Entertainment

The Director Of ‘Mi Vida Loca’ Ended Up Adopting Her Daughter From One Of The Movie’s Real Gang Members After She Died

“Mi Vida Loca” is a cult classic. Latinos love this movie and it’s a part of our pop culture legacy, but when “Mi Vida Loca” first premiered in 1993 it wasn’t seen in the light that we see it today. A lot of critics panned it. One critic said that while filmmaker Allison Anders mixed “real gang members with up-and-coming Latin American actresses,” the ploy failed “to lend the film authenticity or vitality. The tone seems, to put it kindly, misguidedly romantic.” Another said, “While the characters are colorful and vibrant, the film is strangely flat.” However, this independent film represented much more than it was. For Latinos, it wasn’t just a low budget movie, it was ourselves on the big screen. 

It was Latinos representing Latinos. It was our story and no critic could ever take that away. 

Director Allison Anders was inspired to create “Mi Vida Loca” after meeting her daughter’s Latina friends.

The basis for Sad Girl and Mousey is based on real people that Anders saw in her neighborhood. Her daughter informed her mom all about the novela that was taking place right outside her door. In a 1994 interview with Bomb magazine, Anders said, “I had seen these two 14-year-old girls with babies on their hips, yelling at each other. So finally I said, ‘Devan [her daughter], what’s up with these girls?’ And Devan, who was nine years old at the time said, ‘Well, Christine and Marty were best friends since elementary school. Then Christine had a baby by Ernesto. But then Marty had a baby by Ernesto. And now they don’t get along.” And that is how the story of how Sad Girl and Mousey was born.

Anders said they filmed in Echo Park, which is where she lived too, right as the gentrification of the area was taking place. 

That meant she had to make sure everyone on the set was safe because real gang members lived there as well. Anders said the real gang members she met as inspiration for “Mi Vida Loca” were actually part of a gang that didn’t reside in Echo Park, but a neighborhood nearby. That tension of real actors and real gang members shooting a film in gang territory caused for some interesting days on the set. 

“I was very concerned however with keeping the real gang members in the cast and crew safe,” Anders said in an interview with Screen Slate. “So my producers and I involved the Echo Park members every step of the way to know which neighborhoods were safe for us to shoot in. We literally took them in the car location scouting to check out the safety. Sometimes the borders were block to block: “We can shoot down here—but not across the street.”

While some had issues that a white woman was directing a movie about Latina gang members, Anders said she got the dialogue approved by Latinas on the set.

Anders said that real gang members “approved every single draft of the script, and after a while could pitch it and give notes better than anyone I’ve met since, seriously.” She added that each person that was consulted on the film was paid and credited. “We even kept the money in the neighborhood literally – the art department rented set dressing from their homes – which also gave a sense of pride that a movie company was renting some banner they made for their bedroom to put on film. We rented the homes of the parents and grandparents of the Echo Park locas and locos. Make-up purchased the real stuff the actual girls wore from Woolworth’s on Sunset Blvd.”

Here’s one remarkable story about how Anders adopted the child of one of a Latina gang member that died before the release of the film. 

Anders said that Nica Rogers, a member of the Echo Park gang, died of an overdose at the age of 19. She was in a few scenes in the movie as well. Rogers had a son named Rueben who was left orphaned after the death of his mother, so Anders adopted him. He is now 28-years-old, married with his family and living in Texas. He is also working in the Hollywood industry. Anders also started a Nica Rogers scholarship that would benefit the youth in Echo Park. It’s so amazing to see this movie live on in not just on the screen but in people’s lives too. 

READ: Mousie And Sad Girl From “Mi Vida Loca” Are Ultimate #Friendshipgoals

Walter Mercado Was An Iconic Astrologer And A Gender Nonconforming Legend And Now There’s A Documentary About Him Coming To Netflix

Entertainment

Walter Mercado Was An Iconic Astrologer And A Gender Nonconforming Legend And Now There’s A Documentary About Him Coming To Netflix

Waltermercadotv/ Instagram

Walter Mercado was a source of wisdom. His horoscopes eased many Latinxs into New Years, months and days full of new possibilities and opportunities. Equal parts Oprah, Liberace, and Mr. Rogers, Walter was a celebrated daily part of Latino culture—until last November, when he sadly passed away. But his legacy lives on, and this year, he’s getting his own Netflix documentary. Here’s everything we know so far about “Mucho Mucho Amor.”

Late television personality and astrologer Walter Mercado is the subject of a Netflix documentary.

Extravagant Puerto Rican astrologer, psychic, and gender nonconforming legend Walter Mercado charmed the world for over 30 years with his televised horoscopes. And this summer, a the feature-length documentary based on the life and work of the iconic astrologer, “Mucho Mucho Amor” will stream on Netflix. And it’s scheduled to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film was selected to premiere at the 2020 Sundance Festival.

The independent-film festival announced its lineup earlier this month, and Miami is well represented among the 118 films selected. Although Mucho Mucho Amor might seem timely in light of the astrologer’s passing in November, Tabsch and his codirector and coproducer — Cristina Constantini and Alex Fumero — have been working on it for more than two years.

The film explores Walter’s complex story.

“Mucho Mucho Amor”, follows Mercado’s story, from the rural sugarcane fields of Puerto Rico to international astrology superstardom, rising above homophobia and the heteronormative beliefs of the Latino society with a message of love and hope. “If you think about the way he came on television, starting from 50 years ago,” said one of the film’s directors, Kareem Tabsch in an interview with WLRN, “he blended gender expressions — the masculine with the feminine on Latino television, which is very macho-centric.”

