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UCLA Magazine Fall 2003
ˇViva Cinema!
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Fall 2003
¡Viva Cinema!
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HOW DOES UCLA FOSTER SUCCESS stories like Gregory Nava and Carlos Avila, born decades and generations apart, in an industry where finding work, regardless of ethnicity, is almost impossible? Robert Rosen, dean of the School of Theater, Film and Television, cites dual tenets of "excellence in training and fulfilling a public mission" as the prime factors.

"We are unique among the nation's elite film schools in that we are a public institution," Rosen explains. "We have a responsibility to encourage and foster diversity that reflects the community. The evolving demographics of America as a whole, and Los Angeles in particular, direct us toward people who can tell stories about their experiences that will reflect back out to the popular culture. That mission, combined with our mandate to provide the very best hands-on training, facilities and faculty, is what, I believe, attracts such quality artists. Not just Latinos, but African and Asian Americans, and filmmakers of different orientations; these individuals know they'll learn their crafts at one of the best film schools in the world, and be encouraged to find their own voices within their different cultures and personal experiences."

That's cultures, with an s. Contrary to what the advertising industry might have us believe, Latinos are not part of one homogenous ethnic group that spans the globe. Luis Meza, who made the hilarious and little-seen Staccato Purr of the Exhaust, about a car-cruising slacker from East Los Angeles, has little in common with a Colombian archaeologist like Patricia Cardoso, other than they both studied film at UCLA.

Cardoso won the Student Academy Award for her thesis film, The Water Carrier, and was recently voted Filmmaker of the Year by TFT students. Yet the director says she was "alienated" from her Latin American culture when she arrived in the U.S., and had trouble finding common ground with L.A.'s homegrown Latino culture.

"After I left UCLA, I got a job developing the Latin American film program at Sundance because it was one of the few places [other than UCLA] that recognized the differences in Latin cultures," Cardoso explains. "I did not speak much English, and the film school was my main support in Los Angeles. UCLA and Sundance were both like family to me when I was homesick for my own country." Cardoso credits teachers like four-time Academy Award-nominee Richard Marks and his wife, Barbara, with instilling the confidence to keep making films, and with classmates like Avila for getting those films out to a wider audience.

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