The Girl

thegirl

When I first saw the trailer for The Girl, I knew immediately that I wanted to see the film – and then I found out that it opens on March 8th in New York and on March 15th in Los Angeles, (two locations I’m nowhere near.) Thankfully I not only got the opportunity to screen the film online, but to interview the director, David Riker.

I think you’ll be able to sense how much I loved this film from my interview questions (below), but if it isn’t clear enough, I’ll tell you – I loved it and recommend that anyone who is able to see it – go see it. I’ve watched a lot of films with immigration and border themes – this one is different thanks to the fact that it’s told through the eyes of a gringa who is already struggling with her own issues. The Girl will make you think, and then think twice about border issues and what defines a good life.

Description:

From David Riker, the director of La Ciudad, and Paul Mezey, the producer of Oscar-nominated films Maria Full of Grace and Beasts of the Southern Wild, comes a new film The Girl.

Abbie Cornish plays Ashley, a young single mom struggling with the loss of her child to Social Services, unwilling to accept the consequences of her actions and trapped in the quicksand of her south Texas life.

When Ashley’s path collides with Rosa (Maritza Santiago Hernandez), a strong-minded girl who has lost her mother while crossing the Rio Grande, she unwittingly begins a journey that will change her life forever.

Starting in a big box store in Texas and ending in a small village in southern Mexico, The Girl turns the immigrant story upside down, questioning the myth of the American Dream and asks that we consider the possibility of a better life – south of the border.

Interview with Director, David Riker

Latinaish: I understand you also wrote the script for this film? What was your inspiration?

DR: My inspiration to write the script has its roots in my debut feature, called ‘La Ciudad’ which was filmed over the course of five years in New York’s Latin American immigrant community. Listening to so many stories of sacrifice in crossing the border, I decided to travel there and see with my own eyes. What I saw was deeply upsetting, but also surprising, and after traveling back and forth through the borderlands I came to realize that my own preconceptions of the border were false — as is the central myth that hope is in the north. That realization led me to consider a story in which the logic of the border were turned upside down — and to ask the question, what might happen if an Anglo crossed the border — south.

Latinaish: The cinematography of this film was really breathtaking, particularly scenes that took place in Oaxaca, Mexico. Was this shot on location? Can you tell us about that?

DR: Yes, almost all of the film was shot in Mexico, but due to the violence in Tamaulipas (including Nuevo Laredo) we were not able to film along the border. This was a major creative setback as I had spent several years developing close relationships with people in the border city and had every location scouted. In the end we filmed all of the Mexico portion of the story in the state of Oaxaca — much of it in the Istmo, though some in the capital, in addition to the village at the end which is in the Sierra Norte. ‘Re-creating the border’ became the central creative challenge we faced, affecting every department from production design, casting, and wardrobe. The cinematographer is one of the stars of Mexico’s new generation, known for his lyrical work in El Violin.

Latinaish: Which scene was most difficult to capture, either emotionally or physically, and why? What challenges did you face on set?

DR: The most difficult scene… An interesting question. From an emotional standpoint, without a doubt the scene when Rosa realizes her mother has died. From a logistical standpoint, perhaps the nighttime river crossing which I intentionally wanted to film as a baptismal event. Every scene is a challenge, and every challenge is different. More than anything you are battling the lack of time and limited resources, and desperately fighting against compromise. But the Mexican crew and the actors were like a family and we all fought the battle each day together.

Latinaish: I love that the “gringa” in this film, “Ashley”, played by actress Abbie Cornish, spoke Spanish so much of the time, but there was no explanation in the plot as to how the character learned to speak it so well – Can we assume she learned it just by living in southern Texas or from her co-workers? Did the actress, Abbie, already speak Spanish before the film?

DR: You are right, Ashley’s character was a composite of many people I’ve known, and a number of characters I met along the borderlands. Ashley speaks spanish because she has grown up in a Spanish-speaking world in South Texas. But Abbie Cornish didn’t speak a word. I think it’s a great testament to Abbie’s talent and force of character that she was undaunted by the challenge and threw herself into it with total commitment. As she said the first day we met to talk about the project, she didn’t simply want to learn her Spanish dialogues by heart, she wanted to understand the language.

