Friday, July 16, 2010

Latino controversy sells… But is it clean money?

Latino controversy sells… But is it clean money?

I was going to write this week’s blog about the negative impact social networking sites, such as Facebook and My Space, are having on our teenagers, thus on society as a whole. However, as I was doing research on the subject matter I also had one eye watching a seemingly quiet storm.

A Latino storm which was rapidly beginning to pick up a significant amount of force as it raced its way through the geographical bandwidth tunnels that connect us all in this Facebook domain, which is quickly becoming our virtual reality.

Welcome to the fast paced world of video blogs, blogs, status updates and enough controversy to put all daytime soap operas out of business at the close of my generation.

Several weeks ago my good friend Casper Martinez of Latino Film Chatter began to compile a list of top 1,000 reasons he was not going to attend the New York International Latino Film Festival this year.

Here’s an example of his list:

“Reason # 5 I’m not going to the wanna-be Latino Film Festival: Have you seen the idiot Tony Kaye telling us to cut the umbilical chord? Great, a British guy giving Latinos his take on our culture. Calixto you are an idiot for allowing that. Then again should we expect any better? Maybe Lyndon McCray can edit an apology video for you…” ~ Casper Martinez

A very comical and strongly opinionated entry no doubt… However, Casper has said on many occasions that he’s not personally attacking Calixto and this one seemed a wee bit on the personal attack side of life in my humble opinion.

I don’t think Casper will be happy with me for saying this. But we’ve always respected each others right to express ourselves. So I think we’ll still be friends after this blog goes up.

I don’t know anything about Tony Kaye other than that he directed American History X, which is a very powerful film that enlightens us all about racism in this country. And when I saw his interview, in my personal opinion, he seemed to be coming across as sincere in his suggestion that we’re all one people. Being that I have a daughter who is of African American, Philippine, Chinese and Puerto Rican descent, I’m very comfortable with the separation and segregation of races coming to an end in my generation.

However, Casper’s argument was that a Latino should’ve directed the commercial for the
“Latino” film festival… I can’t argue with him on that point, being that it’s so difficult for Latinos to get work these days. I also couldn’t see myself faulting Calixto for wanting to work with a talent such as Tony Kaye, so I stayed silent on the matter.

Or as I learned to say down south, “I had no dog in that fight…”

Interestingly enough I met Calixto Chinchilla, founder of the New York International Film Festival through Casper Martinez some years back, and I’ve always found him to be a very personable and likeable gentlemen. So my only wish would’ve been to see this come to the table to find a resolve that all parties would’ve been satisfied with. In lieu of once again airing our dirty laundry for the world to laugh about. It seems there truly is very little loyalty amongst Latinos these days.

It must be part of what diminishes our strength in Hollywood and keeps us from acquiring the type of power the Jewish, Italians, African Americans and yes, the Mexicans have acquired in filmmaking.

But Ivan, aren’t Mexican’s Latinos?

I’m not even going to touch that one right now in regards to the strides Mexicans have made in Hollywood that the rest of the Latino populace can’t even begin to come close to. That’s a blog for another day.

Lyndon McCray is a talented filmmaker in his own right who I first met on the Franc Reyes film, The Ministers, EPK shoot. I ran across Lyndon several more times including at a screening of the short documentary, This War At Home, that I was involved in. He gave me a great deal of praise on the piece and placed it on the Cinedulce website, which is run by NYILFF.

And true, as Casper said, if anyone could edit a nice apology together for Calixto, it would be Lyndon. But why should Calixto apologize?

Well here’s where it gets interesting and where I’ve now had to place a ‘dog in the fight,’ if you will, possibly at the expense of being banned from the festival for life…

My good friend Linda Nieves-Powell, author (Free Style), award winning playwright and all around bad ass Latina chick who took on MTV last year and won her battle to remove some bullshit portrayals of Latinos from the channel, has taken offense to the early cuts of the NYILFF commercials now airing on the website.

The commercial is of a snobby little future filmmaker directing her abuelita to say her lines correctly, even though her lines only consist of the words, “Yes,” and “Si...”

When abuela fails to deliver the lines to her satisfaction she yells, “You stupid old bitch… these generation gaps really piss me off...”

As if the words weren’t shocking enough, the next thing you see on the screen is a gun firing off two rounds.

Are we to assume that this “pissed off” mini-filmmaker just smoked her abuela for not delivering her lines?

Only time will tell how the commercial ends… but so far, in my opinion… No Bueno!

I watched the commercial many times to see what it was that bothered me, or if anything about it bothered me, not to be the bandwagon guy…

And in all honesty, the only thing that bothered me was the gun being brought into the equation at the end. I see too much violence out here in the streets of the South Bronx to be turned on by the sound of gunfire.

I’m much more shocked when I see a four-year-old in the street call her mom a bitch and watch the mom laugh about it – but it happens all the time.

I’m much more shocked that we do have a generational gap that is so large that our elders truly are no longer respected in any communities I’ve been to recently.

I’m much more shocked that while I agree with Casper’s initial assessment, complaint and argument that he merely wants the NYILFF to live up to it’s mission statement, at least the part that reads, “Our mission is to showcase the works of the hottest emerging Latino filmmaking talent in the US and Latin America. Offer expansive images of the Latino experience. And celebrate the diversity and spirit of the Latino community…” That we still can’t come together as professional Latinos and find peaceful resolve to these conflicts.

