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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."
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.