Latinaish: The character “Rosa” played by Maritza Santiago Hernández had a fantastically stubborn personality in the film and I really fell in love with her. Was this her first film? Are there any other projects we can look for her in any time soon?

DR: I too fell in love with Maritza. She is an amazing girl, and yes, this is her first film role. I spent a great deal of time ‘searching for Rosa’ and saw thousands of young girls in communities all over Oaxaca. The casting took more than a year of full time work. I was not looking for a girl who could ‘play’ Rosa — I was looking for Rosa. And when I finally found Maritza I knew I had found her. She needed to be small but very strong, or tough or as you put it ‘stubborn.’ She needed to be full of life and light, but also depth. She needed to be naughty but also thoughtful. And of course she needed to have the indigenous features of the zapotec people in Oaxaca. After the film’s Mexico premiere at the Morelia Film Festival many journalists asked if she wanted to have an acting career. Her answer: ‘first she’ll finish school and become a teacher.’

Latinaish: What do you hope to accomplish with this film? What do you want the audience to take away?

I appreciate the question, as hope is the thing that sustains every storyteller. I hope that the film helps to generate dialogue about what it means to be an American, what it means to be an immigrant today, uprooted and far from home. I hope it helps to re-frame these questions in such a way that real understanding can begin — not through the limited lens of political debate – but in the broadest sense — what is our common humanity? What is it that divides us, and what do we share in common? Of course I know that it is after all only a film, so the goal must be modest. If people enjoy the story, are happy to meet young Maritza and to travel the journey with Ashley, I’m already a happy man.

Links:

DavidRikersTheGirl.com
The Girl on Facebook
The Girl on Twitter

Películas Clasicas Mexicanas

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is in italics!

¿Te gustan las películas clasicas mexicanas? Aquí están algunas de mis escenas favoritas. ¿Cuáles son tus favoritas?

Do you like classic Mexican movies? Here are some of my favorite scenes. Which are your favorites?

Poker de Reinas – Corazón de Melón

Pedro Infante – Escuela de Vagabundos – Cucurrucucú Paloma

Pedro Infante – Carta a Eufemia

A Toda Máquina – Gringuita – Pedro Infante y Luis Aguilar

Los Tres Garcias – Pedro Infante

Los Tres Garcias – Pedro Infante, Abel Salazar, Víctor Manuel Mendoza, Sara García & Marga López

Jorge Negrete – Huapango Ranchero

Cantinflas – Por Mis Pistolas

La Música de Dawin y Una Canción Justin Bieber Estilo Bachata!

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation in italics!

dawin

Dawin Polanco es un joven músico dominicano-americano con mucho talento. Él no sólo canta, sino que también toca la guitarra y el piano. Vean por ustedes mismos – aquí es su versión de As Long As You Love Me por Justin Bieber, pero estilo bachata. Me encanta!

(Dawin Polanco is a young Dominican-American musician with a lot of talent. Not only does he sing, but he also plays guitar and piano. Look for yourself – here is his version of As Long As You Love Me by Justin Bieber, but bachata style. I love it!)

Claro que Dawin tiene sus propias canciones también, como esta canción, Light of Day (Let ‘Em Go). ¡Qué bella la canción!(Of course Dawin has his own songs too, like this one, Light of Day (Let ‘Em Go).) It’s so beautiful!

Quieren aprender más sobre Dawin? Aquí les traigo una mini-entrevista con él. Chécalo! (Want to learn more about Dawin? Here I bring you a mini-interview with him. Check it out!)

Latinaish habla con cantante, Dawin

(Latinaish speaks with singer, Dawin)

Latinaish: Eres dominicano-americano, ¿Cómo han contribuido las dos culturas en tu vida? (You’re Dominican-American – How have those two cultures contributed to your life?)

Dawin: Sí soy dominicano – estas culturas me han dado el lujo de poder disfrutar plenamente o comprender lo que sucede en el mundo inglés y español. (Yes, I’m Dominican – these cultures have given me the luxury of being able to fully enjoy or understand what is happening in the English and Spanish world.)

Latinaish: ¿Por qué haces música? Parece una pregunta simple, pero no siempre tiene una respuesta fácil! Lo sé porque la gente me ha preguntado por qué escribo.(Why do you make music? It seems like a simple question, but it doesn’t always have an easy answer! I know because people have asked me before why I write.)

