#HotSec Fridays – MEXICAN FRIED CHICKEN, a short film by Ivete Lucas

Continuing my Friday short film series on underrepresented American bi-cultural walks of life, I’m so happy to share this documentary short film, Mexican Fried Chicken by Ivete Lucas and Otis Ike.  It’s a glimpse into the laborious life and overloaded pressures of Moises, a 14 year old teenager who in between his job at Popeyes, working at his father’s shop, and as the oldest having to babysit his siblings and other endless house chores, struggles to find time to enjoy being a teen in the United States. Like Moises, genuine and transparent, the film captures what is culturally specific of the sacrifices and work ethic of first generation Mexican Americans.  The unquestioned acceptance that we have to work harder and longer hours than anyone else in order to carve out a spot for our families. In just 13 minutes we get a real sense of Moises and his disarming good-nature, ambition and his radically unique hybrid brand of  American culture is charming. Overhearing the family’s shouting and playing throughout the house sliding back and forth from English to Spanish, all of this makes me cringe with empathy and I get a pang of childhood nostalgia even.  I never see this experience reflected save for in my own memories.  Back in Chicago, when my dad got the pink slip from Boeing after 15 years of work, my parents decided to open up a restaurant with the savings.  Naturally it was a family affair and so I had no choice in the matter but to help. I vividly remember a creeping resentment and alienation knowing that my friends were hanging at the mall, carefree while I had to work right after school, and on weekends full 12 hour days.  Yet I wouldn’t exchange that experience for the world.  Making the homemade salsas and preparing the chile rellenos as the Nortena music blasted on the radio, we cultivated a loyal clientele with an appetite and appreciation for our authentic food, which in turn gave me a special feeling and bi-cultural pride.

I reached out to filmmaker Ivete Lucas who was born in Brazil, grew up in Monterrey, Mexico and moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. She made this short as part of her MFA in Film studies. First watch the short and read on for a quickie Q&A I did with her over email.

How did you find and get to know and gain this family’s trust? 

My producer, and now husband, Otis Ike initially met the Macedos through his aunt in Austin, TX. They live next to her and partied every weekend, blasting Mexican music. He made friends with the kids a few years before, and introduced me to them in 2009. Since I am Mexican, I could speak with them in Spanish. And although the kids speak perfect English, their parents don’t, so I helped them communicate with the neighbors. Moises was 13 at the time and he was about to start High School. He is an intelligent young man and was accepted into a very good school. His mom explained to me that he got good grades while working two jobs. I was very impressed by Moises, so hard working at such a young age, and I was extremely sad when he told me that he didn’t know if he could go to college because he didn’t have the right papers. So I asked them if I could make a movie about them. From that day on, I spent many afternoons at their house with a camera in my hands. They eventually got used to the camera and my presence. They knew they could talk to me in English or Spanish, that they could ignore me or engage me if they wanted to. I did everything I could to make them feel comfortable. They allowed me to be part of their world, and Moises made me his confidant.

How much footage did you shoot and over how long a period of time?

It was about two months of hanging out with Moises’ family two or three times a week. It must have been about 30 hours of footage.

Was there anything that surprised you during the shoot of the film?  Some revelation or insight you had from meeting this family and bringing this story to light?

I edited this film in a way that allows audience to experience the same surprises I had. Latinos have this will of gold. Life can hit us hard, but we are tough and we usually make it through. Sometimes it really hurts, but we always find the way to laugh and enjoy what we have. I’ve seen a lot of films made about Latinos facing hardships and they are usually bleak or angry. As a Latina, I wanted to make a film that reflected how we really deal with pain. Yes, we cry and get angry, but then we invite our friends over for carne asada and we dance, knowing that we’ll have to put up a fight tomorrow.

Ivette says that Moises is currently exploring college and is interested in applying to Texas State. Best of luck to Moises, and thanks Ivete for the q&a.  Looking forward to seeing more of your work!  Ivete is currently finishing up a documentary about Vietnam war reenactors, and just completed a new short shot in Mexico and with the collaboration of the Huichol tribe.  It’s called Ex-Votos.  Check it out here: 

TRAILER WATCH: Mexican film, HELI by Amat Escalante

Amat Escalante is now three for three as he will be taking his third film, HELI to next week’s Cannes, but this is his first time in Official Competition.  The screenplay for Heli was developed at the Sundance Screenwriters lab 2010 where it won the NHK Filmmaker Award.  At that stage the logline was described: “In a small Mexican town, where most citizens work for an automobile assembly plant or the local drug cartel, Heli is confronted with police corruption, drug trafficking, sexual exploitation, love, guilt and revenge in the search for his father who has mysteriously disappeared.”  Escalante is a Carlos Reygadas protege of sorts, he worked as Assistant Director on Battle of Heaven and they are boutique powerhouse collective through producer, Jaime Romandia’s Mantarraya Films.  A die hard, impactful formalistic filmmaker, the weight of his films comes from audaciously rigid framing, startling compositions, and magnetic usually non pro actor performances.

