Hispanic Cinema is the Future

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By Luisa Elquiroz, Herald Tribune

American actor Edward James Olmos, who was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 4th Platino Prizes for Ibero-American Cinema Saturday, said Hispanics were ready to stake out a place in the United States film market commensurate with their numbers.

“The future is in our hands 100 percent. There’s a lot of us, and there will be even more. They’re afraid of us in the US,” Olmos said at a press conference in Madrid.

Known as “Eddie” by his friends, the Los Angeles-born actor of Mexican descent said when asked about US President Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency and his vow to build a wall on the US-Mexico border that recent events were a mere bump in the road and urged people to hopeful and patient.

“We’re going to dominate art like we did in the 1930s and 1940s, and we’re going to do it again because there are more of us, and they’re afraid,” Olmos said on the eve of the Platino Prizes awards ceremony, which will be held on Saturday at Madrid’s La Caja Magica stadium.

In that era, “there were 750 cinemas in the United States that showed our work; now there are 25, unless it’s (Pedro) Almodovar’s latest, which is shown on 300 screens, but that happens once every 18 months,” the actor said.

Speaking to an audience that included the president of the Spanish Academy of Cinema, Ivonne Blake, and several hundred Latin American journalists, Olmos said he was extremely moved and even cried upon learning he had been chosen as the latest recipient of the Platino Honor Award, a career-achievement prize.

“What Latin America cinema needs today is recognition of its art. And patience, because we’re at a world-class level. Our art needs to be rewarded and then for these films to be allowed to travel the world,” the actor said.

Best known for his role in the hit 1980s television series “Miami Vice” and his starring turn as an inspiring math teacher in the 1988 drama film “Stand and Deliver,” Olmos lamented the miniscule presence of Hispanic films the US cinema market, saying they accounted for just 4 percent of all movies screened.

“We need to keep telling our stories … and we need things like the Platino Prizes – thank God for creating them. This is the way to garner attention. They’ll eventually make commercials where they say, ‘so-and-so, winner of a Platino,’” he said.

The 70-year-old Olmos will reprise his role as the mysterious Gaff in “Blade Runner 2049,” which is due out in the fall and is the sequel to the classic 1982 science-fiction film “Blade Runner.”

Olmos praised the work Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has done on the film, saying he had created something powerful but that he could not reveal any details about the sequel.

Your Editor Applauds: Eddie Olmos keeps fighting and winning 

Where Are the Movies For Hispanic Audiences?

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By Patrick Ryan, USA Today

One of Hollywood’s most underserved audiences is also its most insatiable.

Over the last, Eugenio Derbez’s How to Be a Latin Lover hit No. 2 Lover hit No. 2 at the box office with a better-than-expected $12.3 million, drawing an audience that was 89% Latino. The movie bested Emma Watson and Tom Hanks’ critically derided newcomer The Circle ($9 million) and finished not far behind the blockbuster The Fate of the Furious (No. 1 for a third weekend with $19.9 million). But the comedy’s overperformance shouldn’t shock anyone familiar with Hispanic moviegoing habits.

Latinos accounted for 21% of all tickets sold last year, compared to 14% for both African Americans and Asians, according to Motion Picture Association of America’s Theatrical Market Statistics. Yet a study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism found that in 2015, only 5.3% of characters in 800 movies examined were Latino – far fewer than white (73.7%) or black (12.2%) characters, and only slightly better than Asians (3.9%). In contrast, Hispanics make up nearly 18% of the U.S. population and are the largest minority group with 56.6 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2050, that population is expected to reach 106 million.

“The Latino audience is really passionate about going to the movies,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. “It should be no surprise, given Eugenio Derbez’s international star power, that Latin Lover performed well. Hispanic audiences represent one of the most important segments of the potential moviegoing population, and given their tremendous clout, can power movies like (this) to solid box-office returns.”

The PG-13 comedy centers on an oafish Lothario (Derbez) who attempts to seduce a widowed billionaire (Raquel Welch). It’s the 55-year-old Mexican actor/producer’s first English-language starring role and movie aimed at American audiences, after his 2013 surprise hit Instructions Not Included, the highest-grossing Spanish-language film in U.S. history with $44.5 million.

