Things That Matter

15 Latino Directors Challenging Hollywood’s Huge Diversity Problem

MySpace / Janicza Bravo

It’s old news that Hollywood has a huge diversity problem (#Oscarsowhite, anybody?). Even beyond the Academy Awards, this year’s Cannes Film Festival left a LOT to be desired when it came to Latino representation. Only one film from a Latino director was up for the Palm d’Or– the festival’s top honor– and only one Latino feature was included in the Directors’ Fortnight. YIKES.

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that the movie biz is run by white folks. Yes, it sucks, but the good news is there are some truly kickass people of color out there paving the way for the rest of us. I’m talking directors, specifically. You likely know and love the work of famous Latino and Latin American directors like Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Guillermo del Toro, and Robert Rodriguez. They’re awesome! But here are some lesser-known directors whose work is worth seeking out and supporting:


1. Patricia Riggen

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Credit: YouTube/ ColliderVideos

Riggen is a Mexican-born filmmaker currently kicking ass and taking names in Hollywood. Best known for her film Under the Same Moon and the super fun TV movie Lemonade Mouth, she’s directed prominent actors such as Eva Mendes, Patricia Arquette, and America Ferrera. In terms of directors, she’s one you for sure need to have on your radar. Her recent film, The 33, follows the real-life story of Chilean miners trapped underground for over two months.


2. Magdalena Albizu

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Credit: Magdalena Albizu, via La Respuesta Media

Albizu’s documentary, La Negrita, focuses on the Afro-Latino experience in the U.S., both in terms of how individual Afro-Latinos define themselves, as well as how they’re viewed and labeled by fellow Latinos. The preview on Vimeo shows how Albizu’s own Dominican parents viewed her embrace of being black (their relationship with the term is, in a word, complicated), as well as the currency of the term “negrita” itself. You can follow Albizu’s journey towards fully funding her documentary via the film’s website.


3. Guillermo Arriaga

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Credit: CC / Wikipedia

Arriaga is an excellent director, and is known for both Spanish-language and English-language films. You’ve likely seen Amores Perros and 21 Grams, both of which he produced and wrote. A true renaissance man, Arriaga is not only lending his perspective and vision to directing and screenwriting, he’s also a novelist. No, we have no idea when he finds the time to sleep.


4. Janicza Bravo

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Credit: MySpace / Janicza Bravo

Bravo, who’s lived in Panama and New York, is not only a director, writer, producer, and actor, she’s also a costume designer, and her eye for style and form is evident across her work. Her first short film, Eat, was nominated for a SXSW Audience Award, and she later took home the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for her film Gregory Goes Boom, which starred Michael Cera and was inspired by a very fraught first date Bravo witnessed firsthand


5. Luis Mandoki

Credit: YouTube / CorreCamara Cine

You’ve either seen or heard of Mexico City-born Mandoki’s films Message in a Bottle and Angel Eyes, starring none other than Jennifer LopezHe’s an extremely successful director who’s crossed over with both Latin hits and American hits. It’s always incredibly inspiring when a director can find success across multiple audiences.


6. Patricia Cardoso

Credit: The LA Times / Ana Luisa Gonzalez

She made one of my favorite films ever, Real Women Have CurvesShe made a film that celebrated a Latina’s body just the way it is, and we all fell in love with this film. It was a time when someone was saying, “Hey! You don’t have to be a model or stick thin. You can just be you.” So. Good.


7. Aurora Guerrero

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Credit: IMDB / mibryant@imdb.com

Guerrero  is a Chicana filmmaker and LGBT director, which makes her a voice for pretty much one of the least represented demographics on this list. Which is also why she’s so important. Cool note: Not only did Guerrero give us the coming-of-age love story Mosquita y Mari, she also assisted director Patricia Cardoso on the film, Real Women Have Curves. YAAAS!


8. Andrés Muschietti

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Credit: YouTube /  RUEMORGUEMAGAZINE

A master of horror, Muschietti is the Argentinean director responsible for giving us Mama, an English-language, feature-length story of his own Spanish-language short film, Mamá, which he also wrote. Both versions will make you scream and cry in equal doses.


9. Carmen Marron

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Credit: IMDB

The Endgame director joins the list of kickass Latina filmmakers. Marron also gave us Go For It!, and any movie about dancing your way to the very top is a-ok by us. We can’t stress enough how important it is that these women get some recognition! Props to the ladies fighting back and giving young Latina directors some inspiration.


10. Rodrigo Reyes

Credit: Colombia.com

A relative fresh face in the filmmaking world, this Mexican director garnered buzz on his documentary Purgatorio, which reimagined the Mexican / U.S. border as a mythical place. He’s also an extremely practical artist. The advice he gave to Filmmaker Magazine? Don’t quit your day job. “I wholeheartedly embrace the truth that it is incredibly rare for someone to be dedicated completely to his or her work.”


11.  Cecilia Aldarondo

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Credit: Filmmaker Magazine

Aldarondo’s documentary subject hit very close to her home: she dove into the life and death of her uncle Miguel, who succumbed to AIDS in the ’80s. The story revolves as much around what isn’t said as much as what is. Her family, she learns, was not exactly forthcoming when it came to details of Miguel’s life after leaving Puerto Rico, and that included details about his partner, Robert… who then became a monk. Through Aldarondo’s lens, a story that feels quintessentially Latino finds new life and depth.