Lessons from La Lupe

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.

La Bamba Rebelde by Las Cafeteras

I’m going to miss them at Los Globos next Wednesday but I will for sure be checking out their show at SXSW. If you are around in LA, get your $5 tickets here.
Love the refashioned La Bamba lyrics.

Colombian Film Festival coming to Nueva York!

Apparently this has been brewing since December but I am just taking notice today with the release of their Festival Trailer. Sponsored by Univision, Delta and presented by the Colombian Consulate, New York and Colombian embassy in Washington D.C, the inaugural Colombian Film Festival in New York will screen 16 feature films and 8 short films – all produced within the last two years, at the Tribeca Cinemas March 20 – 24.

colombian-film-fest-logo-284x300This celebration of the dynamic offerings of contemporary Colombian cinema is very well deserved and timely. I have noticed through the film festival screeners I watch a shift in the type of films coming from Colombia.  They are starting to eschew stereotypical drug crime gang stories. If a film does treat this real social ill, it is approached by far more novel and inventive ways. Definitely there is a nascent of singular conceptual and diverse genres bourgeoning. Among the films being screened in NYC, I highly recommend the surrealist Todos Tus Muertos written and directed by Carlos Moreno (Dog Eat Dog), Porifirio, an oddly sensual, deceptively quiet and powerful film written and directed by Alejandro Landes which screened in the illustrious Directors Fortnight in Cannes, and the quirky Sofia and the Stubborn written and directed by Andrés Burgos Vallejo – a type of Alice in Wonderland story about an older woman who finally makes her wish happen. All three of these demonstrate the type of imaginative conception I mention. Oddly missing from the lineup is the Colombian entry for the 2012 Oscars, Colors of the Mountain written and directed by Carlos César Arbeláez.  The film may even be the most screened in world wide film festivals including San Sebastian and San Francisco International.

Colombia produces less than 25 features a year and that represents a substantial increase over the past 10 years. It’s noteworthy to mention that 18 home grown features were released in Colombian theaters. Hopefully this critical access will whet the local audience appetite and nurture a serious support system for filmmakers. Unlike the powerhouse independent and government fund agencies of Chile, Argentina and Brazil, Colombia has struggled to make steps towards consolidating its talent and building an organized film industry. The Cartagena Film Festival taking place later this week, is but another positive indicator of the rising interest in Colombian Cinema as both a location and Ibero American producer. Looking at their Made in Colombia section and you’ll find even more brand new 2013 releases.

Check out The Colombian Film Festival NYC’s website, twitter and face for the films, ticket info and film trailers.

Blacktino – Finally emerges and now out on iTunes!

This is the best end of day news ever! Ever since I heard about this comedy by Aaron Burns play 2011 SXSW, I have been dying to watch it. Especially after the charming trailer.  After its SXSW premiere it played New York International Latino Film Festival and more or less fell of the face of the planet.  I remember emailing the filmmakers endlessly for months last year to try to program it at the Downtown Independent. Elizabeth Avellan is the producer (and mother) of Aaron Burn’s first feature.  The film’s cast includes Michelle Rodriguez and Danny Trejo.  Let’s watch it on iTunes here

Big Ass Spider! by Mike Mendez

Mike just dropped his trailer for his giant creature feature, BIG ASS SPIDER! It’s premiering in the coolest and rowdiest section of SXSW, Midnighters. He’s one of the few American Latino filmmakers I highlighted in my WTF is Latino at SXSW. Looks pretty freaking rad and fun. Can’t wait!

Oh, hey Amigo – Alejandro G. Iñárritu made a DGA winning commercial

Little late on this but at Monday’s DGA awards, Internationally known Mexican director, Alejandro González Iñárritu won Outstanding Commercial for this 2 min Procter & Gamble loving tribute spot to Moms across the globe. It’s his first DGA Award. Last I heard he was working on a movie with Armando Bo, the Argentine director of the achingly bittersweet, The Last Elvis. According to IMDB it’s in prep and an Indiewire December article scoops it’s a comedy – a departure given the director’s forte and penchant for immense tragedy.

Exclusivo! Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s Los Chidos trailer

This savage satire written, directed and produced by Omar Rodriguez Lopez topped my list of most excellent American Latino films that popped up in 2012. Los Chidos cracked people’s faces when it premiered in competition at SXSW last year, as you can tell by the savvy mainstream and hard core cult film critic quotes in the trailer.  Having seen the film thrice, I can appreciate this sneaky and clever approach in contextualizing the film’s mad provocation. Thanks to Adam Thomson (editor/producer) for giving me a first look.  Enjoy.  More screening play dates to be announced soon and a unique distro plan is likely.  Follow @ORLProductions if you are not already trying to keep up with Omar’s progressive and nonstop music and film creating endeavors.