Just a few days ago, The New York Times highlighted English-language television’s failure to attract Latino audiences in an article called “ NetworksStruggle toAppealtoHispanics”. As the fastest growing demographic whose purchasing power exceeds $1 trillion, it’s no surprise that, “…they desperately want to appeal to the more than 50 million Latinos in the United States…” What is hard to believe, though, is that they still haven’t figured out how to do it. It’s really not that difficult. We want to see true-to-life characters that reflect the diverse experience of Latinos, not stereotypes.
In response to the NYT article Esther Cepeda, NBC Latino Contributor, says it well, “…give the maids, bad boys and victimized immigrants a rest. Yes, those are real-life characters, but there’s no reason why art can’t imitate a diversity of life…How about casting Latinos as up-and-coming-politicians, overachieving college students, folksy-vegan-all-organic environmental activists, or the overscheduled suburban soccer mom-slash-superstar mommy blogger?” I would totally watch that show!
Maybe the execs should take advice from people like Cepeda. Better yet, they should hire people like Cepeda! But, instead of hiring bilingual and bicultural Latinos and Latinas to write, produce, and direct TV shows, American television executives run focus groups, spend money on market research, and scratch their heads–dumbfounded and unable to solve the conundrum. Meanwhile, other organizations have it figured out.
Year after year–the New York International Latino Film Festival packs Manhattan theaters with bilingual, bicultural Latino moviegoers. The very same demographic that TV execs and movie studios are clamoring to attract but fail to. Why is it that the entertainment industry’s most sought after group of consumers attends this festival by the tens of thousands? Because, the stories they see are diverse, complicated, new, different, multilingual, and reflect their own experiences. Television and studio executives might benefit from coming to the festival and taking some notes. These are the true-to-life kind of stories Latinos want to see on their T.V. and movie screens (and on their computer screens too.)
Documentaries at the New York International Latino Film Festival
BUSCANDO A LARISA (Looking for Larisa)
U.S. Premiere/ 79 Minutes/ Mexico
Director: Andrés Pardo
Screening at 4:50 PM | Wed, Aug 15 | Chelsea Clearview Cinemas
One day filmmaker Andrés Pardo stumbles across 2,000 feet of Super 8 footage at a flea market in Mexico City. Home movies shot during the 1970s, at their center is a lovely young blond-haired girl, Larisa. Teaming up with a photographer friend, Pardo decides to track down Larisa. He takes his search to Facebook, the internet, and the press.
EL MÉDICO: THE CUBATÓN STORY
New York Premiere/ 85 Minutes/ Cuba-Sweden
Director: Daniel Fridell
Screening at 7:00 PM | Wed, Aug 15 | Chelsea Clearview Cinemas
High up in the Sierra Maestra mountains, where Castro’s revolution began, “El Médico,” a doctor and musician, serves the cause. When a Swedish music producer sees “El Médico” as the next big thing, Communist ideals collide with capitalist dreams. Should “El Médico,” listen to his mother and serve his community as a doctor or take advice from his producer and make “sexy ringtones”?
ESPERANDO A LOS BITLES (Waiting for the Beatles)
New York Premiere/ 92 Minutes/ Mexico
Directors: Diego Graue & Raymundo Marmolejo
Screening at 6:30 PM | Fri, Aug 17 | Chelsea Clearview Cinemas
Beatlemania is alive and well…in Mexico, where a fervent following pays continuous tribute to the groundbreaking Liverpool quartet. Fans compete in cover band competitions, obsessively collect memorabilia, and bemoan the fact that ‘Los Bitles’ never performed in Mexico. This hilarious and touching documentary shows that the genius of the Beatles transcends decades, continents, language and culture.
U.S. Premiere/ 84 Minutes/ Chile
Director: María Paz González
Screening at 2:30 PM | Sat, Aug 18 | Chelsea Clearview Cinemas
Filmmaker María Paz González and her mother journey across Chile in a Volkswagen Beetle, searching for long-lost family members. María's mother, who was adopted, knows little of her personal history and goes in search of a sister she has never met. María hopes to connect with her father, a man she knows little about.
CLOSING NIGHT FILM + AFTER PARTY
88 Minutes/ U.S.A.
Directors: Laura Brownson, Beth Levison
Screening at 6:30 PM & 7:00 PM | Sat, Aug 18 | Chelsea Clearview Cinemas
Three-time felon, one-time Tony Award winner, Lemon Andersen is an acclaimed poet who broke out on Broadway in Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam. But Lemon has landed back in the projects and is desperate for a way out. He turns to the only things he has left, his pen and his story. This beautifully crafted film follows his efforts to stage a comeback at the Public Theater as he battles demons from his past.
The New York International Latino Film Festival runs through August 19th at the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas.
Written by Juan Caceres and Vanessa Erazo, LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature onSydneysBuzzthat highlights emerging and established Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow@LatinoBuzzon twitter.