Dawin: Es cierto. Por suerte siempre he tenido mi respuesta [se ríe.] Hago música porque es mi manera de vaciar mi mente de cosas negativas y crear música es mi forma de rejuvenecer. (It’s true. Luckily I’ve always had my answer [laughs.] I make music because it’s my way to empty my mind of negative things and making music is my way of rejuvenating.)

Latinaish: ¿Dónde podemos encontrar/comprar tu música? ¿Crees que un día vamos a escuchar una canción en español o spanglish de ti? (Where can we find/buy your music? Do you think we’ll ever hear a song from you in Spanish or Spanglish?)

Dawin: Mi música se puede encontrar en sitios como YouTube donde me gusta hacer mis estrenos. Tengo música gratis y disponible para descarga aquí: www.soundcloud.com/dawin y en iTunes. Te prometo que voy a hacer una canción en español o spanglish y como continuar con mi éxito, me gustaría hacerlo con artistas conocidos. (My music can be found on sites like YouTube where I like to make my premieres. I have free music and it’s available for download here: www.soundcloud.com/dawin and on iTunes. I promise I’ll do a song in Spanish or Spanglish and to continue with my success, I would like to do it with well-known artists.)

Enlaces/Links:

DawinMusic.com
Dawin on Twitter
Dawin on Facebook
Dawin on iTunes

Sonus – Bilingual Boy Band

sonus

Check out these clever, clever boys. Alex, Marcelo, and Andres are three brothers and together they are the band, Sonus.

All three boys were born in California but live in Argentina and I’m predicting right now, (thanks in part to their smart bilingual marketing and strong social media presence), that they are going to be the NEXT BIG THING in the United States. (The music is catchy too!)

Chécalo!

Spanish-language song – Vecina

English version – Save Me Tonight

(Hat tip to WetPaint.com)

La Llorona coming to televisions across the United States

Do you know the Latin American folktale (or is it true?) called La Llorona? (The Weeping Woman.)

For those not familiar, here is the story of La Llorona.

Although several variations exist, the basic story tells of a beautiful woman by the name of Maria killing her children by drowning them in order to be with the man that she loved. The man would not have her, which devastated her. She would not take no for an answer, so he slit her throat and threw her body in a lake in Mexico. Challenged at the gates of heaven as to the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, with her constant weeping giving her the name “La Llorona”.

In some versions of this tale and legend, La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who resemble her missing children, or children who disobey their parents. People who claim to have seen her say she appears at night or in the late evenings from rivers or oceans in Mexico. Some believe that those who hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death, similar to the Gaelic banshee legend. She is said to cry “Ay, mis hijos!” which translates to “Oh, my children!

Function of the story in society

Typically, the legend serves as a cautionary tale on several levels. Parents will warn their children that bad behavior will cause La Llorona to abduct them, and that being outside after dark will result in her visitation. The tale also warns young women not to be enticed by status, wealth, material goods, or by men who make declarations of love or lavish promises.

– Source: Wikipedia.

Well, this Friday’s episode of Grimm is about La Llorona. The show Grimm is an American TV drama series which is described as “a cop drama—with a twist… a dark and fantastical project about a world in which characters inspired by Grimms’ Fairy Tales exist.”

This clip features Grimm stars Bitsie Tulloch (Juliette Silverton), David Giuntoli (Nick Burkhardt), Russell Hornsby (Hank Griffin.) Guests cast in this episode include Bertila Damas as “Pilar” and David Barrera as “Luis Alvarez.”

Kate del Castillo (of “La Reina del Sur” fame), is also in this episode!

Grimm airs Fridays at 9 pm ET on NBC. This particular episode will air on NBC on Friday, October 26th at 9 pm ET. There will also be special airings, in Spanish on Telemundo at 11:35 pm ET on October 29th and in English on mun2 at 1 am ET on Saturday, October 27th.

Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll watch because this kind of stuff freaks me out. I will probably have a week’s worth of pesadillas just from watching these videos here. Do you think you’ll tune in?

