4



Next weekend, Film Festival favorite Mission Park written and directed by Bryan Ramirez is finally dropping at AMC theatres in select cities across the nation on Sept. 6th.  So Fandango it over after your crazy Labor Day plans. Chi-town, head to AMC Cicero in Lawndale. In LA, it’s playing at Universal Citywalk, and in NYC the AMC Empire.

Rounding out the hot emerging cast which includes Joseph Julian Soriana (stud Hector Cruz in tv show Army Wives), Jeremy Ray Valdez (La Mission) Walter Perez (Friday Night Lights, Pop Star) and Will Rothhaar (Battle Los Angeles) is Douglas Spain (Star Maps, Resurrection Blvd) who is also a producer on the film AND none other than Original Gangster Jesse Borrego (Mi Vida Loca).  His line “One Day Does Not Define a Man” hits a resonant chord and plays as a resonant theme in the flick.  I’ve mentioned the film several times on my blog (official description below) because its played a dozen festivals and has racked up hella Best Director, Audience and Jury Awards.  While I’ve used the terms like Latino all-star cast, “street’ crime action thriller, and genre swagger – all an apt way to describe its edge, the biggest reason you should go watch it is that its just a bomb ass classic hood tale of friendship, betrayal and free will, through the eyes of four regular kids from San Antonio.  Underneath the slick action, what hits home is the dramatic sense that its all on you to defy your fate (every day) and not be another statistic or stereotype (Latino gangbanger).

Oh and if that’s not enough to get you turned on, the sexy rising actor, Fernanda Romero plays the irresistible love interest.  YOW!fernanda

LOG: Set in San Antonio, TX, where a drug syndicate has taken control of the region, “Mission Park” follows the lives of four best friends who choose very different paths. Torn apart over time by their ambitions, their choices ultimately bring them back together on different sides of the law. In this urban crime drama, two young F.B.I. agents, Bobby Ramirez (Jeremy Ray Valdez) and Julian Medina (Will Rothhaar), go undercover to infiltrate and take down an illegal drug organization run by the untouchable drug lord Jason Martinez (Walter Perez) and his right-hand man Derek Hernandez (Joseph Julian Soria).




#Outfest doc shorts – The LA Latino Gay

I really enjoyed finding out about this local community organization, Payasos LA through the documentary shorts film block, Queerer Than Fiction at yesterday’s Outfest screening. This is the first episode of a series called RAD QUEERS by bright-eyed and charming Graham Kolbeins. The doc short form is a kind of an underrated, underplayed piece of film, so this selection of portraits, personal journeys and confrontations was a special and touching treat. I loved that each film reflected a super specific identity yet their plight couldn’t be more universal, and exploratory of the human condition. It’s especially neat to meet the people you just met on film, in real life right after the screening. The block is playing again tonight at 9:30pm so come on down to the DGA on Sunset & Fairfax to get your tickets and party with the most diverse, real and hip people in LA.

“Smashing taboos and redefining philanthropy, Payasos L.A. is an organization of gay Latino men who wear clown make-up, go-go dance, and try to make the world a better place for future generations. Rad Queers: Payasos L.A. takes a look at the Payasos’ optimistic philosophy as well as their sexy fund-raising parties. “Mr. Los Angeles Leather” 2011 title-holder and Payasos founder Leo Iriarte walks us through the wild world of his happy band of clowns, providing a uniquely personal perspective on this extraordinary group.”

Find out more about their work here

TRAILER WATCH: GRAVITY – Alfonso Cuaron’s upcoming sci-fi George Clooney starrer

Deadline News reports that Alfonso Cuaron’s sci fi thriller GRAVITY will have an out of competition world premiere screening at the venerable Venice Film Festival in August. The film stars A-list topping movie stars, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Cuaron’s precious Y Tu Mama Tambien also premiered in Venice back in 2001. Gravity will be released stateside in October. The teaser hits a striking mood and the terrifying, panicked note of drifting untethered alone in the big black abyss of outer space, regardless of the quiet, tranquil breathtaking view of our blue beautiful planet.