12. José Nestor Marquez

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Credit: Telemundo

If you’re a lover of sci-fi thrillers, you should know José’s name. He’s behind Reversion, a film that tackles the nature of our memories and our increased reliance on technology. A Latino director in the world of science fiction is so important – and gives major hope to science fiction nerds everywhere.


13. Reinaldo Marcus Green

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Credit: Reinaldo Marcus Green / IMDB

An actor, writer, and producer in addition to being a director, Green is an NYU grad who made waves at Sundance with his short film Stop, and earned a much-deserved spot on Filmmaker Magazine’s 2015 list of 25 New Faces of Indie Film.


14. Damián Szifron

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Credit: Víctor Santa María / Wikipedia

A hustler to the nth degree, this man made one of two Latino-oriented films that earned high recognition at Cannes. His film Wild Talesis a series of vignettes that he wrote AND directed. These overachievers, man.


15. Diego Lerman

Credit: Miami Film Festival

While Lerman works primarily in Argentina, his film Refugiado has gained notable traction internationally.


It can totally feel frustrating when we see a lack of Latino represented at film festivals, awards shows, and in our movie theaters. But this list reminds me that there are tons of us out there, working hard and creating art, and it’s totally inspiring.


WATCH: A Group of Students Made a Día de los Muertos Film and It’s Actually Pretty Good

Who are some of your favorite Latino directors? mitú wants to know – leave a comment below!

There Is Going To Be A Remake Of Disney’s ‘Hercules’ And It Is Going To Have An All Black Cast

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There Is Going To Be A Remake Of Disney’s ‘Hercules’ And It Is Going To Have An All Black Cast

There’s a new live-action stage version of Disney’s 1997 animated film “Hercules” at the Public Theater in New York City — and Hercules is Black as hell

In 1997, San Francisco Gate’s Peter Sack described the film as, “The great old Greek is turned into a ’90s-style athlete who gets endorsements, sandals named after him and a chance to stand tall among nymphs and muses.”

Sound familiar to you? Lest we not forget this was the same era that Michael Jordan did Space Jam and Shaquille O’Neal did Kazaam. The original animated film took inspiration from major athletes of the time and thus, it inevitably heavily references Black and hood ’90s culture. If you watch it now the sneakers, the gospel music, the humor, it probably seems so obvious. 

One might wonder with all these references to the Black popular culture of the ’90s, why didn’t the creators just make Hercules Black? Well, they finally have.

The story of Hercules.  

While most of us were forced to read and re-read Hercules in secondary school, not everyone may know the story. Hercules is the son of the king and queen of the gods, Zeus and Hera. When a prophecy foretells that he will eventually defeat the god of the underworld, Hades, Hercules is kidnapped as an infant. Unable to kill him, Hades is able to take his immortality away but not his strength. The baby Hercules is raised by a mortal couple. At 18 he figures out his real origins and is determined to become a hero so that he can return to Mount Olympus with the gods.

Meet your new Hercules.

Hercules at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, through The Public Theater’s Public Works Program is based on the 1997 animated film, and has kept Alan Menken’s musical score. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he also created the music for Disney’s Aladdin. Jelani Alladin stars as the demi-god Hercules. Krysta Rodriguez plays his love interest Megara.

The difference between the stage musical and the film is that Disney has finally chosen to embrace their story’s Blackness. Rather than simply coding their narrative as one with allusions to Black culture, they’ve put that Blackness at the forefront and center. That’s what we call growth! Everybody loves Black culture, it’s time we start loving the people who make it. 

Danielle C. Belton of The Root describes the original as having flirted with African-American culture, while this new version embraces a multicultural cast. 

“While the film Hercules only flirted with African-American music and culture—the muses who were the “Greek chorus” throughout the film were patterned after classic, Motown-style Black ‘50s girl groups,” she writes. “This version of ancient Greece and the Greco-Roman gods features quite a few Black, Asian and Latinx people, including Jelani Alladin as the titular teenaged Hercules, and, of course—all five of the doo-wopping muses are…sistas with voices.”

How Hercules gave nods to Black culture. 

Hercules is something of a hood icon. It was the first time many kids probably saw Black women portrayed as the muses and Greek chorus. This gaggle of doo-wopping muses sang the funky, soulful Hercules theme. There were also pivotal aspects of hood culture, some of it is even social commentary. Hercules’s character is parallel to the superstar basketball players of the ’90s, their rabid fans, and endorsement deals. The creators, Ron Clements and John Musker, even referred to Hercules as the Michael Jordan of his time. 

In the movie, we see a young Hercules’ as he rises to fame for being a demi-God with some serious strength. When the hero-worship begins, he snags a sweet endorsement deal — but these aren’t Nike Jordans — they’re fresh to death Hercules sandals called Air-Hercs. When the villain Hades sees that one of his minions is rocking the Hercules sandals his response is simple and iconic: what are those?The phrase has now become a popular meme on Black Twitter going so far as being referenced in the “Black Panther” movieThe hero even has his own version of a Gatorade sponsorship, the drink is called “Herculade.”

