A Strong January for Latinos in Film
Normally a cruel month for moviegoers and moviemakers, but not so much for Latinos in 2012
The common wisdom is that January is where bad films (or good ones with no money behind them) go to die. It's certainly been true for most Januaries over the past couple of decades‘«™but 2012 turned out a little bit different, especially when it came to Latinos in front and behind the camera.
Published on LatinoLA: February 7, 2012
It began early on with "The Devil Inside." This tiny, low-budget horror film with a pseudo-documentary point of view, like everything from "The Blair With Project " to "The Last Exorcisms" to "[Rec]" before it, wasn't expected to do much business‘«Űnot with low production values and a no-name cast. Fernande Andrade wasn't exactly a newcomer; this Brazilian-born beauty had spent the last couple of years guest-starring in TV dramas from "CSI: New York" to "The Mentalist," and putting in supporting roles in movies like "Why Am I Doing This?" But nobody‘«Űincluding her‘«Űexpected the movie to take off the way it did. It certainly wasn't the quality; the movie was widely panned by professional critics and viewers alike.
So maybe it was the timing or the "found footage" aspect that reminded people of earlier, better efforts. Whatever the reason, the William Brent Bell's modest little movie, made for less than a million dollars, earned just over $51mil in its first three weeks, with an awesome 65% of that in the first three days. Granted, attendance and profits fell like a stone thereafter‘«Ű83% from opening night to one week later‘«Űand the last few weeks the theaters were empty, with the few attendees acting like they were loose at a low-budget "Rocky Horror Picture Show" midnight screening‘«™still: $53 million in less than a month isn't a bad return on investment.
And that was just in the first week.
Stephen Soderbergh's actioner "Haywire" got a lot of buzz for its surprising stellar cast, though it didn't catch fire at the box office. Still, Latino stalwarts Antonio Banderas, Eddie Fernandez, and Maximino Arciniega all appeared in the well-promoted film that hit the screens just days after "The Devil." (The director has already lined up his next two movies.)
Soon after, George Lucas' exciting take on the adventures of The Tuskegee Airmen, "Red Tails," did far better than the studios ever expected, and three Latinos‘«Űtwo playing African Americans this time around‘«Űwere part of the program: Tristan Wilds, Andre Royo, and Tina D'Marco (we've talked more about Andre recently‘«Űright here.
Meanwhile, both U.S. and Mexican Latinos are a large part of "Miss Bala," director and go-writer Gerardo Naranja's story of beauty queens and crime lords, garnered nominations and international recognition domestically and abroad, including a standout performance by Jose Yenque ("Traffic," "Beginners").
And director Michael Cuesta brought us "Roadie," a story of rock and roll, starring (part Cuban) Bobby Cannavale and it ends with Ron Eldard. You can see a clip from the movie and a great commentary from Cuesta himself here, at Indiewire. The visually stunning sequel to "Underworld," this one called "Underworld: Awakenings," had a Latino presence as well: India Eiseley, Argentine-born Olivia Hussey's equally stunning daughter.
Even as the month ended, three more top-performing films had Latin presences. Long-time stunt professional Ben Bray (Hernandez) plays a key role‘«Űas stuntman and actor‘«Űin the harrowing thriller "The Grey," starring Liam Neeson; screenwriter Pablo F Fenjves first big feature film, "Man on a Ledge," has Mandy Gonzalez and Genesis Rodriguez in the cast. Genesis is the daughter of beloved Latino singer El Puma, and she's particularly formidable‘«Űsome would say downright kick-ass‘«Űin this caper-mystery.
Meanwhile, accomplished character actors Leonardo Nam, Olga Merediz join John Leguizamo in Katherine Heigl's surprisingly solid comedy-mystery "One for the Money," the long-awaited film version of Janet Evanovich's best-selling book series. Basically, that's Latinos all over three of the top five performer for the month, many of them still going strong.
This is the kind of news we like to give out: that Latino professionals, in front and behind the camera, are working hard and showing up all over the place‘«™even in the dead of cinematic winter.