That makes two of the three Amigos directing Hollywood blockbusters put out by Warner Bros this year. Curiously, neither is a Universal Pictures release, the studio with who they have a first look deal with through their production company Cha Cha Cha. Guillermo del Toro’s $180 million dollar explosive giant drone action/sci-fi film Pacific Rim which also unleashed yet another trailer today, will be released next weekend after 4th of July. That leaves Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Amores Perros), the self described black sheep of the three. He’s got a really intriguing film in post called Birdman, which is being described by Indiewire’s Playlist as a meta kind of Kaufman flick about a washed up actor who use to play a superhero. Armando Bo, Argentine director of The Last Elvis co-wrote the script. Oscar nominated cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Tree of Life) – who also shot Gravity is the cinematographer on Birdman. Between Los Amigos and Malick they must be running him haggard! I’d say Alejandro has got the most real human intrigue, not to mention a stellar and unique cast going for him, including Emma Stone, Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifanakis. It could hardly be called an indie film, but it is being put out by ‘specialty arm’ Fox Searchlight. The screen roll out on that film will obviously be considerably less than his compadres’ movies.

Who’s your favorite Amigo?

#HotSec Fridays – Somos Chavalos – a microshort by Julian Yuri Rodriguez

From the cutting and pushing edge Miami wrecking production crew, Borscht Corp. here is SOMOS CHAVALOS, adopted and directed by Julian Yuri Rodriguez.  It is a modern urban Latino youth interpretation of the Gwendolyn Brooks’ brief and majorly significant poem, We Be Cool. What’s raw and real here is that this perspective is unapologetic and from the youth direct, made searing by the disconcerting casually tragic POV of their short term life. This aint no outsider looking in told tale as we often are given these stories. If we want to ‘get kids these days’ we gotta dig under the surface and give weight to their reality. Do that by really listening between the lines and implications. The street family and code of honor, for all its criminality and corruption, offers a place of respect, love and pocket money – a badge of status – for lower class kids. The easiness and eagerness with which they pursue this avenue of survival is a critical discussion to engage.

Julian (24) may be young blood but his provocative in your face style has this between the lines intensity and import. He’s my latest add on my TALENTO filmmaker list of emerging filmmakers to watch. Check him out on Piratas, a short he narrates and co-directs. And coming soon online is C#ckfight, watch the cheeky trailer here.  Borscht has received considerable funding support from the James L. Knight Foundation, one of the more visionary and bold arts foundation out there, based in Miami. Keep up with Borscht’s crazy cool transmedia storytelling stimulation on their Tumblr where they release their own work as they please and for free.

Here’s We Real Cool 1963 poem by Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks:

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

#HotSec Fridays


In lieu of a short film this week (busy week covering American Latino films at the Dances with Films Festival and now NALIP this weekend), I’m posting this HOT trailer of the upcoming film, The House That Jack Built. It is one of threeAmerican Latino films in competition at next week’s Los Angeles Film Festival I wrote about earlier. From a script by Joe Vasquez (Hanging with the Homeboys), directed by Henry Barrial and produced by No-Budget Film School guru, Mark Stolaroff. Starring the dually charming and tough guy EJ Bonilla. I previously wrote about it here. Check out the trailer, you can just feel the raw passion pulse. Get your tickets here.

El Rey, Robert Rodriguez, makes Latino look so COOL.

First the Machete Kills trailer (teaser) drops. It doesn’t come out for another few months -three days before Mexican Independence day to be exact, September 13. Which reminds me, I must re-watch Machete. As I recall, way underneath the action and sex titilliation, there was some subversive commentary on US/Mexico relations. This trailer right here is the one I found en Espanol.

Then, Indiewire reports that Robert Rodriguez and los Charrolastras (Diego & Gael) are teaming up with Fantastic Fest and Tim League for a fantastico mercado. A co-production market for “Latin films”.  I’m really digging this menage a tres collaboration. They each bring cred, scope and connects to provide a viable channel and avenue for the growing number of American Latino filmmakers working in genre today. I see the raw talent out there through festival submissions all the time. Hopefully the Americans don’t get dissed next to the international (Ibero-American fare). There’s no doubt genre films, whether horror, supernatural, crime, action, comedy (read: anything but coming of ager dramas) are accessible, audience driven and more importantly COMMERCIAL which is what Canana wants as it expands its distribution tentacles.

