September 10, 2013
If you hear someone utter, “Kids These Days,” it’s usually in a disapproving tone towards the younger generations’ fresh attitude or their breaking with tradition (or their tendency to speed while driving). When I think about Kids These Days, though, it is in sheer awe. I am so impressed by their confidence and transcultural expression with which they carve out their bold self-individuality. I don’t remember ever being that loud and proud in my teens. I, like most, just wanted to fit in. But the Millennial generation has spoken: Assimilation is out; Non-conformity is in.
As a first generation Mexican-American I’m naturally drawn to bi-cultural narratives because they relate to my own culture dash - American clash. Speaking Spanish at home, making tortillas with abuelita, and my parents’ late night dance and Tequila parties, blasting Sonora Santanera or the passionate cries of Vicente Fernandez, all formed a very specific childhood. There is something really powerful about seeing a reflection of your roots in a contemporary context in the biggest form of entertainment, the movies. You may have read the numbers; There are 55 million+ Latinos in the country, making us the fastest growing and youngest demographic. Brands clumsily chase after this market and miserably try to coin terms to define us like New Generation Latino, Young Latino Americans, Hispanic Millennials. The term Latino attempts to encompass far too many diverse ethnic and social cultures that it is a useless denomination. A limited view failing to recognize the fluidity of our social zeitgeist in the 21st century.
It is critical to adopt with the changing times and engage the new generations of our immigrant nation. It’s time to reframe our notions and classifications on race and identity. Más American is my humble attempt of doing away with outdated and ill-defined terminology like Hispanic or Latino. It is meant to convey the real, inclusive and radical reflection of society’s eclectic fabric found in fiercely independent filmmaker voices. More aptly, it speaks to the transcultural identity and non-conformist spirit of today’s characters and narratives. It’s not necessarily confined to speak about people of “color.” It is about all kinds of shifting identities, from conventional, traditional and sociocultural norms to a more progressive evolution. It is about gender – equality, reversal of roles, gender variant. Filmmakers are out there telling these unique perspectives through independent film. These stories are out there. I can attest to that with some authority because of the volume of screening I do for film festivals year round. Films from underrepresented communities usually have an outsider/insider perspective, which in turn provokes highly original and compelling narratives by its very nature. This emerging class of individualism is what embodies American spirit.
Más American also speaks to the influence Latinos have on non-Latinos. You don’t have to have the blood in order to appreciate or acquire a sensibility of the Latino experience. Many non-Latino filmmakers have made extraordinary films capturing the US Latino experience. It's only natural considering the countless generations who originate from before the Hidalgo treaty was signed. We are your neighbors, friends, colleagues, lovers, wives, husbands, in-laws, in each of the 50 states. Indeed, a long time ago my mom and I learned to stop talking trash when out in public about non-Latinos in proximity realizing that many people understand some Spanish.
And so it is with much pleasure, and gratitude towards the filmmakers, the Más American Conversation on Seed&Spark is rolling out. These films purely conceive of characters and a world more reflective and authentic of our reality. Perhaps the freshness comes from a subconscious in which they derive and embody a defiant individuality, outside of any identity politics. Más American hopefully is a starting point for a more forward and richer conversation towards genuine, original and underrepresented narratives. I hope to add more titles to the mix in this Conversation, championing filmmakers who get America’s evolving sense of cultural self-identity and who are on the pulse of the rapidly shifting zeitgeist.
In THE CRUMBLES, written and directed by Akira Boch, the acting talent naturally inhabit LA’s Echo Park hipster artist scene in such a sincere and rocking way. The lead happens to be a Latina and her co-lead happens to be Asian. Their color is so not the center of the tragicomic slice-of-life. Yet it does make them who they are: badass rock n roll girlfriends who resist quitting on their dream of hitting it big with their band.
In THE NEVER DAUNTED, writer/director Edgar Muñiz explores the toll and cross a man must bear who can’t conceive, in such a profound, heartbreaking and uniquely creative way. The film explores a modern masculinity more open to vulnerability, clashing with the Western stoic cowboy machismo image imposed on men from boyhood.
GABI - director Zoé Salicrup Junco's impressive NYU thesis film - centers around its titular business-smart, sexy and confident 30-something woman living an independent and successful life, whose main conflict is the reminder that, in her hometown, her success represents a failure within the context of the marriage, kids and housewife model.
In all of these stories, new definitions of traditional norms are celebrated and scripts are being flipped. I’m thrilled that with Seed&Spark the public at large can discover these rebellious voices.
I want to thank the filmmakers for sharing their inspiring non-conformist narratives on Seed&Spark and for, whether they know it or not, breaking type.