LatinoBuzz: #MasAmerican

LatinoBuzz: #MasAmerican

If you hear someone utter, “Kids
These Days,” it’s usually in a disapproving tone towards the younger
generations’ fresh attitude or their breaking with tradition (or their tendency
to speed while driving).  When I think about Kids These Days, though, it
is in sheer awe.  I am so impressed by their confidence and transcultural
expression with which they carve out their bold self-individuality.  I
don’t remember ever being that loud and proud in my teens.  I, like most,
just wanted to fit in.  But the Millennial generation has spoken:
Assimilation is out; Non-conformity is in.

As a first generation
Mexican-American I’m naturally drawn to bi-cultural narratives because they
relate to my own culture dash – American clash.  Speaking Spanish at home,
making tortillas with abuelita, and my parents’ late night dance and Tequila
parties, blasting Sonora Santanera or the passionate cries of Vicente
Fernandez, all formed a very specific childhood.  There is something
really powerful about seeing a reflection of your roots in a contemporary
context in the biggest form of entertainment, the movies.  You may have
read the numbers; There are 55 million+ Latinos in the country, making us the
fastest growing and youngest demographic.  Brands clumsily chase after
this market and miserably try to coin terms to define us like New Generation
Latino, Young Latino Americans, Hispanic Millennials.  The term Latino
attempts to encompass far too many diverse ethnic and social cultures that it
is a useless denomination.  A limited view failing to recognize the
fluidity of our social zeitgeist in the 21st century.

It is critical to adopt with the
changing times and engage the new generations of our immigrant nation. 
It’s time to reframe our notions and classifications on race and
identity.  Más American is my humble attempt of doing away with outdated
and ill-defined terminology like Hispanic or Latino.  It is meant to
convey the real, inclusive and radical reflection of society’s eclectic fabric
found in fiercely independent filmmaker voices.  More aptly, it speaks to
the transcultural identity and non-conformist spirit of today’s characters and
narratives.  It’s not necessarily confined to speak about people of
“color.”  It is about all kinds of shifting identities, from conventional,
traditional and sociocultural norms to a more progressive evolution.  It
is about gender – equality, reversal of roles, gender variant.  Filmmakers
are out there telling these unique perspectives through independent film. 
These stories are out there.  I can attest to that with some authority
because of the volume of screening I do for film festivals year round. 
Films from underrepresented communities usually have an outsider/insider
perspective, which in turn provokes highly original and compelling narratives
by its very nature.  This emerging class of individualism is what embodies
American spirit.

Más American also speaks to the
influence Latinos have on non-Latinos.  You don’t have to have the blood
in order to appreciate or acquire a sensibility of the Latino experience. 
Many non-Latino filmmakers have made extraordinary films capturing the US
Latino experience.  It’s only natural considering the countless
generations who originate from before the Hidalgo treaty was signed.  We
are your neighbors, friends, colleagues, lovers, wives, husbands, in-laws, in
each of the 50 states.  Indeed, a long time ago my mom and I learned to
stop talking trash when out in public about non-Latinos in proximity realizing
that many people understand some Spanish. 

And so it is with much pleasure,
and gratitude towards the filmmakers, the Más American Conversation on
Seed&Spa
r
k is rolling
out.  These films purely conceive of characters and a world more
reflective and authentic of our reality.  Perhaps the freshness comes from
a subconscious in which they derive and embody a defiant individuality, outside
of any identity politics. Más American hopefully is a starting point for
a more forward and richer conversation towards genuine, original and
underrepresented narratives.  I hope to add more titles to the mix in this
Conversation, championing filmmakers who get America’s evolving sense of
cultural self-identity and who are on the pulse of the rapidly shifting
zeitgeist. 

In The Crumbes, written and directed by Akira Boch,
the acting talent naturally inhabit LA’s Echo Park hipster artist scene in such
a sincere and rocking way.  The lead happens to be a Latina and her
co-lead happens to be Asian.  Their color is so not the center of the
tragicomic slice-of-life.  Yet it does make them who they are: badass rock
n roll girlfriends who resist quitting on their dream of hitting it big with their
band.

In The Never Daunted, writer/director Edgar Muñiz explores
the toll and cross a man must bear who can’t conceive, in such a profound,
heartbreaking and uniquely creative way.  The film explores a modern
masculinity more open to vulnerability, clashing with the Western stoic cowboy
machismo image imposed on men from boyhood.

Gabi – director Zoé Salicrup Junco’s
impressive NYU thesis film – centers around its titular business-smart, sexy
and confident 30-something woman living an independent and successful life,
whose main conflict is the reminder that, in her hometown, her success
represents a failure within the context of the marriage, kids and housewife
model.

In all of these stories, new
definitions of traditional norms are celebrated and scripts are being
flipped.  I’m thrilled that with Seed&Spark the public at large can
discover these rebellious voices.

I want to thank the filmmakers for
sharing their inspiring non-conformist narratives on Seed&Spark and for,
whether they know it or not, breaking type.

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