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This Latino Director Was Deeply Affected by a Family Tragedy, So He Turned it into a Triumph

Have you checked the credits of TV hits Glee and American Horror Story? No? It’s OK. We did, and one of the talented names behind those hits is Latino director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Remember it. This rising film director’s second feature, the comedy-drama Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, wowed audiences at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. And it wouldn’t have happened if Gomez-Rejon hadn’t been through some really tough times. Here’s how Gomez-Rejon built his career and turned his personal struggles into professional triumphs.

He’s a Proud Tejano

My mom and brother on their way to the Emmys! Tune in and root for Alfonso who was nominated for two awards!!! Bursting with pride!!! #alfonsogomezrejon #AHS #emmys

A photo posted by Maite Gomez-Rejon (@artbites_maite) on

Film Comes First

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / dvdizzy.com

Gomez-Rejon has been obsessed with movies since he was a kid. He grew up idolizing Martin Scorsese after watching the classics: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

Scorsese’s Got His Back …

Credit: Movieclips / YouTube

Gomez-Rejon’s dream of working with Scorsese came true when he earned a gig as a production assistant on the famed director’s 1995 crime drama Casino. Gomez-Rejon proudly admits he continues to receive advice and support from Scorsese.

QUIZ: How Furious Are You?

… So Did Ephron

Photo Credit: Me Earl and the Dying Girl / Facebook

Gomez-Rejon also scored big-time gigs with Nora Ephron, the writer-director of When Harry Met Sally andSleepless in Seattle. He first worked with Ephron in You’ve Got Mail, but his professional life changed when Ephron made Paramount Studios hire Gomez-Rejon as second-unit director on Lucky Numbers, which allowed him to join the Directors Guild of America.

And Murphy, Too

Photo Credit: FOX

Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee, came knocking after Gomez-Rejon worked as a second unit director on the filmsBabel, Argo and Eat Pray Love. Gomez-Rejon went on to direct eight episodes of Glee, including the uber-popular Lady Gaga tribute episode “Born This Way.”  

He’s Got a Dark Side

He Loves Working with Friends

Credit: Chanel / YouTube

It’s certainly true in the case of Gomez-Rejon. His first feature film, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, was produced by none other than Ryan Murphy. And the visually striking commercial for Blue de Chanel? The video was directed by Scorsese, with Gomez-Rejon serving as writer and second unit director.

READ: 11 Movies That Prove Que Sí Se Puede

He Can Also Go Solo

He’s a Daddy’s Boy

Credit: sff / YouTube

Gomez-Rejon dedicated Me and Earl and The Dying Girl to his late father, Julio Cesar Gomez-Rejon. He says the film’s theme — that a person’s story doesn’t end with death — was inspired by the impact his father continues to have on his life.

READ: Yes, Someone Actually Complained About Diversity on TV

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America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

Entertainment

America Ferrera Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Working On ‘Gotta Kick It Up’ With Sweet IG Post

It has been 20 years since America Ferrera’s dream of becoming an actor back true. She took to Instagram to reflect on the moment that her dream started to come true and it is a sweet reminder that anyone can chase their dreams.

America Ferrera shared a sweet post reflecting on the 20th anniversary of working on “Gotta Kick It Up!”

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A post shared by America Ferrera (@americaferrera)

“Gotta Kick It Up!” was one of the earliest examples of Latino representation so many of us remember. The movie follows a school dance team trying to be the very best they could possibly be. The team was down on their luck but a new teacher introduces them to a different kind of music to get them going again.

After being introduced to Latin beats, the dance team is renewed. It taps into a cultural moment for the Latinas on the team and the authenticity of the music makes their performances some of the best.

While the movie meant so much to Latino children seeing their culture represented for the first time, the work was a major moment for Ferrera. In the Instagram post, she gushes over the celebrities she saw on the lot she was working on. Of course, anyone would be excited to see Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt hanging out. Yet, what stands out the most is Ferrera’s own excitement to realize that she can make money doing what she loves most.

