SXSW 2000 Film Festival and Conference

Latino Filmmaking panel (l-r): Gregory Nava, Guillermo del Toro, Ray Santistenban, and Carlos Avila
Latino Filmmaking panel (l-r): Gregory Nava, Guillermo del Toro, Ray Santistenban, and Carlos Avila (Photo By John Anderson)

Latino Filmmaking Panel

Gregory Nava, Guillermo del Toro, Ray Santisteban, Carlos Avila

"There's a wonderful phrase in Hollywood," says Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, Mimic). "It's your movie -- but can you do it this way?"

Doing it his way is an ongoing quest for del Toro, as well as for U.S. Latino filmmakers Gregory Nava (Mi Familia, Selena) and Carlos Avila (Price of Glory), who discussed the highs and lows of working in Hollywood to an audience of about 100 people. Each filmmaker spoke of experiences in which, despite their successes, they've been asked to prove their skills and choices again and again. Even the critical success of Nava's 1983 film El Norte did not make his battles any easier, particularly in casting.

"When casting Mi Familia, the studio [New Line] said, 'Let's get Marisa Tomei and De Niro,' and I said, 'Are you fucking nuts?' " Nava pushed for an all-Latino cast including the then-unknown Jennifer Lopez. "I fought and fought and fought for her. Now, they can't wait to get her again. I didn't want to have an all-Latino cast for political reasons, but because it [was] artistically right," he said.

While the wave of Latino popularity has pushed projects their way, the flip side is that Hollywood expectations of Latino filmmakers is sometimes narrowly focused, as when horror filmmaker del Toro was approached to direct Zorro. "Why?" he asked. "Is he a vampire?"

Still, the development of new visual media and rapidly expanding delivery systems can only provide opportunities and new ways of "telling our stories." Above all, vigilance to one's vision is essential, the filmmakers agreed.

"You have to pave your own road," Nava said. "We're all Don Quixote."

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