All are first features by wildly original voices who are remixing potent multi-cultural heritage and inventing their own unique brand of genre. So much talent! Makes this Chicanita so proud!
Let’s start with numero uno:
1. WATER & POWER – from Chicano wordsmith warrior and Culture Clash iconoclast, Richard J. Montoya and produced by Mark Roberts. This is the screen adaptation of Montoya's 2006 play originally performed at the Mark Taper Forum in LA. Rife with The City of Angels' legends, haunts and lore, the Chicano noir tale (how cool is that?) takes place over the course of one fateful night. An intense story centered on twin brothers nicknamed “Water” played by Enrique Murciano and “Power” played by Nicolas Gonzalez who were born and raised on the East Side streets playground - one grows up to be a senator and the other a high ranking cop. The young gifted musical artist and composer Gingger Shankar (Circumstance, Charlie Wilson's War) has contributed music to the film. The project participated in the 2007 Sundance Institute screenwriters & directors lab. A madly prolific playwright (a regular Berkeley and Yale Repertory Theatre collaborator), I got a chance to see Montoya's uproarious American history redux play, American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose last fall (read the LA Weekly feature review here). An uncompromising artist with a thundering voice all over the culture pop pulse, Montoya's first feature film tops my list of films to watch out for in 2013. Can. Not. Wait.
2. PARDON – written and directed by R.F. Rodriguez and produced by his production company BadMansSon. A story that deals with a cholo ex-con who returns to his barrio in Highland Park and sets to go on the straight and narrow but soon finds himself pulled by his old gang familia may sound familiar, but never has it been as emotionally excavated and depicted with such sensitivity and complexity. Hector Atreyu Ruizis Saul Sanchez whose driving motivation is the chance to reunite with his estranged daughter. Guided by a sympathetic parole officer, played by Tracey Heggins (from the 2008 indie African-American gem (Medicine for Melancholy), Saul tackles catch-22 circumstances towards his mission and confronts growing uneasiness from his vatos who continue to test if he's still down. At its core the film is an exploration about fatherhood and home, in particular highlighting the social phenomenon of absentee fathers because they are behind bars, an issue predominantly afflicting Latino families and communities.
Rodriguez, a USC film school grad, made the feature before graduating, having fleshed the story further out of the short film he made of the same name. His project mentor, Patricia Cardoso (Real Women Have Curves) encouraged him to do more with it and this is the amazing result. With earnest and raw performances, the moving and powerfully directed film marks this a sign of a true filmmaker talent discovery.
3. RECOMMENDED BY ENRIQUE written and directed by Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh and produced by their NY based company En Passant Films. Shot in border town Del Rio, Texas (the U.S. side of the Rio Grande) with an offbeat hipster cast of young non-professionals plucked locally, the quirky, mystical tale is about an aspiring actress and an old cowboy who each arrive into town with respective plans and expectations, only to end up waiting for something to happen. Forced to wait out their time, they've nothing to do but explore the bewitching town and its people. Lino Varela plays the Cowboy and Sarah Swinwood, a Canadian newcomer actress nails the airhead wannabe star.
This is the second feature film from Texas native Daniel Garcia and Lebanese born Rania. Their first film, OK, ENOUGH, GOODBYE screened at San Francisco International Film Festival among other world wide festivals, and the duo were included in 2011's Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. Undertones of a Twilight Zone type of dimension and the spellbinding pull of the dusty town are perfect captured - as anyone who's been in these strange little Texas towns can attest. An unexpected, unpredictable and ultimately lyrical film, this definitely gets my recommendation.
Film contact < email@example.com>
An eclectic soundtrack featuring local Vallenato band, Very Be Careful, Hermanos Herrera, Irene Diaz, Doghouse Lords and more. The cast also includes ol' G', Sal Lopez (American Me) and Lupe Ontiveros in what may be her last film role before she passed away last year (she also has a small role in Water & Power).
Fresh, exuberant and inhabiting a distinct, heightened magical street reality, Vincent & Luzy might be the first film to truly reflect this young, vibrant artist subculture, making this one a hot to track.
Film contact: info@CineticoProductions.com
I was thrilled to hear that Lionsgate picked up the film at AFM a couple months ago. Lionsgate/Grindstone will release the film July 2013. 6 Sales is handling rights to rest of world. Intense and wicked and unlike anything else this is a film to look forward to. In the meantime, check out the press kit, pics and more on their site.
Do you have a hot independent American Latino film recommendation I should track? Holler at your girl. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next up, Non-Fiction American Latino films to track in 2013