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UCLA Magazine Fall 2003
ˇViva Cinema!
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Fall 2003
¡Viva Cinema!
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Since Sundance is the film industry's point of discovery for young moviemakers, Cardoso knew her life was about to change. She flashed back 90 minutes to just before the lights went down. "I first met Patricia Cardoso at UCLA," said Gilmore M.A. '79, director of the Sundance Festival, as he introduced her film. "Her editing room was across from my office [at UCLA's Film and Television Archive], and from the moment I saw her student work, I knew this was a filmmaker with something to say."

Real Women Have Curves — based on a stage play written by Josefina Lopez M.F.A. '00, who co-wrote the screenplay — had plenty to say for Latino cinema: Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance, special jury honors for Lupe Ontiveros and America Ferrera, the mother-daughter team at the heart of the film's Mexican-American appeal, and a $6-million U.S. box office. Cardoso M.F.A. '94, an archaeologist from Bogotá, Colombia, came to UCLA as a Fulbright Scholar in 1987. The first Latina filmmaker to make a meaningful mark at the American box office, she joins an astounding roll call of UCLA moviemakers — Carlos Avila M.F.A. '91; Neal Jimenez '83; Moctesuma Esparza '71, M.F.A. '73; Luis Meza '96; Sylvia Morales '71, M.F.A. '79; Gregory Nava '71, M.F.A. '76; Victor Nunez M.F.A '71; and David Valdes '76 among them — who shape the past, present and future of Latino cinema.

"UCLA's production program in the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media has the highest Latino-student ratio (25 percent) of any film school in the nation, and most likely the highest percentage of Latino students of any other professional school on campus," notes Chon Noriega, professor of critical studies in the department and the director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. "It has always nurtured those voices who struggle most to be heard — African Americans, Asians and Latinos. There's a direct link between the diversity programs begun at UCLA three decades ago and the impact Latino filmmakers have in today's marketplace."

Noriega, the nation's preeminent scholar of ethnic media and Chicano cinema, points to late '60s/early '70s-era undergraduate programs like ethnocommunications, created by film students to attract minority talent to UCLA, as watershed events. According to Noriega, ethnocommunications gave rise to politically active Latino filmmakers like Morales and Jose Luis Ruiz, who were involved in ethnocommunications as undergraduates before entering the M.F.A. program and diversifying that student body. These same students would go on to produce some of the most effective public-affairs and community programming of its time. Ruiz is notable for having served a lengthy stint as executive director of the National Latino Communications Center; Morales returned to UCLA for her M.F.A. degree and made the groundbreaking PBS documentary Chicana, which focused social and political attention on Mexican-American women.

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