The film was directed by two Latinx co-directors.

Kareem Tabsch and Cristina Costantini (Science Fair, Festival Favorite Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival) both set out to create “Mucho Mucho Amor” as a love letter to Walter Mercado.  “He was uniquely his own. In a very macho Latino culture, he presented his nonbinary gender expression, and it was so brave,” Tabsch said to Miami New Times.

“Mucho Mucho Amor” unpicks how Walter Mercado became an icon of gender-fluidity for an entire generation.

The filmmakers, who grew up watching him with their abuelitos, craft a film with levity and a playful spirit. Light-years ahead of his time, Walter has become a nostalgic cult icon of self-expression and positivity for the gender-fluid youth of today.

And indeed, Walter Mercado induces millennial Latinos into deep nostalgia.

For Latino audiences, Mercado also represents a form of warm nostalgia. “You think of Walter today, and so many of us think of our abuelitas,” the Cuban-American filmmaker says in an interview with Miami New Times. “The memory takes us back to childhood. It takes us back to sitting with our grandparents. In making this film, we realized that was a universal experience [for Latinos].”

The director also spoke about the significance of premiering their film at Sundance.

The fact that an international film festival of Sundance’s prominence has recognized a film such as Mucho Mucho Amor is an important win for not only Tabsch and his team but also Latino culture. “It’s a huge recognition not just for Miami film, but for film created by, for, and about Latinos,” Tabsch says. “We’re telling our own stories.”

The film premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24 and runs through January 31. It will be available on Netflix this summer.

The Internet Reacts to Jennifer Hudson In the New Aretha Franklin Biopic Trailer

Entertainment

The Internet Reacts to Jennifer Hudson In the New Aretha Franklin Biopic Trailer

United Artists Releasing

On December 20th, the teaser trailer for the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” was dropped for the first time. The 44-second clip shows Oscar-Winning actress Jennifer Hudson silhoutted in front of giant letters spelling out the word “Respect”. We then hear the legendary lyrics: “What you want, baby I got it. What you need, you know I got it” almost completely in A-Capella, save for a few background singers. 

With the lights finally highlighting her face, Hudson is transformed into the Queen of Soul, standing alone onstage wearing a sparkling gold dress  and a wig fashioned after Franklin’s signature 60s-era bouffant ‘do. Unfortunately, that is all the sneak-preveiw the trailer gives us into the upcoming movie before quickly cutting to black.

According to the video’s description, “Respect” is “the remarkable true story of the music icon’s journey to find her voice”. The description goes on to explain that the hotly-anticipated movie will follow “the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom”.

The trailer made waves upon its release and has racked up almost 5 million views on YouTube as of publication.

Hudson has already proved herself as a powerhouse actress and vocalist, winning over the hearts of America in the third season of American Idol. She then further impressed the world in her star turn as Effie White in 2006’s “Dreamgirls”. For that role, she earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.Recently, on “The Kelly Clarkson Show”Hudson shared her gratitude at being given the chance to step into the iconic Queen of Soul’s shoes for a short period of time. “My [audition] song for American Idol was ‘Share Your Love With Me’ by Aretha Franklin’. To flash forward fifteen years later where I’m playing Aretha…She’s an iconic figure that we all love and respect”.

The role is a boon for Hudson, who was hand-picked by Aretha Franklin before her death to play her in the upcoming movie. According to Hudson, Franklin made the final decision after seeing her perform in “The Color Purple” on Broadway in 201_. “We were in talks a long time about me playing her,” Hudson told People magazine earlier this month. “So I just hope I make her proud [and] do her justice.” 

The biopic has been in the works since at least 2010, when Franklin suggested that Halle Berry should play her in the movie.

The movie has been through many changes since then, cycling through many different potential cast members, directors, and producers. As of now, the movie is a star-studded affair that boasts a cast of household names like Forest Whitaker, Marlon Waynes, Audra McDonald, and Mary J. Blige. In addition, the movie has the distinct honor of being directed by a woman of color, “Jessica Jones” auteur Liesl Tommy. 

This movie has been long-awaited, as Franklin’s life was truly cinematic. Born in Memphis in 1942, Franklin was born to a father who was a pastor and a mother who was a professional pianist and a vocalist. Noticing her gift for singing, her father began managing her career at the age of 12 after she stunned her congregation with her show-stopping solos. By the time she was 21, she was already being crowned the “Queen of Soul” by her contemporaries. She is most famous for her chart-topping hits “Respect”, “Think”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, and “I Say a Little Prayer”. She died of pancreatic cancer on August 16th, 2018 at the age of 76.

In general, fans on the internet heartily approved of Hudson playing The Queen of Soul in her official movie.

For once, the internet didn’t immediately disapprove of the casting of an upcoming movie.

This Twitter user summed up the general reception of the trailer perfectly: 

Sometimes, the best gifts are the ones we didn’t even know we needed.

Of course, some people joked about the tendency for Hollywood to white-wash films that are based on true stories:

Based on the cast and the director, we’re pretty positive that this movie isn’t going to veer into problematic territory. 

Of course, there were whispers of another Oscar on the horizon for J-Hud

If there were ever a role Hudson was born to play, it’s this one. 

This person made a snarky joke about Hudson’s less-than-stellar recent track record with movie musicals.

In Hudson’s defense, no amount of raw talent and impressive vocals could’ve saved “Cats” from its critical and commercial declawing.