Instructions Not Included showed Hollywood that there’s a huge Hispanic market waiting for movies that appeal to them,” Derbez says. His character in the movie, who raises his young daughter after her mother abandons her, was “a guy that was Mexican, a good dad and able to make money here in the U.S. The Hispanics I met were like, ‘This is the first time we’ve seen in a Hollywood movie a Latino that is not a criminal, a drug lord or a gardener. It’s a very successful guy and we’re proud to watch a movie like that.’ When you give them the right material, they will show up.”

To capitalize on Derbez’s fan base – he has nearly 27 million followers across social media – a Spanish-dubbed version of Latin Lover was released in 300 to 400 theaters nationwide in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods. With a remake of the Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell comedy Overboard going into production starring Derbez (in the Hawn role of the spoiled yacht owner) and Anna Faris, the hope is he could become a viable Hollywood leading man.

There’s a “bilingual, Spanish-dominant (market) that someone like Eugenio speaks to,” says Paul Presburger, CEO of Latino Hollywood studio Pantelion, which handled U.S. distribution for both Instructions and Latin Lover. “It’s about opportunity, but it’s also about having the right stories that open up these franchises for the Hispanic audience. … You’ll now see a series of movies with Eugenio. What it really needed was that first movie to pop in that Hispanic market and give the confidence to companies to put their money behind it.”

Overboard joins a short list of other Hispanic-centered movies on the horizon. Disney/Pixar’s Coco (in theaters Nov. 22) features an all-Latino voice cast and follows a young aspiring musician around Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration. Mozart in the Jungle‘s Gael Garcia Bernal is set to star in a post-apocalyptic take on the Zorro character, while Catherine Hardwicke has been tapped to direct a remake of Mexican thriller Miss Bala.

Other talent to watch out for includes Eiza González, a Mexican telenovela star who appears in Baby Driver (in theaters June 28); Peruvian-American actress Isabela Moner, who co-stars in Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23) and the upcoming Soldado; and Gabriel Chavarria, who can be seen this year in both War of the Planet of the Apes (July 14) and Lowriders (May 12), which centers on East Los Angeles’ Latino car culture.

“It seems like across the board, (studios) are getting it,” says Robyn Moreno, Latina’s editorial director. “It’s either something like Lowriders or How to Be a Latin Lover, where it’s very Latin-focused, or it’s Latinos in more mainstream, big-budget movies. That’s very exciting, because that’s the nuance of Latinos in this country. We’re Latino and we’re American, so we want to see ourselves almost everywhere.”

Which is why Hispanic visibility shouldn’t be limited to solely Latino stories. Hispanic moviegoers turned out in greater numbers than any minority group for last year’s biggest earners, including Finding Dory (25.7% of ticket buyers were Latino), Captain America: Civil War (21.9%) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (15.3%), according to PostTrak. Only the latter featured Latino talent in a major role: Mexican-born actor Diego Luna, as heroic Rebel leader Cassian Andor.

Hispanic actors have been featured in other recent franchise movies such as Suicide Squad (Jay Hernandez), X-Men: Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) and this week’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Zoe Saldana), but no Latino superhero movies are in development from Marvel or DC Comics.

“It’s difficult enough to find superhero live-action media that includes Latinx characters, period,” says Desiree Rodriguez, a contributor at the news site Nerds of Color. “Especially in roles where they play a part in the plot, aren’t whitewashed or used as tragedy fodder for the white characters.”

Moving forward, “I want to see Latinx characters be space pirates, superheroes, musicians, freedom fighters, and a dumb kid in love with a vampire,” she says, pointing to what Star Wars has done with Isaac (as Poe Dameron). “I want to see Latinx characters exist outside of the confines of stereotypes and kill fodder. We deserve to see our community in full as complex, fully realized characters in various genres and settings.”

It pays for studios to market to Hispanics, too. According to statistics collected by Univision, 56% of Hispanics go to the movies six times a year or more (versus 44% for non-Hispanics). One in two go to the movies opening weekend, and are 25% more likely to see a film in IMAX and 26% more likely to see it in 3-D than non-Hispanics.

The National Association of Theatre Owners has seen that Latino moviegoers are “not too different from other audiences,” says Patrick Corcoran, the group’s vice president and chief communications officer. “They tend to go as families more, so animated titles and family pictures tend to do better with Hispanic audiences,” as do horror films, with Latinos making up 26% of all attendees for the genre last year.

