Pioneering in the Wild West: Fort Worth, Texas welcomes American Latino filmmakers.
By Claudia Acosta
Fort Worth, Texas is known to be “where the west begins” and has remained as unclaimed territory to the American Latino filmmaker till now. The Rose Marine Theater will host the first ever Latino independent film festival May 19ththrough the 21st. The Rose Marine Latino Film Festival will introduce a new paradigm for the unrecognized film industry of North Texas. The non-profit arts organization, Artes de la Rosa, currently manages the theater and produces cultural programming under Artistic Director, Adam Adolfo.
“We are amid a Renaissance of the Rose itself and we are proud to reclaim a portion of its cultural history by bringing Latino filmmakers home to the Rose Marine Theater.” Listed on the National Register of Historic places with landmark status since 1999, The Rose Marine Theater continues with its legacy.
THE ROSE: A SENSE OF PLACE (2009 Telly Award) opens the festival. The documentary that inspired the festival aired on KERA PBS. It tells the history of the theater that began in the 1900’s. As a survivor of segregation, the Rose Marine Theater became the only Latino entertainment hub of Mexican cinema, music and culture, attracting industry renaissance icons from the 1920s to the 1960s including Pedro Infante, Dolores Del Rio and Cantinflas.
Adam continues, “As we continue to explore untapped artistic boundaries and reinterpret the stories of a rich heritage, it is with a sense of community that Artes de la Rosa is proud to have its first independent film festival as it celebrates our diversity by laying claim to cinematic art by saying that each one of us has a voice and it will be heard here at the Rose Marine Theater.”
Headlining the festival’s New York Night is THE MINISTERS written, directed, and produced by Franc. Reyes. The director of EMPIRE and ILLEGAL TENDER reflects on his third feature.
“The Ministers is one of many NY stories I set out to make when I chose to make movies. I'd like to be able to make films that are commercial in its ability to entertain and still absorbed in human drama just enough to capture the imagination.”
In THE MINISTERS, an NYPD detective attempts to avenge the death of her father, but unwittingly becomes involved with one of his killers. The film stars John Leguizamo, and Harvey Keitel. This was Franc.’s second collaboration with Leguizamo.
“I believe that John Leguizamo is one of the most versatile and courageous actors the Latino entertainment community has. I recently went to see his new one man show "Ghetto Klown", which is my favorite of all the ones he's made. The work he's done so far in his career is staggering. His best work is in front of him and I intend to be a part of it.”
The festival closer, CRUZANDO (Silver Palm Award Mexico International Film Festival, Jury Prize San Antonio Film Festival) written and directed by Mando Alvarado and Michael Escamilla will screen on the eve of its DVD release by Vangaurd Cinema. Days before the birth of his first child, Manuel learns his long-lost father is about to be executed in Texas. Against his wife’s wishes, he heads north with videocam-toting pal, Diego on a life-changing journey. Many earnest films have been made recently about the struggles of Latin American migrants trying to cross into the U.S. for a better tomorrow; CRUZANDO isn't one of them. The story poetically rides on the border between comedy and drama much like the film’s cinematography of the Texas/Mexican border.
As the bridge between states, country, and culture, two films share a common narrative about relationships between father, son, and inner demons.
SALUD (Best Screenplay Beverly Hills Film Festival) written & directed by Cesar de Leon, a Brooklyn native of Guatemalan decent tells the story of Carlos, a father and failed husband who slowly descends into a downward spiral of alcoholism. His son’s refusal to lose his father leads both of them to discover the true and sometimes painful meaning of unconditional love.
THE FINDING (CAANES Short Film Selection) by Fort Worth’s Julio Cedillo and Mexican director Alonso Alvarez tell the tale, on the other side of the border, of an impoverished father and son trying to make sense of life after they lose their beloved wife and mother. Brutally and lovingly told, the film remarkably speaks with little to no words. Julio Cedillo has done numerous roles for television, commercials, and films including as the title character in THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA and as Bronco in the upcoming Favreau flick, COWBOYS AND ALIENS.
As Opening Night Guest Presenter Cedillo adds, “This festival allow us to have strong and valid discussions about avoiding the perpetual Latino stereotypes and focus on the work itself through its universal themes. It will bring together Latino and non-Latino professionals to enlighten and educate new comers about the film/tv business as well as celebrate the art form.”
Presenting American and International films, the festival hopes to highlight the perceptions about Latino filmmakers: those that are American and those that are not. “It's another opportunity to celebrate our various Latino cultures and not homogenize each other. At the end of the day, it truly isn't about being Latino artists, but artists who happen to be Latino.” Cedillo said.
Artes de la Rosa honors the nation’s young voices of tomorrow with SCENARIOS USA, a non-profit organization that uses writing and film to foster youth leadership, advocacy and self-expression in under-served teens. The festival will screen three shorts written by young Latinas from New York and Texas directed by Joel Schumacher, Cruz Angeles, and Joshua Marsten. Scenarios USA founder, Maura Minsky believes “It's important to make media inclusive because it plays a big role in defining the American narrative landscape - that's a defining principle in our work at Scenarios USA. Giving youth from marginalized communities’ access to telling their stories through film gives them a seat at the table and allows them to share who they are and who they want to be.”
These new platforms for inclusive media are now more important than ever. In the ‘State of Cinema Address’ at SFIFF, Producing juggernaut veteran Christine Vachon said, “We are now in a new place of trying to figure out who we are making movies for and are the ways we are consuming media actually changing the kind of stories we’re telling? And if so, how are we reaching out to those audiences that we hope will want to celebrate and enjoy the kind of films - media - that we’re making.”
As these filmmakers continue to pioneer in the face the most difficult distribution and financing terrains, RMLFF hopes to garner support for them in Fort Worth from untapped audiences where one-third of the population is Latino. Franc. Reyes has produced three star-studded features on the higher end of independent budgets and understands this too well, but his focus is on craft.
“The one constant challenge will always be the writing. I've written everything I've directed. I wish to get better at both. The industry has changed in dramatic ways. It's exciting because like in the golden days of film making (1960's thru 1970's in my opinion) directors and writers were at their best. They were challenged by the change in the Hollywood studio system which lent to improvisation, both in front and behind the camera. It's a great time to challenge yourself and the "system" especially for the fastest rising American demographic....Latinos.”
Rose Marine Latino Film Festival is in collaboration with Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, Endeavor Cinema Group, and Lone Star Film Society. For tickets, schedules and more information, please visit www.rosemarinelatinofest.com/ or call the Rose Marine Theater Box Office at (817) 624.8333.
*I am creator and co-producer based in NYC. Having served Artes de la Rosa as actor, writer, director, educator, and co-founder, I am member of the National Association of a Latino Independent Producers and NALAC.
Artes de la Rosa is dedicated to preserving, promoting, and interpreting the art, culture, lives, and history of the Latino community by: (1) establishing a venue for Latino art and cultural performances; (2) offering educational art/culture programs to the community including youth in low-income neighborhoods; (3) providing opportunities and support for established and emerging artists and performers; and (4) serving as the central support organization and resource center for Latino art and culture in the City of Fort Worth.