Casper has helped many talented people find their way in this entertainment business – Shit, he discovered my book and placed me in a position to be writing this blog… Calixto has provided a platform to many others and hopefully will one day be airing Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx on the big screen at the festival when the right team comes along to produce it.

These are two brothers I have a great deal of respect and admiration for… I just can’t see why we have to continue to play the controversy card knowing it will help us sell but won’t help us progress… knowing it will also leave us all tarnished…

I guess Diddy has it right… It’s all about that dirty money.

Someone recently told me I’ll never be successful because I choose not to play the game dirty… I disagreed and told them when I get there I’ll change the rules. So get ready for a new game one day…

Until then, we’ll all have to agree to disagree.

And as NYILFF prepares to announce the panels for this years festival… there can be no better panel than to place Casper Martinez, Calixto Chinchilla, Linda Nieves-Powell, Lyndon McCray and Tony Kaye on a stage and let these great industry minds work their magic.

Towards a better resolve, a better festival, a better unity for Latinos and better days ahead.

Or is that just my wishful thinking getting the best of me again?

Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.


  1. Keep up the good blog. Very informative.

  2. Ivan, I couldn't help but wonder what you mean by this:
    "It must be part of what diminishes our strength in Hollywood and keeps us from acquiring the type of power the Jewish, Italians, African Americans and yes, the Mexicans have acquired in filmmaking.
    But Ivan, aren’t Mexican’s Latinos?
    I’m not even going to touch that one right now in regards to the strides Mexicans have made in Hollywood that the rest of the Latino populace can’t even begin to come close to. That’s a blog for another day."
    I'm really curious. If you're not even going to hint at what you mean by this, why even bring it up? I suggest you be careful in disseminating half-raised points like that, so superficially and without anything to back them up. If you plan to write a blog entry on the matter, then go ahead and do it and explain what you mean; but then again, by making purposeless statements like the one above, you only risk of being misinterpreted, which could lead to undesired fallouts.
    I hope you are aware that by making the above comment, you are alluding to/fostering that there is a divide of Mexican filmmakers vs. the rest of Latino filmmakers, and if that's the case I'm not going to buy into it. Please be responsible, and elaborate on what you say so as to avoid misinterpretation.

  3. JBE, Long story short... Go back and read some of my last blogs, specifically the one where I said, "Mom you should've made me black..." The African American community figured out a long time ago ala Eddie Murphy, Robert Townsend, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Arsenio Hall, etc. that there has to be "UNITY" in a nationality trying to accomplish becoming the gate keepers and owners of their own stories in Hollywood. Which in all actuality, most of our stories in Hollywood are owned by the Jewish, with the exception of some ownership by Oprah and Tyler Perry to name a few. But Latinos still haven't figured out that their true strength is in UNITY and NUMBERS... To work together towards a common goal of bringing our stories to a larger global audience. Once we start working together in unison for the sake of the project, we'll be much better off... until then, I'm staying black... I hope I clarified this for you as a responsible blogger... LOL!

  4. I too was surprised by this "throw the baby out with the bathwater" campaign against the film festival and Calixto.

    As someone who founded a Latino focused Art organization, I can tell you that it is virtually impossible to raise from nothing a film festival like the one Calixto has founded.

    You do the best you can to achieve your mission statement, but in this economy and with art having such a low priority, funders shrink and contributions dwindle. Not having the ability to attract the best possible line up is a function of money and agreement by filmmakers as to which festivals they will or will not enter.

    We all have the right (free speech) to condemn anyone for not meeting our high standards; but it has to be done responsibly, otherwise it simply cannibalizes years of effort on behalf our community.

    I don't know Calixto very well, nor did he ask for my support, but I think that as an advocate who has been in the trenches fighting for a more 3-dimensional and contemporary portrayal of our community in television and in film, I would be remiss if I did not speak up on Calixto's s behalf. Unless you have formulated a Latino organization like the film festival and understood all the pain and heartache that comes with bringing it to fruition each year, you really can't understand what Calixto goes through each year to produce this film festival. As Latinos we should share our thoughts on important matters; and it is okay to disagree passionately with each other on ideas, but I draw the line when the criticism it solely meant to eviscerate someone or undermine the cumulative years of effort someone has dedicated relentlessly to our community. All the effort done on behalf of creating this film festival must be valued; this kind of attack is vicious and unwarranted.

    Felix Sanchez
    Chairman and Co-Founder
    National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts

  5. This is the best video I've seen Casper Martinez of Latino Film Chatter post thus far...

    And here was my response to Casper: Hands down – out of all the videos you’ve made concerning this years controversy surrounding the festival – much of which was started by you in an attempt to open up dialogue. This is the most compelling, most direct and most intellectual argument you’ve made. The parallels between the way the African American Festivals are run and the fact that they stick by their mission statement compared to what the NYILFF is doing, is a great way to awaken the masses about exactly why you’ve engaged in this war of words with NYILFF. I applaud your efforts and I believe at the end of the day the only resolution will be for the festival to finally remove the word “Latino” from their title… Because at this stage in the game, I don’t believe they’ll go back and stick to the mission statement. So that mission statement should be changed, their name should be changed and that will open the doors for someone to come in and create a new Latino Film Festival that provides opportunities, a stage and a platform to Latino filmmakers…