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Thumbnails Special Edition: National Hispanic Heritage Month

Thumbnails is a roundup of brief excerpts that usually introduces you to articles from other websites that we found interesting and exciting. In this instance, however, we are doing a roundup of articles from our own site and elsewhere spotlighting coverage of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 - October 15th.—Chaz Ebert


"How the invisibility of Latinix people is enabling Trump": As affirmed by "El Norte" director Gregory Nava in his impassioned op-ed published at The Los Angeles Times.

“The mass deportations that swept up my grandfather and nearly 2 million more like him are a disgraceful but largely forgotten chapter of American history. Now this nightmare is happening all over again. How can that be? How can President Trump get away with and even gain pubic approval by scapegoating the Latinx community 90 years after President Hoover did? To me, a filmmaker who has dedicated his life to making movies and television series that create an understanding and empathy of the Latinx American experience, the answer is simple: Latinos and Latinas have been rendered virtually invisible in popular culture. That invisibility is enabling history to repeat itself. A recent study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative spells it out clearly and dismally: Latinos and Latinas are 20% of the U.S. population, but only 4.5% of the nearly 50,000 speaking or named characters parts in major movies over the last 12 years. And only 3% of those roles were lead or co-lead actors. Even worse, when we are portrayed, too often we’re presented as criminals and ‘narcos.’ The study’s conclusion is obvious: ‘At a time where Latinos in our country are facing intense concerns over their safety, we urgently need to see the Latino community authentically and accurately represented throughout entertainment.’”


"We Are a Nation of Immigrants: Gregory Nava on His Masterpiece, 'El Norte'": I had the honor of interviewing the Oscar-nominated director and history-maker for

“The Hoover administration had a policy of ‘real jobs for real Americans,’ and since people of Mexican descent were not considered real Americans, between one and two million of them were deported in cattle cars to Mexico. A majority of them were citizens from the United States, and among them was my grandfather. His deportation broke up my family. My father was raised without a father, and the pain of this forced separation haunts our family to this day. I have relatives I didn't even know I had. I recently met one of my father’s sisters, who is now in her 90s. She was born in the United States and she doesn't speak English anymore. When I see families being separated on the border today, I know that the pain they generate will last for generations. So my idea for ‘El Norte’ was born in the middle, at the border, but I understood that the border was simply part of a process. The story had to go deeper into Latin America, so you could understand the world where the people came from and why they had to leave it, as well as go deeper into el Norte—the United States—so that people could understand what happens to them after they arrive.  It suddenly became this epic story of an epic journey embarked upon by these two unaccompanied minors to find a better life and to save their own lives. If they get captured in el Norte and are taken back to Guatemala, that’s a death sentence for them, and the situation is still the same today. People are fleeing horrific violence in Central America, and the same people who were part of these oppressive forces 35 years ago—when there was civil war in Guatemala and Salvador—are the same people who are in control now and perpetrating the current violence with the cartels in Guatemala. What would you do if you were Rosa and Enrique today? You would do what they did, because everybody has a right to find a better life and to save their life. They shouldn’t be expected to wait around until they are killed just to satisfy some policy that the current administration is trying to put forward.”


"The Golden Cage Loses its Shine: A Personal Reflection on Gregory Nava's 'El Norte'": Penned by our invaluable contributor, Carlos Aguilar.

