Latino American Movies: Who's making them and who's not?
(photo Fancisco Ordonez, Angel, Franc. Reyes)
It was at NALIP that we met Franc. Reyes or should I say we smacked into the culture of Franc. Reyes. If you know Franc…you understand what I mean. If you don’t know him…then brace yourself. Talking to Franc is like facing a freight train at full speed; It’s powerful and filled with some major conviction! Here’s just a sampling of what we heard:
• “Latino Power” in Hollywood is almost an oxymoron.
• White filmmakers making Latino themed films are given the benefit of doubt by Hollywood and Latinos in Hollywood, before it is given to American Latino filmmakers.
• Latinos in Hollywood have to create their own Hollywood stars.
• Latinos in the movie business have no one else to blame but themselves for the lack of onscreen representation.
• If a white filmmaker makes a drug dealer themed film it wins awards, if an American Latino makes the same film it’s called stereotypical by Latinos in Hollywood.
As we sat down in the lounge area of a posh Newport Beach Hotel, Angel began the interview as I took frantic notes.
Angel began by asking Franc about his background, which you can hear in our audio interview (below photo), have a listen, we promise, you will find it just as fascinating.
As the interview continued, Franc’s answers at first seemed to be very narrow minded, militant, and even borderline racist.
Angel proceeded and asked, “Are you a Latino filmmaker?”
Franc without hesitation answered, “Absolutely!” He continued, that he is a Latino filmmaker because he is an American Latino, telling good American stories with Latinos in them.
Angel followed up with. “Are Latino films Latino because of the director, story, or audience?
Franc replied with a question, “Is “Do The Right Thing”, a Black film?” and then followed up with, “It’s a Black film because of all the above. That said, a good film whether Black, Latino or other, will have mass appeal. I make movies for the general public, the people who work at Target or Starbucks, they’re my audience.”
At this point, things got very interesting; Franc stated that, ““Mi Vida Loca” is not a Latino film anymore than “Color Purple” is a black film. These films are not treated as films “of color” by Hollywood. Though I loved both films, “Color Purple” was treated like a Steven Spielberg movie and “Mi Vida Loca” like and Alison Anders movie.”
I could see Angel was finding it challenging to listen and not debate Franc.
Franc, went on to say, “When white filmmakers make films about American Latinos in a hardcore situation ie: Scarface, Traffic, Maria Full Of Grace, they’re treated as a “study of Latinos in their habitat”. Therefore intellectualized into something greater than itself. When Latinos do it [make the same type of films], ie: American Me, Empire, Illegal Tender, etc. they are labeled as a “perpetuation of stereotypes” by Latino intellectuals in Hollywood.”
As Franc passionately stated, the problem is not the Hollywood establishment, the problem is with us Latinos! We have only ourselves to blame for not being represented on the big screen. The answer is to “empower ourselves” and make it happen now! It is possible.
How is it possible? Franc offered these truisms:
• Latinos in Hollywood should empower themselves. No one is going to give Latinos anything; Latinos have to create their own prosperity. A page off of the African American experience in Hollywood.
• Work with other Latinos. We are skilled and know how to make motion pictures.
• Be very involved in marketing your own films.
Franc also stated that he makes commercial Latin films to entertain and make money, but that he tells stories with truth. His stories are told from the inside, from an informed and experienced viewpoint. He aims to empower his characters, to live their lives on their own terms.
As our first part of our interview with Franc came to an end, we found that he was not narrow minded or racist, but in his words “simply Pro Latino.”
Angel and I had been hit by the train of Franc. Reyes and smacked with some new insights into American Latino filmmakers that are making it happen. It was an education that could only come from a man with vision, intelligence and laser beam passion.
You MUST not leave this page without listening to the inspiring audio interview with Franc. for more fascinating dialog from Franc.
Here’s a brief lowdown on what Franc is about:
Franc. established Alumbra Films in 2007
The Ministers – written and directed by Franc, comes out in October; (we went to a screening and it’s definitely a cool flick!)
Tenement – a supernatural horror written and to be directed by Franc. Reyes.
Brutality – Written and Produced by Franc. Reyes. To be Directed by Carlos Berrios
Blood Of The Martyr – Written and Produced by Franc. Reyes. To be Directed by Francisco Ordonez
Let The Music Play – a documentary Written and Directed by Carlos Berrios. Executive Produced by Franc. Reyes
We think his schedule speaks for itself…
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