Esai Morales and Lou Diamond Phillips in La Bamba
When I was a little girl, I watched La Bamba, the story of 17-year-old rock ‘n’ roll singer Ritchie Valens who passed away in a plane crash with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. I was hooked and mesmerized. I had such a crush on Lou Diamond Phillips, and thought we would marry one day. How disappointed I became when I realized he was practically the same age as my father.
The point to my little story is that I wanted to know more about the director Luis Valdez, the actors Esai Morales and Phillips, the music and all the elements that had to do with the film. This was one of the early movies that ignited my passion for film. La Bamba didn’t just do this for me but for many others as well.
There are so many movies that have impacted how we grew up, view ourselves and where we wanted to spend our hard-earned money to escape for a few hours. Many of the highest grossing films have been written and directed by Latino directors. Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, Robert Rodriguez are some to name just a few.
Y Tu Mamá También, which put actor Gaél Garcia Bernal on the map, was a coming-of-age story that involved best friends on a very different type of road trip. Gravity, which recently won seven Oscars out of 10 nominations this past year, has changed how we look at cinema. These are just two of the films Cuarón has made.
Del Toro is no stranger to creating action, drama and fear for filmgoers. Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and now, “The Strain,” currently airing on FX are some of the critically acclaimed work he has put out.
The list goes on and on for Latino directors like Pedro Almodóvar, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Walter Salles. They aren’t the only ones shaping what we see with their powerful films like Babel, Sin City, Machete, Volver, The Motorcycle Diaries and Desperado, which starred a young Antonio Banderas.
Latino actors are also molding how we see the world around us. No longer relegated to Spanish-speaking films, they are branching and breaking out to become international superstars. We all remember Jennifer Lopez from a little film called Selena.
Finally actors are being represented in all of their glorious shades, too. Throughout history many actors had to be fair skinned with long, straight flowing hair to be cast. Now in the 21st century, all Latinos are being represented. In actors like Laz Alonso (Fast & Furious, Avatar), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Colombiana) and Gina Torres (“Suits,” “Hannibal”), every little kid can look at a screen and see a representation of themselves staring right back.
Everyone loves Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”), Salma Hayek (Frida) and Dania Ramirez (“Devious Maids”), but we can’t forget the men, too. Jimmy Smits (“Dexter,” “Sons of Anarchy”) has been turning heads for years. Michael Peña might be one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood who was first known for his comedy but since End of Watch, he’s being cast in serious dramas like the upcoming Fox series “Gracepoint.” Ramon Rodriguez is currently starring in “Gang Related” on Fox, which has a multicultural cast that should make some other networks try and catch up.
The face of film is changing, which is exciting. The evolution of Latino directors, writers and actors who are no longer stuck in a stereotypical box doing typecast films and roles continues. Still keeping the culture intact and sharing that with the world, they also have opportunities to tell every type of story imaginable. Isn’t that what film is all about?