Telling the Latino story in Hollywood

Although the Latino population has grown exponentially during the last few decades, the movie industry still portrays them in a highly skewed way. “We are rarely the center of the story, rarely pivotal,” says actor Esai Morales in a segment for HBO’s “Habla.” However, there are Latino writers and producers that have made it a point to tell their stories by bringing their history, challenges, and backgrounds to Hollywood.
lifestyle_detail_media_filename_6_hollywoodAccording to a study done by MTV’s Latino network, there are only five percent of Latino actors in film and television. In addition, there is also “…a lack of Latino films,” says Javier Chapa, director, producer and founder of Hippo Films. “It’s almost criminal how underserved the Latino community is in this town.”

In past projects, Chapa has taken the initiative to celebrate the Latino culture and create awareness of the richness of the community. “It’s about not forgetting where you come from,” he said.

In one of his recent projects, Chapa released a low-budget film called “Pepe & Santo versus America,” a story of hard work and struggle written and directed from a Latino perspective.

Like Chapa, producer and editor, Christian Moldes, says that among other things, his aim is to be truthful within his storytelling, and remaining true to his heritage. “What I mean to say is that all of my decisions both creatively and in business are directly influenced by my background and upbringing,” he says.

A Puerto Rican native with Cuban heritage, Moldes worked on “Reservado”, a movie that depicts the violence in Ciudad Juarez. The film was so well accepted that it has remained within the film festival circuit. Living in various locations in the U.S. and Latin America, he witnessed the violence in Juarez, that was caused by the infamous unsolved murders of maquiladora workers and the violence generated by the drug war.

“I felt powerless as a spectator, but powerful as an artist,” he says. “[This film] was not just to entertain, but to educate the audience. A lot of it was socially aware. [The movie is about] living a normal life in the midst of violence.”

As a Latino in the film industry, Moldes provides his audience with a different perspective of storytelling.

“I will be using my Latino insight and experience for future screenplays and projects down the line,” he says. “I have to. In fact, I can’t help it.”

The Latino story is multifaceted, something that the mainstream film industry doesn’t quite understand, says Moldes, though it’s something that Moldes and Chapa are attempting to figure out.

Chapa finds stories to be more appealing to mainstream as well as Latino audiences, if they “have a Latino feel with a U.S. appeal and are centered around a universal theme.”

Regardless of the mainstream movie industry, Chapa and Moldes are making an effort to tell their stories and of those who have been silent for so long.

“It’s a beautiful, colorful culture. Why can’t we express that?” says Chapa.

Originally published by

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