A Latinx Megara embraces feminism.

Unlike other Disney women of the era, Megara was never waiting to be saved. She was sarcastic, witty, and pretty unimpressed with Hercules’ attempts to holler at her. Krysa Rodriguez’ Megara puts feminism at the forefront — again we see subtle codes made explicit. 

“In a new song, a pants-clad Meg imagines a world without men, envisioning it as a utopia where she could do as she pleases. A dopey, lovestruck Hercules, seeking to demonstrate his feminist credentials, replies clumsily, ‘My mom’s a woman,’” writes Adrienne Westenfeld for Esquire.

Diversity is always an improvement. We live in a multicultural world, there is never anything wrong with reflecting that in the stories we tell. After all, it’s the stories we tell that teach us who we are and who we will become. For Hercules that is learning the truth about his traumatic past to create a better future — for America, well, it’s no different.

This Short Film Centers Around A Black Father Doing His Daughter’s Hair

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This Short Film Centers Around A Black Father Doing His Daughter’s Hair

When it comes to grooming a daughter’s hair, Black fathers haven’t been shy about expressing the difficulties that come along with the morning ritual. And Afro-Latino fathers are no exception. In Latinx communities with large Afro-Latino populations, having “good hair” is a label we all have to contend with. Young girls have a lot of pressure put on them to look put-together so, by extension, our families look put together. 

We all have memories of our mothers making sure our baby-bangs were smoothed down and our outfits were washed and pressed to perfection. 

Being well-groomed is so important to Afro-Latinos who face societal pressure to look perfect in order to combat bias.

Kickstarter

So, when fathers occasionally have to groom their children when their mother is unavailable, the pressure, needless to say, is on. We’ve all seen the genre of viral videos where fathers struggle to part, brush, braid and secure their daughters’ hair–obviously not previously aware of all the labor that goes into daily hair upkeep. Even celebrities have gotten in on the trend with men like Alexis Ohanian, husband to Serena Williams, joining “Natural Hair” groups on Facebook to learn more about their children’s rizos

Writer/director Matthew Cherry wanted to explore the topic of Black fathers doing their daughters hair, so he decided to make an animated short about it.

Kickstarter

According to Cherry, the short, titled “Hair Love” is about a Black father (who has locs himself) who does his daughter’s hair for the first time. “You know how guys are, a lot of times we’re hard-headed and we think we can figure everything out by ourselves without asking for help,” said Cherry during an interview. “[The father in the short] thinks it’s going to be an easy task but he soon finds out her hair has a mind of its own”. 

The father isn’t the only one who learns a lesson in self-confidence in the course of the film, though. In the end, the young girl also “comes into a level of self-confidence in the process” of her father learning how to do her hair. So, in other words, the entire film is an ode to self-love, family, and the priceless experience of bonding.

To finance “Hair Love”, Cherry created a Kickstarter campaign with the initial goal of raising $75,000. The campaign quickly caught the internet’s attention and became a viral phenomenon thanks to celebrity champions like Issa Rae and Jordan Peele. The $75,000 goal was quickly surpassed. All in all, the campaign raked in a total of $280,000–smashing Kickstarter’s short-film financing records. 

Cherry recruited Black animators like “Proud Family”‘s Bruce W. Smith and “WALL-E”‘s Everett Downing Jr. to help him make his dreams a reality.

As for Cherry, he’s candid about the reason he decided to explore the topic of Black hair and Black fathers: because mainstream media’s representation has left much to be desired. According to Cherry, not only did he want to shine a light on the labor of love that doing Black hair requires, but he wanted to highlight the relationships between Black fathers and their daughters. 

“For me, I just think it was really important to shine a light on Black fathers doing domestic things with their kids because mainstream media would lead you to believe that Black fathers aren’t a part of their kids’ lives”, Cherry said. “And there have been a lot of recent surveys that actually show otherwise–that show that Black fathers are just as involved in their kids’ lives as any other racial group”.

Now, “Hair Love” will be played ahead of “The Angry Birds Movie 2” in theaters nationwide

Kickstarter

The nationwide release will provide a massive platform for an under-told story. Not to mention, it will provide Black children with their own images reflected back to them–something many of them haven’t seen before. Not to mention, the security of a theatrical release has made “Hair Love” officially eligible for an Academy Award nomination. 

As for Cherry, he’s over-the-moon about the opportunity for his project to be seen by millions of people. “To see this project go from a Kickstarter campaign to the big screen is truly a dream come true,” he said in a press statement. “I couldn’t be more excited for “Hair Love” to be playing with “The Angry Birds Movie 2” in front of a wide audience and for the world to see our touching story about a Black father trying to figure out how to do his daughter’s hair for the very first time.”

We’ll admit: we didn’t have plans to see “Angry Birds 2” in theaters before we knew about this. But now, you might just see us on opening night, standing in line for the movie right next to our fathers! Catch “Hair Love” before  “The Angry Birds Movie 2” in theaters on August 14th.