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UCLA Magazine Fall 2003
ˇViva Cinema!
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Fall 2003
¡Viva Cinema!
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The son of migrant farm laborers, Nogales says there's more at stake with Latino representation than TV ratings or box office. "This is about the way a population is going to be portrayed if they are absent from the tube or screen, or are depicted in a stereotypical fashion. State, federal and county resources are allocated to communities for job development, education and small-business infrastructure," he says, "and if we, as Latinos, are not visible in the industry that creates popular culture, that can have a negative outcome."

Changing Latino stereotypes in the media is a mission for most of the Latino filmmakers associated with UCLA. Valdes has worked with Clint Eastwood on 17 films, and has tried to "replace racial and gender stereotypes wherever and whenever we could." He recalls that in the early '90s he was asked to help Latinos gain ground in Hollywood. "At that time, there was no Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas or Jennifer Lopez, and going into a studio with an all-Latino cast and story was impossible," Valdes says. "Latinos were being cast, as they still are today, in roles that didn't fully represent our culture — gardeners, maids, car thieves. The usual stuff. There was definitely an imperative to try and make a difference."

THE GAINS MAY SEEM MINOR, at times, but Valdes insists they leave their mark. For his current film, Open Range, Valdes convinced director Kevin Costner to cast Diego Luna, the young Mexican star of Y Tu Mamá También, even though the part was not specified as Latino.

"It's a more realistic version of the Old West [having Diego in the role]," Valdes intones, "yet it was an afterthought that I had to suggest because Latinos are so far off Hollywood's radar. The studios are not rushing to make films about Ruben Salazar or César Chávez, even though these men were great Americans and heroes to millions of people. Los Angeles is not rushing to support its own Latino museum, even though it is a city named in Spanish and was in the hands of Mexicans for centuries. I tell Latino filmmakers at UCLA that they are part of a special place that values their heritage. I tell them to follow their dreams and make films about their culture, even if Hollywood is not always receptive. Change comes slowly in this industry. But without film programs like UCLA that celebrate diversity, it may not come at all."

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