“¡Querías norte! (You wanted the north!), we tell each other cheekily as response to any complaints about the troubles with the American dream. We pretend there was ever much of a feasible alternative. For those that come as a last resort, should they not venture into the unknown for a shot at earning enough cash so that does that stayed don’t struggle? And for those whose lives were livable there but devoid of upward mobility, are they not allowed to aspire to more? If the answer is no, then millions, including myself, are condemned to our circumstance by birth. Coincidentally, ‘El Norte’ hit theaters the same year famed U.S. -based, Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte released their blistering song ‘La Jaura de Oro,’ which narrates the conflicted sentiments of an undocumented Mexican man for whom the United States has become a golden cage. Its lyrics detail the conundrum of being able to support his household, but simultaneously feeling trapped while unable to return home even if only for a visit, and seeing his Americanized children losing sight of their origins. The track questions, ‘what’s money good for if I’m like a prisoner inside this great nation, when I remember I cry, even if the cage is golden it doesn’t stop being a prison.’ It goes on to explain that this man’s world is contained between his job and his house. He doesn’t go out much, as he's terrified of being randomly apprehended and deported. Now, though he’s succeeded at obtaining certain material goals, his humanity remains compromised. First it’s perceived as paradise, then the golden cage loses its shine. The tables turn, and in a cloud of nostalgia the promised land becomes the one you left, the one you’ve longed for all these years. It’s a difficult feeling to explain, to want to stay inside the enclosure because security, often both economic and physical, is within its bars, while developing a growing yearning for ‘el sur’ (the south), where there was a sense of belonging.”


"Pablo Larraín and Mariana Di Girolamo on 'Ema'": The Chilean director joins the lead actress of his latest film to chat with our critic Monica Castillo at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“[Castillo:] ‘Motherhood plays such a big role in this movie, but it's very precarious. You have a social worker saying that she's unfit to be a mother, but she's so insistent to be a mother. What is it that the movie is trying to address here?’ [Larraín:] ‘Who’s going to tell anyone that this is not good and that they’re unfit to be a mother? How dare you—the system, people, you, me, whoever we are—think you can do that. I think that movies have never been about that, the things that say like that or how it feels for a woman to say that to another woman. I don't think anyone can tell a person if she can be a mother or he can be a father. That's a very internal private decision.’ [Di Girolamo:] ‘She wants to be a mother just like any woman who wants to be a mother. She’s willing to re-order her life in order to become a mother. So adoption didn’t work out, she’s going to try another method to have her family—whatever it takes.’ [Larraín:] ‘I keep thinking about this idea of a modern family, like families that have new shapes in life. Family is probably the very first human institution. That's how we all came to this planet—it’s as old as humanity. Over millions of years, there have been a lot of different families so I'm not sure we’re inventing the wheel here. I think in the past, there have been a number of combinations of families in all kinds of circumstances. We're just showing another way, that's probably particular.’”


"Roger Ebert's Celebration of Hispanic Filmmakers": Check out out compilation of his reviews analyzing the work of such acclaimed talents as Pedro Almodóvar, Luis Buñuel, Alfonso Cuarón and many others.

“Alfonso Cuarón is Mexican but his second and third features were big-budget American films. I thought 'Great Expectations' (1998), with Ethan HawkeGwyneth Paltrow and Anne Bancroft, brought a freshness and visual excitement to the updated story. I liked 'A Little Princess' (1995) even more. It is clear Cuaron is a gifted director, and here he does his best work to date. Why did he return to Mexico to make it? Because he has something to say about Mexico, obviously, and also because Jack Valenti and the MPAA have made it impossible for a movie like this to be produced in America. It is a perfect illustration of the need for a workable adult rating: too mature, thoughtful and frank for the R, but not in any sense pornographic. Why do serious film people not rise up in rage and tear down the rating system that infantilizes their work? The key performance is by Maribel Verdu as Luisa. She is the engine that drives every scene she's in, as she teases, quizzes, analyzes and lectures the boys, as if impatient with the task of turning them into beings fit to associate with an adult woman. In a sense she fills the standard role of the sexy older woman, so familiar from countless Hollywood comedies, but her character is so much more than that--wiser, sexier, more complex, happier, sadder. It is true, as some critics have observed, that 'Y Tu Mama' is one of those movies where 'after that summer, nothing would ever be the same again.' Yes, but it redefines 'nothing.'

Image of the Day

Isabelia Herrera of The New York Times asks whether National Hispanic Heritage Month needs a rebrand in this essential read. Photo by Michael Ainsworth of the Associated Press.

Video of the Day

Here's the trailer for the new 4K restoration of Gregory Nava's "El Norte," which is available on multiple formats in a pristine Criterion edition.

Matt Fagerholm

Matt Fagerholm is the former Literary Editor at and is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. 

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