Fiesta DC 2012

Taking photos at Fiesta DC this past Sunday was a challenge for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons was the sheer number of other people trying to photograph and video tape the event. At times I felt like I was in a group of paparazzi fighting for position – and then when I would finally frame the perfect shot, someone would inevitably ruin it by running across with a video camera or sticking their iPhone in front of me.

Some of the people were amateur or hobbyist photographers like me, some were obviously freelance professionals or working for media – And then there were young males, usually equipped with cellphone cameras, who were just trying to photograph the nalgas of the cachiporras to share on their Facebook.

Anyway, here are my favorite shots which I had some fun editing and a video of the general atmosphere.

By the way, speaking of nalgas, at one point during the parade a woman with a very generous backside stood in front of us. Carlos, to his credit, didn’t even seem to notice despite the fact that her “pants” were actually leggings and you could see her thong through the fabric.

“¡Qué bárbara!” a little old man said. The old man, not content to enjoy the view by himself and feeling the need to share, elbowed Carlos. Jutting his chin towards the woman in front of them he said, with a lascivious expression on his face, “Ella es Santa Bárbara, ¿vá?”

Carlos looked confused, “Oh, ¿sí?” he replied.
“Ssssíííííí,” the viejo hissed appraising the woman’s behind, practically licking his lips. Noting the fact that Carlos didn’t understand what he meant, the viejo then asked, “¿No sabes?”

“¿No?” Carlos said, the question on his face.

I rolled my eyes at the predictable dirty old man.

“¡Es santa por delante y bárbara por atrás!” the viejo said, erupting in laughter as if he had said the most clever and original thing in the world.

Carlos laughed politely and I pinched him.

“What?” Carlos said.
“Stand back here, away from the viejo chuco,” I said.

After the parade we had lunch. I wanted pupusas but Carlos made a good point that we eat pupusas all the time and that we should eat something different, so we ended up buying delicious Mexican tortas. (The boys and I had the torta milanesa de pollo with horchata. Carlos had the torta de carnitas with agua fresca de tamarindo.)

Just as we finished eating and were deciding what to do next, I heard “Los Hermanos Lovo” announced on a nearby stage.

“No way!” I said out loud, “Hermanos Lovo!”

Carlos looked at me like I had lost my mind as I pulled his hand in the direction of the stage.

“It’s the Chanchona music I blogged about. Remember?… Hermanos Lovo!”

For three songs I tapped my hand against my side, tapped my feet, and moved my hips, waiting for people to dance, but only a few people were dancing, and they were getting stared at. Everyone else just pretty much stood there and watched the performance. I found this a little strange given that at most Latino dominant events I’ve been too, there’s usually not a lack of dancing. I wonder if most of the people there have become too Americanized in this respect? Too self-conscious?

I couldn’t take it anymore. I leaned toward Carlos and he leaned toward me so he could hear me.

“Want to dance?” I asked, eyes brimming with hope like a child asking for a puppy.

Carlos said nothing, just turned toward me and took me in his arms, and we danced.

Within seconds much of the crowd had turned to look at us and stood gaping. Carlos whispered in my ear, “We’re being photographed and video taped.” I felt a flood of gringa self-consciousness wash through me but we kept dancing, and soon, the people around us, were just a blur of colors.

Don Cuatro

Image source: Alvaro Canivell

Months ago while watching videos on YouTube I stumbled onto a TV Show called “Fin de Semana.”

Fin de Semana was a long running variety show in El Salvador similar to Sabado Gigante with a host by the name of Willie Maldonado. I asked Carlos if he remembered the show and he said he remembered someone named “Don Cuatro.”

I searched all over the internet and couldn’t find anything about Don Cuatro, and Carlos has only a vague memory. He says that the way he remembers it is like this:

Don Cuatro was a mystery character that they never showed on screen. At some point during the show they would say “Don Cuatro is in such-and-such neighborhood” and they would give viewers a code phrase that they were to say to Don Cuatro while shaking his hand to get him to reveal himself. People who lived in that neighborhood would rush outside and start going around trying to find Don Cuatro by shaking other people’s hands and saying the code phrase. Whoever found Don Cuatro would win money and be brought on the show.

I don’t know why, but this struck me as hilarious. Does anyone remember Don Cuatro? Has Carlos remembered it correctly?