Who doesn't love a movie full of love, faith, and redemption during Christmas? A Miracle in Spanish Harlem delivers all this with a storyline that resonates in these economic times and a dream cast of established actors with a few new revelations. Directed by Derek Velez Partridge and written by Carlos Bermudez, A Miracle in Spanish Harlem rolls out on December 6th across the nation in selected theaters, distributed by DigiNext, a joint distribution venture between Digiplex Destinations and Nehst Media Enterprises.
This year's holiday season brings us three Christmas films made by, or about African-Americans, The Best Man Holiday (Universal), Black Nativity (Fox Searchlight), and Tyler Perry's A Medea Christmas (Lionsgate) to be released on Dec. 13th. Bermudez says the time has come for Latinos to add their stories to the holiday season. "I think the last Christmas movie with a Latino flavor was Nothing Like The Holidays and that was 5 or 6 years ago," he explained. "I think it's time for another one and another oneÔÇª".
A family-friendly film which stars Kate del Castillo in her first mainstream English speaking cinematic lead as Eva O'Riley. Beautiful and alone, Eva feels a spark of romantic interest when she meets Tito (Luis Antonio Ramos), a young widower struggling with the loss of his wife, the pressures of trying to keep a failing business above water and caring for his two young daughters, Amanda (Fatima Ptacek) and Samantha (Brianna Gonzalez-Bonacci). The embittered Tito cannot see beyond his troubles, oblivious to the devotion of his family and friends.
Considering that 2013 has indeed been a breakout year for Latino films, with Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity (Warner Bros.) and Eugenio Derbez's small indie film Instructions Not Included (Pantaleon Films) making box-office headlines in Hollywood; Velez Partridge is hopeful that the upward box-office trend might just spill over and continue with A Miracle in Spanish Harlem.
For Velez Partridge the gift of Christmas has come early with the release of A Miracle in Spanish Harlem. "They all told me a theatrical release was out of my reach but I felt differently," he recounted. "I felt our film was a small film by budget, but a huge film in theme and believed it would find an audience. Finally Larry Meistrich for Nehst Distribution saw the film the way we did."
The journey of making A Miracle in Spanish Harlem was a long one, but always filled with love, passion, faith, and in the end redemption (with the release). Velez Partridge and Bermudez shared their journey on the eve of their much-awaited theatrical release.
LATIN HEAT: Tell us about your journey in making A Miracle in Spanish Harlem?
Carlos Bermudez: I began writing Miracle in 2003, but the title at the time was In Search of the Porcelain God. At the time I was feeling like every door was being slammed on my face. That's when I got the idea to write this movie about a guy who was overwhelmed by everything that was happening to him.
Derek Velez Partridge: I was looking for something that I can put my heart intoÔÇªI sent out emails to different writers asking for screenplays with the theme; the road to heaven is often times through hell and Carlos Bermudez responded with Miracle. After working on it for a year, I put together the team to turn the screenplay into a feature.
Carlos Bermudez: I was a mentor at a NALIP writer's lab where I met Derek. About a year after we met he was looking for a script to direct. He made a serious offer on the script and the following week he was flying me to New York to work on it. He promised that the movie would go into production that following winter... And it did... What a concept!
LATIN HEAT: Why a Christmas story with a Latino flavor?
DVP: During the holidays we're reminded of what's missing in our lives and this season offers a chance to change and a chance for hope. Latin flavor because this film takes place on main street USA, Spanish Harlem Main street.
LATIN HEAT: What universal issues does the film deal with?
DVP: With this recession, and so many public institutions disappointing us, there are many Tito's (our lead) in the world right now. Our film is about the struggle that every person goes through, trying to provide for family without becoming bitter.
CB: We also deal with the loss of Faith due to tragic events that we don't seem to think we deserve, and often have a hard time understanding, why me???
LATIN HEAT: Why do you feel this film could become a Holiday classic?
CB: When I first began writing this movie the furthest thing from my mind was It's a Wonderful Life, but as I discussed the script with Derek, we began to discover certain parallels in the story that were born out of frustration and disappointment much in the same way as it happened to George Bailey who thought his life was worthless and goes on a journey that showed him how his life impacted other people...
DVP: Miracle was made and performed with a sincere heart. Although the film is scripted it was made with real emotions. All of us, cast, writer, and myself tried not to be pretentious or preachy.
LATIN HEAT: Tell me about the talent in this film?
DVP: An amazing cast!!! Kate came ready and willing to do anything for the film. Luis Antonio Ramos channeled 30 years of acting experience in this role and what an amazing accomplishment. Adrian Martinez is such a gifted actor as Andre Royo. Andre offers a whole other flavor to the film, after you see the film you'll understand. Tony Plana and Priscilla Lopez brought credibility to their characters and to the entire film. Fatima Ptacek (who went on to become the voice of Dora the explorer) and Brianna Gonzalez-Bonacci are obvious upcoming stars. Stay tuned to their future work.
CB: I went on to use F?ítima in my next film, Anything is Possible and of course she went on to become the lead on the short film Curfew that won an Oscar. Kate Del Castillo and Luis Antonio Ramos met on the set and had about two hours to fall in love with each other -- not very hard to fall in love with Kate.
LATIN HEAT: What has been the most memorable part about your involvement in this film?
CB: Without hesitation the most memorable thing was meeting Derek Velez-Partridge. This guy's passion and enthusiasm is infectious and it definitely bled into the movie. Not only is he a very talented director, but he also challenges you to dig deep in order to maximize the quality of the work. Este se la pasa buscandole las cinco patas al gato.
DVP: [That] I can't believe it's in theaters and wish I could see every show that film screens in across the country. It blows my mind that someone who isn't related to me would want to see it; I still have trouble wrapping my head around that.
LATIN HEAT: What is your Christmas miracle wish?
DVP: ReallyÔÇª I wish that the audience recognizes themselves in our film, because the film was made to belong to the audience.
CB: I will have to use a clich?® here: Peace and Prosperity for everyone or at the very least the opportunity to achieve it.