“I wish I could go back and tell this little baby America that the next 20 years of her life will be filled with unbelievable opportunity to express her talent and plenty of challenges that will allow her to grow into a person, actress, producer, director, activist that she is very proud and grateful to be. We did it baby girl. I’m proud of us,” Ferrera reflects.

Watch the trailer for “Gotta Kick It Up!” here.

READ: America Ferrera’s “Superstore” Is Going To Get A Spanish-Language Adaptation In A Win For Inclusion

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Cast Of ‘In The Heights’ Want You To Know The Importance Of Going To College

Entertainment

Cast Of ‘In The Heights’ Want You To Know The Importance Of Going To College

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning Broadway musical In the Heights is finally coming to the big screen, and it has a star-studded cast to make it happen! Joined by Quiara Alegría Hudes – who wrote the book for the musical – and Crazy Rich Asians director Jon Chu, Miranda amplifies the musical’s poignant narrative about community and pursuing your dreams with stunning visuals and tons of amazing music inspired by the rich Latinx culture of Washington Heights.

Ahead of the film’s opening at the Tribeca Film Festival, Lin-Manuel Miranda and several members of the cast join Maria Hinojosa for a poignant discussion on what the film means to them and the importance of going to college no matter who you are or where your come from.

Cast members share their own very unique experiences of growing up and making it into college.

Maria Hinojosa of Latino USA on NPR is joined by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Leslie Grace (who plays ‘Nina’), and Corey Hawkins, all of whom share their unique and profound experiences with deciding on if they would go to college and what they went through to get there.

So many of us are first or second generation college students, reaping the benefits of the hard work put in by our parents and abuelos to help us achieve our dreams. But not all of us share the same path to university, something made very clear as each of these In The Heights cast members make very clear with their own journeys.

Lin-Manuel acknowledges his own privilege on his path to university and how it influenced the film.

Manuel says that he had an advantage in his journey, thanks to his parents who really helped cultivate that desire for learning from a young age. He was able to attend a prestigious private school as a child but even then recognized a duality within him existed – going as Lin at school (in a predominantly white space) and Lin-Manuel back at home.

Upon going to college at Wesleyan University, Manuel met and made Latino friends, a lot of whom were first from their families to go to college. Many didn’t get the same crash course in code switching that he did from a younger age, so for many of his peers it was tough for them to adjust to college life.

By the end of his first year in college, his roommates at the Latino program house shrunk from eight other members to just four. This struggle and conflict with their time in college and their Latinx identity is reflected in the character Nina and her own struggle with returning to her home in Washington Heights.

For Quiara, the story of Nina’s journey is particularly personal.

Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes’ parents were also leaders in their community. Her father was a prominent businessman while her mother was an activist in her community. But unlike Manuel, her parents didn’t attend university, it wasn’t something that was on their path. She points out that “it wasn’t that they didn’t treasure learning, it’s just that university wasn’t part of that path.”

Quiara – who attended Yale – says that she was very conflicted as a half Latina and half white woman even though she had often grown up in white spaces. However, she wasn’t prepared for being in a space with so few Latinos. She had to learn how to merge those two parts of her life that she felt were drifting further and further apart.

The cast discusses ‘imposter syndrome’ and how to fight it.

Imposter syndrome is very real. And it can often affect those of us who feel like we don’t deserve our achievements or recognition. Maria asks the cast to how they overcame it and how they learned to own their space.

Leslie Grace reminds us that “you have a story only you can tell and you need to tap into your feelings of potential.”

Check out the full trailer for In The Heights below.

The festival’s opening night screening will be held on June 9 at the United Palace theater in Washington Heights. For the first time ever, Tribeca’s inaugural film will be screened simultaneously across all five boroughs in multiple open-air venues.

Following the opening night of Tribeca, “In the Heights” will debut in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service on June 11. It was originally scheduled to be released last year, but Warner Bros. postponed its release due to the pandemic.

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