It really does feel like RR is eager to give back and nurture the ‘underserved’ Latino community. Makes me almost forgive him for saying he wouldn’t want to limit himself by identifying as Mexican American at last year’s NALIP. That comment aside, I gotta hand it to him, he’s been a big influence in shaping our modern American cultural zeitgeist towards mainstream acceptance of Latinos.  Whereas once having the last name, Rodriguez in pop culture, it was discriminated and dismissed (see Sixto Rodriguez’s story in Searching for Sugarman) now its seen as BADASS and SO COOL to be Latino.  Even Charlie Sheen, who has seen his cool mojo factor slip in middle age, recognizes, as evident by his decision to use his birth name, Carlos Estevez in Machete Kills.


#HotSec Fridays – UNDERSTUDY a short film by Cristina Malavenda

Now here’s a fun sexy dance film to get the three day weekend party started. Jeanine Mason (winner of Season 5, So you Think You can Dance) stars in this 20 min short as a dance performer and understudy to the lead on an upcoming dance show at the Pantages. A friend videotapes her giddy excitement going through rehearsals leading up to the big show. Although nervous, her talent is unmistakeable as we watch her shimmy and twist through the choreography in a cool dance sequence shot on Melrose. But when a distraction threatens her focus, and then the scenario every understudy dreams and dreads appears, will she be ready to ‘Step Up’?

This was Cristina’s thesis short film at USC. I love how buoyant this feels. A loose, fluid camera follows the sizzling choreography, and Jeanine Mason is totally engaging as Clara.  Cristina was convinced that Jeanine was the only actor for the role so after a few failed attempts of making contact, her mentor sent the script to Mason’s manager.  She agreed to the project just one week before rehearsals.  Cristina says, ‘I think what she liked about the project was her opportunity to both dance and act.”  Since the short, Mason went on to land a recurring guest star turn in the ABC Family ballet comedy-drama series, Bunheads, and has a number of film and TV projects in the works.  Something tells me we will be seeing a lot more of her talent and dance skills.

Cristina writes, directs and edits fiction, non-fiction, animation and motion graphic films.  As an editor, Cristina’s work includes Woman Rebel (Oscar Shortlist 2010, HBO), Thunder Chance (Student Emmy Awards 2010, Comic-Con 2010), and Our Neck of the Woods (Sundance 2009). As a director, Cristina’s influential documentary film, No Kill in 2009 won Best Short Documentary and People’s Choice Awards at various festivals around the country, and aired on the KCET Fine Cut Series in May 2010.  She is currently working on three scripts. One is a feature length science fiction horror film. The second puts a spin on reality content, and the third is a mockumentary for television. She works full time at SpiritClips from Hallmark, an instant streaming company that generates short content.  Website: www.spiritclips.com

Check out her website to see her reels and get her contact info.

YOU’RE DEAD TO ME short film by Wu Tsang starring Harmony Santana


If you are as big a fan as I am of these two young ferocious talents you will be as thrilled as I was to learn of this awesome short film collaboration revolving around Dia de los Muertos based on Chicana queer artist Adelina Anthony (thanks to Juliana’s comment for letting me know about the original story by).

First, the amazing multi-media artist, Wu Tsang, who directed the magic realist documentary about the Silver Platter on Alvarado called The Wildness, is behind the camera again with her co-hort cinematographer, Michelle Lawlor.  Then there is the lovely, magnetic Hamony Santana who wowed and impressed as the young lead opposite Esai Morales as the father who won’t accept her gender variant identity in the film Gun Hill Road by Rashaad Ernesto Green.

The story is after mi own corazon, about an abuela who is visited by a muerto on the sacred Dia de los Muertos. This sacred holiday in Mexico is the hallmark of its hallowed dead culture. Growing up, I  never felt sad or at a loss when I heard people died it was so ingrained in me that they simply had become liberated of their physical vessels and were now free to roam about the world like ghosts. When mi querida spitfire abuelita Cruz died, I kept her content (and therefore assured myself the peace that she wouldn’t come lurking at night to pull my feet from bed) by building her an altar and keeping it full of her favorite stuff like pulp fiction novellas, cigarillos, domino and her favorite pair of knitting needles.

YOUR DEAD TO ME All only needs $1,500 to finish up and get ready for its closeup at the LA Film Festival screening on June 14. The project was made in partnership with Film Independent’s Project Involve diversity fellowship.  Go make donations here.

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