“We don’t go by ourselves – we take our kids, and sometimes there are four or five or six,” says Alex Nogales, president/CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “It’s a costly endeavor to take that many people, but that’s an art form that we appreciate and we like.”

At the end of the day, Hispanics want what all moviegoers crave: to find their faces in mainstream blockbusters and have their stories told by movies that take them and their culture seriously.

“Most Latinos that I know want to see everything,” says Nogales, citing Jordan Peele’s horror smash Get Out, which has a message about what it means to be black in America, as the type of movie that’s missing for Hispanic audiences. “Those are the kinds of films that mean something and deal with something in a creative manner, but get the point across.”

Upcoming Disney Film ‘Coco’ Draws Excitement From Latino Fans.

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By Genesis Cosme

Disney-Pixar released its first feature film “Toy Story” in 1995. Since then, audiences have reunited fish families, befriended the monsters in our closets and got our kicks on Route 66. On March 15, Disney-Pixar released a teaser-trailer for yet another feature film, “Coco,” coming to theaters this November.

The trailer left plenty to the imagination, but the visuals and bits of script it offered left fans, many Latino, both excited and uneasy about what’s to come.

It begins with 12-year-old Miguel entering a hideout and holding a guitar. The small space is donned with flowers, photos of the late musician Ernesto De la Cruz and white candles, resembling an altar for the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). He plays a VHS tape titled “Best of De la Cruz” and watches his idol who says, “The rest of the world may follow the rules, but I must follow my heart.”

Little information about the plot was revealed by the franchise, but this quote set the stage for what viewers can expect for the film’s theme. Ever since Miguel’s great-great-grandfather left his wife behind to become a musician, music was banned in the family. Miguel discovers a similar passion for music in secret and, with his animal sidekick Dante, ends up in the colorful and magical Land of the Dead.

While the fantasy worlds Disney created for us as children elicit deep emotional connections, the franchise we know today has done a much better job at extending inclusiveness toward Latino and Hispanic minorities.

“Growing up, I remember identifying with Hispanic shows such as Dora the Explorer and some others, but never with Disney because they hadn’t expanded to Hispanic cultures yet,” said freshman broadcast journalism major Sophia Espinosa. “It affected me in a way that I didn’t appreciate my own culture because I never saw Disney appreciate it in films. Kids today have a much better sense of diversity and purpose because of the multitude of people portrayed in films.”

Modern characters like Sophia the First and Elena of Avalor have paved a way in Latino and Hispanic representation thus far by incorporating a mix of many Spanish-speaking cultures into the shows. However, the characters’ ambiguity and Eurocentric features, such as Sophia’s blue eyes and light skin, have also been called into question.

“I don’t think [Sophia the First] is for Latinos because she’s more Spaniard,” said sophomore psychology and creative writing major Patricia Santana. “Elena of Avalor is cute. I wish the first Latina princess had her own movie but … I think little girls will still be able to enjoy that.”

Santana also mentioned when Disney-Pixar tried to trademark the term “Día de los Muertos” in 2013.

“Their intent is kind of sketchy to me because there’s [a difference between]generally wanting to represent a culture and wanting to profit off of it,” Santana said. “I love Disney … but they are certainly guilty of missteps.”

With this in mind, Coco has a lot to live up to for excited and skeptical fans alike.

Keep Waiting and Hoping For A Latina Disney Movie Princess

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By MONICA CASTILLO

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Daryl Sabara and Alexa Vega in “Spy Kids,” one of the few Hollywood family films to feature Latinos as lead characters. Credit Dimension Films

I’m not part of Disney’s target audience for its latest princess movie, “Moana,” but I don’t care. I’ve been excited about this film since Dwayne Johnson previewed it last year at the D23 Expo for all things Disney. As much as the new Lin-Manuel Miranda music sounds promising, what’s really exciting is the chance to see a Disney princess who doesn’t look like those we have already.

I was already aging out of the children’s movie demographic when my mom took us to see Robert Rodriguez’s “Spy Kids” in 2001. Yes, it was a silly story: Children turn into spies to save their ex-secret agent parents. But my sister and I became obsessed. The suave action-hero father was played by Antonio Banderas with a pronounced Spanish accent. The children were named Carmen and Juni (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara), and the implication was that they were first- or second-generation Americans.

