Washington, DC — The 2011 NCLR Annual Conference and National Latino Family Expo has returned to Washington, DC. This event, held July 23-26, included workshops on various topics relevant to the Latino community. One such workshop, entitled The Power of Narrative: Telling the Real Story about Latinos, featured a panel of distinguished speakers from TV and film discussing how the media can help to shape the way Latinos are perceived in America.
Among the panel was Director Mr. Weitz Weitz, most notably known for his work on the films “About a Boy”, “New Moon”, and “American Pie.” His newest film “A Better Life”, now playing in theatres nationwide, is a powerful movie about the life of an undocumented immigrant and single father who sacrifices everything to give his son a better life.
It is clear that, when it comes to public policy, perception shapes reality and it is because of this that Mr. Weitz stated that his hope was that the film will help to put a human face on the immigration debate. During the panel presentation, Mr. Weitz stated that his interest in making the film came about because of his reflections on his 101 year old Mexican Grandmother, who came to America at age 17, and his father, who was a refugee from Nazi Germany. He stated that when the script came to him three years ago it appealed to him because of his cultural ties and its power to illuminate the relationship between father and son.
Mr. Weitz also stated that, for him, making the film as authentic as possible was a key element of telling the story. As a matter of fact, thirty percent of the film’s dialogue is in Spanish and three of the lead actors came from Mexico to make the film. Weitz himself had to learn Spanish, a personal challenge despite growing up hearing the language spoken among family members, in order to communicate more effectively with some actors and to better understand the script. Additionally, scripts were given to ex-gang members and youths from Legacy LA, a program that operates in the Ramona Gardens community of East LA (where the film was shot) and is aimed at keeping kids safe from gangs and violence. Furthermore, the majority of gang roles in the film were played by ex-gang members.
Despite the gritty painfulness of the story, the film makers made every attempt to not reinforce any negative stereotypes about the Latino community but rather to focus on the intricacies that lead to people making the life choices that they do. It is for this reason that there are no guns or drugs shown in the entire film.
It is a sad fact that all too often movies like this aren’t big money makers, despite the fact that they enrich our understanding of the human condition, and it is because of this that the film is currently only being released in select markets. Mr. Weitz joked about how making “New Moon” is what afforded him the opportunity to make this film. In his presentation he stressed his desire for the film to be made available to everyone, from all walks of life everywhere in the country. However, this can only be done if individuals spread the word and advocate for showings in their local markets. The best way to insure the continuing interest in making these types of films is by seeing them when they are released.
To find out where the film is showing visit http://www.fandango.com/abetterlife_142456/movieoverview!
Also, to hear more commentary from Chris Weitz about the film visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5MiRQlVOG4.