There is no shortage of U.S. Latino stories and filmmaker talent. Trust me. I screen a high volume of films throughout the year specializing in submissions that are Hispanic/U.S. Latino. True, not enough of them are technically slick, but there are some out there, and more often than not, they have specific U.S. Latino points of views and permutations, and offer chronicles of unheard of, or unique Caminos de la Vida (walks of life). All of which I find is in direct correlation to their distinct American mestizo identity. Sadly there are not enough slots at film festivals, and there is not a savvy marketplace interested in embracing the fragmented and under-served U.S. Latino community until they figure out how to monetize it. Rather than dwell on this distribution dearth, however, I’d like to take a counter- positive approach by celebrating and getting the word out on U.S. Latino films ready to give birth and ignite with audiences. Oye means listen up! I’ll be profiling brand spanking new U.S. Latino films, in various stages and different genres so our community can promote their trajectory online and by word of mouth, and yes hopefully so distribution outfits and festivals take note! Case in point this week: Love, Concord:
Love, Concord is a buoyant high school comedy about Gerry (Jorge Diaz), a fun loving popular goofball who is all about basketball and has a penchant for 8 bit videogames. One day he notices cute bookworm Melinda (introducing Angelina Leon), a smart, sassy not-girly girl who eventually becomes his first ever girlfriend. As they enter their Senior year, they must sweat the stress of facing where they are going to college and what that means for their relationship. He is not your stereotypical jock nor is she your stereotypical nerd. Did I mention they are Latinos? That’s what’s so refreshing about Love, Concord, the bubbly and earnest feature debut by Gustavo Guardado, Jr., who received his Masters in Film Production at the prevalent Loyola Marymount University; his charming, semi-autobiographical story set in the suburban Bay area of Concord where he grew up avoids stereotypes and doesn’t perpetuate Latinos as they are most commonly represented. It’s likely due that its based on his experience growing up in Concord where race is not an issue. This gives the film an organic sense in how it portrays its U.S. Latino characters.
Gustavo Guardadado, Jr.
With a comic and endearing combination of quintessential John Hughes and a YA sensibility, the film eschews any condescension and pretension in the characterization of teens and it feels pretty right on. Guardado knows that teens just seem to get it these days. They have a better sense of what lies ahead of them. They ARE smart, grounded and realistic. Their expectations are more driven by their sense of self than parents and peers. More important than ever in the rite of passage into a conscious and responsible individual is the mantra ‘Don’t Sell Out”. The notion is becoming redefined to a millenial (or ME) generation to signify that one must not sell out who you really are inside, something that Melinda reminds Gerry when he gives into his popular role as class clown at his own expense and deprecation.
Miguel Angel, Jerry’s older bro
What makes this universal story, Latino? Its conveyed in subtle yet inherent ways. Melinda’s half Mexican and Gerry’s Salvadoran ethnicity is demonstrated intrinsically rather than it being imposed. Again, that’s the beauty of the film. Take for instance the mother and son dynamic that displays the latino male relationship with his ‘jefa’. Gerry’s mother isn’t seen throughout most of the movie save for the notes on the fridge they exchange yet she’s always there. When she does appear, she sits Gerardo down and they have a real catch up moment that illustrates the strong relationship between a single, hard working mother and her maturing son.
Like the 8 bit animated story chapters, this coming of age tale has a nostalgia for one’s high school dog days. It also has a very fresh sense of modernity with its portrayal of teens and in particular its portrayal of U.S. Latino teens. It’s a sweet, funny and a refreshingly authentic U.S. Latino coming of ager bound to touch audiences.