As a daughter of Cuban immigrants who once struggled with her accent, I had never seen characters who looked or sounded like us as the heroes of their own story. “Spy Kids” is still one of the few positive examples I hold onto, 15 years later.

I’m not alone. There are many nonwhite women and girls who don’t see movie characters who look the way they do, and the omission can affect their self-esteem. That’s why the issue of diversity in movies for young people is just as important as pushing for inclusion across Hollywood, both behind, and in front of, the camera.

So much of nonwhite representation in cinema is trivial at best, stereotypical at worst — the wisecracking sidekick or the background player stuck there as a token. I remembered feeling that something was amiss about Tito the Chihuahua in Disney’s “Oliver & Company” (1988). Why did the only dog with a Mexican accent (voiced by Cheech Marin, who has a less embarrassing part in “Spy Kids”) have to hot-wire cars? I wanted to see more of the mechanic tomboy Audrey Ramirez (Jacqueline Obradors) in “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” (2001), and wished I could forget that “Cars” (2006) has a barely visible lowrider named Ramone (Mr. Marin, again) that happens to be the only vehicle in Radiator Springs with hydraulics. I forgot that “The Emperor’s New Groove” (2000) was set in the Inca Empire, because none of the main voice actors (David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton) sounded as if they spoke our language.

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A scene from the Disney animated movie “Moana.”

Yet one of the most-watched videos in our home was “The Three Caballeros,” a Disney animated guide to South America from 1944. Donald Duck is the American protagonist, joined by the Mexican rooster Panchito (Joaquin Garay) and the Brazilian parrot José (José Oliveira) on a good-will tour of Latin America. More than just a Technicolor spectacle (akin to “Fantasia,” in terms of trippy animated musical sequences), “The Three Caballeros” was a cultural explainer that didn’t entirely reduce our stories to cheap tropes. As an indirect product of the Good Neighbor Policy, by which the United States invested in South American ties, the movie had incentive to avoid negative portrayals.

When it came to Disney princess movies, my sister and I had very different experiences. It was always easier to find a princess who looked the way I do, because I was born with much paler skin than anyone in our family. My younger sister, Cristina, didn’t decide to be Jasmine from “Aladdin” during playtime; friends assigned her the character. Back then, that was the animated figure that looked closest to her, and she didn’t have many others to choose from.

Luckily, the Disney renaissance of the 1990s gave us many more diverse heroines to treasure. Cristina adored Pocahontas’s free spirit and modeled herself on the strong Mulan. But they often weren’t the main princesses featured in Disney advertising or merchandise. And once their movies faded from store shelves, so would the dolls and the rest of their products. In those days, the newer princesses weren’t stocked year-round like those of the classic era: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora from “Sleeping Beauty.”

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Esmeralda, Mulan and Pocahontas. Credit Walt Disney Pictures

In this sense, “Moana” is another step in the right direction. Native Hawaiians are entering a rarefied pop culture circle, inclusion in a movie that will reach viewers around the world. Considering how women, and especially women of color, are rarely shown as leaders onscreen, this is no small victory. The evolving arc of Disney princesses — from the damsel in distress Snow White in 1937 to the entrepreneurial dreamer Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog” in 2009 — gives hope that we’ll see more animated stories starring young female characters who look as if they could be from anywhere around the world.

Then again, no tickets have been sold to a Disney movie starring a Latina princess. She doesn’t exist yet. The company started a TV show, “Elena of Avalor,” about such a character, but that series lacks the production values and marketing heft of a feature-length movie. It seems like a halfhearted concession to Latinas — half a Disney princess — but it’s more than other girls still waiting to see themselves on the big screen have received. There are many still waiting for a “Moana” to call their own, a movie to pass on to their children that speaks to them about their culture.

My sister ended up working for a few months this year as a performer at one of Disney’s theme parks. After several frustrating auditions, she was told she was too dark to play any character not covered in fur. She tried out to greet guests as Elena of Avalor, and she received the same answer: too dark. (She ended up playing characters while fully covered in costumes.) Not even as an adult does she fit in Disney’s kingdom. But I’m hoping that those days are numbered, and that she and other women and girls like her will never have to feel as if they didn’t belong in the Happiest Place on Earth.

Your Editor Encourages: We pray Cristina will persevere.

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