By Christine Davila | Indiewire January 17, 2013 at 3:30PM
Last week I offered up my top 5 fiction films to look out for in 2013, and as promised, here is my non-fiction list of films coming through the pipeline bound to make an impression and impact this year. Two are profiles of influential iconic American activists whose work and spirit have left indelible marks on their generation and reintroduction through the docs will serve to celebrate and carry on their positive influence as Latinos. The other films deal with redefining our perception of American identity, gender and human rights while wielding cinematic ingenuity and power. As these films prove, docs can be just as striking in their characterization and cinematic form as their fiction counterparts, in addition to their intrinsic educational value. Take note, all of these are seeking opportunities to engage with their audiences so again click on the links to follow and show your interest in their work so we can bring awareness and demand their exhibition.
1. LAS MARTHAS by Cristina Ibarra, produced by Erin Ploss-Campoamor
In Laredo Texas, there exists a debutante ball held by the exclusive Society of Martha Washington that takes place every year celebrating George Washington's birthday. A 114 year-old tradition, the lavish affair presents members' daughters- all of aristocratic pedigree and lineage dating back to the foundation of Texas, who dress up in grand, colonial gowns representing characters from the American Revolution. Las Marthas follows a couple of high achieving, bi-literate and conscious young Mexican Americans going through the lengthy preparations as they enter this rite of passage that ends with a parade that draws huge crowds. What's especially remarkable about the whole patriotic event is that we are talking about a city that is 94% Latino. Laredo became part of Texas in 1848, when everything north of the Rio Grande became the United States. Many families who stayed, benefited off the oil boom and settled into an upper class aristocracy. Many generations later these are still the most prominent Laredo citizens and proud bearers of this historic tradition.
I'm so proud of this chicana sister for revealing this world. She has intuitively seized on and explored this unique legacy, which clearly demonstrates the vibrant bi-culture of Texas and shows how aptly the founding father narrative belongs to Mexican Americans. She is also working on a fiction feature titled Love and Monster Trucks about an 18-year-old Chicana artist named Impala Mata who can't wait to escape her 4x4 truck-obsessed, Texas bordertown family. Sounds so cool. Need to track that one too. Filmmakers website here
2. CESAR'S LAST FAST by Richard Ray Perez, produced by Molly O'Brien
Back in the Spring on Chavez's anniversary I wrote about this documentary in progress here on the site. Cut to today and I’m happy to share it is just about ripe and ready for its premiere. Wisely and effectively entering the vast legacy by angling on Chavez's 1988 Fast for Life, the film focuses on conveying the private sacrifice and spiritual conviction behind Chavez's struggle for the humane treatment of American farm workers. With each and every day adding up that he refused to eat in protest of the rampant use and ill effects of growers spraying pesticides on farm workers, Chavez seriously risked his health and life and in turn inspired a nation. It boasts never-before-seen footage in which artists and activists came to see him, endeared in solidarity by his fortitude, including the likes of Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Kennedy family, interviews with his son Paul Chavez, Chicano filmmaker Luis Valdez, activist veteran, Dolores Huerta and Martin Sheen, along with showing the press hoopla this man was able to attract back then It’s taken years for the family to trust someone with his story so it’s telling that Rick has managed to gain their support.
Film contact <CesarsLastFast@earthlink.net>
3. RUBEN SALAZAR: MAN IN THE MIDDLE by Phillip Rodriguez, produced by City Projects
On August 29 1970, just as the Chicano Moratorium March, a protest denouncing the extremely high number of Chicano soldier casualties in Vietnam (front of the line browns), was winding down, a tear gas canister was suddenly thrown by LA County police into the old Silver Platter Cafe on Whittier Blvd, killing the pioneering civil rights journalist Ruben Salazar. Set to broadcast on PBS in the Fall, this documentary is the first thorough investigation into the life and mysterious death of Salazar who was raised in El Paso and went on to become a brilliant reporter covering Vietnam, the Olympics and the Chicano movement for the LA Times and KMEX TV 34 television, making him the first Mexican American to cover news for mainstream outlets. In that critical and turbulent moment in the Chicano rights movement, Salazar gave voice, rationale and dignity to Chicanos’ fight to demand equality. An inquest was later regarding his untimely death made but murder charges were never brought. Instead Los Angeles County paid $700,000 to the Salazar family to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit.
Just last month, after two years of requests, Philip Rodriguez finally won the battle to uncover case details when MALDEFsued Sheriff Lee Baca for withholding unredacted records regarding the 42 year old case. This new unearthed footage, photos and documents will appear in the film along with interviews with Salazar’s family, friends, colleagues as well as the deputy who threw the fatal tear gas missile, Tom Wilson. So the story goes, there had been allegedly a tip that an armed man entered the bar (hence blindly throwing tear gas while folks were in there?). For the first time we might get answers and insight surrounding the mysterious and suspicious circumstances of this leading Latino voice. As quoted on KPCC, Phillip Rodriguez says, “I think this is one of the most important stories that has remained on the margins and that has been characterized as a regional or an ethnic story and it’s a fantastic American story”.
4. THE WILDNESS by Wu Tsang produced by Kathy Rivkin
Although this premiered at a few noteworthy film festivals in 2012 including Austin's SXSW, Outfest in Los Angeles and MOMA in NYC last December, I’m thrilled to know there is still a long life ahead towards sharing this beautiful experience with the public so it definitely deserves to be on the Watch Out For list. A dazzling requiem to the 7th & Alvarado corner bar joint, Silver Platter, specifically the transformation and haven as a Latin/LGBT/immigrant community spurred on by the introduction of performance parties known as Wildness, produced by a fiercely talented collective including Wu Tsang, the director of the film. The intersection of stories and people borne out of that multi cultural, trans and cross-generational magic potion is fascinating and poignant to behold in this cinematic and audiovisual piece. The cinematography captures the wonderful and tragic beauty, and by personifying the bar as a majestic hostess welcoming all wayward transients, the film pulses with heart. Currently looking for distribution opportunities (repped by Cinetic). Check out the trailer below and go to the Facebook for more info.
5. WHO IS DAYANI CRYSTAL? by Marc Silver, produced by Canana and Pulse
I highlighted this unique docu-drama about the discovery of a migrant found dead in the border desert and the unfolding mystery of his identity with the parallel of retracing his journey, as part of my WTF is Latino at Sundance post. The film will open the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival this Thursday and I will be onsite to cover the audience's reaction (Don't forget to follow me on twitter for my sporadic SFF coverage). Not only is it a feat of ingenuity in the way the narrative is structured, it's an extremely urgent topic deserving a larger audience to provoke more humanity and thought into the pressing immigration reform debate. I guarantee this one will travel to many festivals in 2012 and get theatrical distribution, in no small part helped by the compassionate and driven producer and narrator, Gael Garcia Bernal. Last year, Searching for Sugarman screened in the same Day One screening slot, was subsequently snapped up by Sony Pictures and as of last week officially nominated for an Academy Award. Hmmmm. Get updates by following their twitter @DayaniCristal
Film Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org