"Filly Brown" Drops as a DVD

Like "Bless Me, Ultima" the well-reviewed movie received no real studio support and subsequently, never had a chance

By Se Fija!
Published on LatinoLA: August 2, 2013

"Filly Brown" Drops as a DVD

"Filly Brown," the breakout film starring Gina Rodriguez, was a major hit at last year's Sundance Film Festival. It was nominated for the Grand Jury prize, and Gina became the sweetheart of independent film for a while. There were interviews, auditions, glowing predictions, even a front-page story in the "Los Angeles Times," among many other media, that labeled her the "It" girl for the season.

But for all the publicity, "Filly Brown" didn't make it into any theaters any for the balance of 2012. The distribution company that optioned it during the festival ran into financial trouble, and the company that took its place dragged its feet or lost momentum or something, and even as the next year's Sundance came around, "Filly" still wasn't in theaters.

"A few months ago, in April 2013, there was a short-lived attempt at a second theatrical release, with most of the cast reuniting for a "premiere" in Florida, but in the subsequent few weeks, the film only appeared in a few theaters nationwide (less than 260 at its height, less than 100 across the country in three of its six-week run), before it fell of the charts in May." And nowǪDVD.

The good news, of course, is that now the rest of the world Latinos, lovers of hip hop, and fans of Gina, Jenni Rivera, Edward James Olmos, and the rest of the cast will have the opportunity to see the film. The not-so-good news is that Filly, like so many other recent films by and about Latinos, never really got the chance at box office success that it deserved.

This isn't the first time it's happened. In fact, the list of recent, neglected films is long and disheartening. Just in the last couple of years, movies like "Without Men," "A Dark Truth," "For Greater Glory," "Safety Not Guaranteed," "Gun Hill Road," "Bless Me, Ultima" and so many others have appeared in only a handful of theaters before disappearing into the endless sea of un-promoted DVD releases, or simply disappearing entirely. Even "A Better Life," arguably the best-known and most widely respected film of its kind in recent years, barely made it into theaters, despite glowing reviews, a director with a "Twilight" film to his credit, and an Oscar nomination for its star Demi?n Bichir. It was available in slightly more than 200 theaters nationwide for a single week, and in more than a hundred theaters for only four weeks of its brief eight-week run.

It isn't necessarily true that Latinos are not buying the tickets to see these filmsǪ"when they have the opportunity." Despite that constant refrain, a little research shows that many of these movies had good, and in some cases even great, first- and even second-week per-screen numbers when and if they appeared in theaters at all. The problem is that the studios and distributors didn't expand the number of screens or give the film more than a week or two to build its audience (unlike, say, recent independent hits like "The Silver Lining Playbook" or the current hit "Fruitvale Station"), even when the sales numbers were promising. In some cases notably "Without Men" and "Bless Me, Ultima" there was no real theatrical release at all beyond a few special screenings.

And this just inǪ"Bless Me, Ultima," that tender and affecting adaptation of the beloved novel by Rudolfo Anaya, will be released on DVD on September 17. It was never released into theaters at all again, beyond a precious few 'special screenings' i n spite of enthusiastic responses by the few who got to see it and resounding positive critical response, including Claudia Puig of "USA Today" calling it "visually stunning," Ken Turan of the "L.A. Times" calling it "a deeply satisfying feat of storytelling," and no less than Leonard Maltin calling it "a breath of fresh air." Still: another drop in the endless sea.

"Filly Brown," directed by Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos, and starring Gina Rodriguez, Edward James Olmos, Jenni Rivera, Lou Diamond Phillips, Emilio Rivera, and many others is now available in stores and online.

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