Monday, May 4, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ The Mark of Zorro (1920)

In The Mark of Zorro (1920), Douglas Fairbanks Sr. plays the title role of Zorro, a masked crusader out to defend and fight for the interests of the oppressed. In his world, this is everyone who is subject to the law (governor, soldiers, sargeants, etc) which is corrupt. By day, he is a soft, jaded rich boy with a delicate education from Spain, the motherland, but whenever the oppressed people of his community needs him, he transforms into the masked Zorro, a genuine hero full of masculine bravado and good intent. No one knows Zorro's true identity, not even his love interest Lolita who he is wooing as both versions of himself. Can he save his townspeople from oppresion and win the heart of Lolita? Zorro can do anything!

This silent classic was produced by Douglas Fairnbanks' production company and was the first feature film release of United Artists, which Fairbanks started with Chaplin and his wife Pickford among others. This was the first in a series of swashbuckling movies that Fairbanks did, which made him vastly popular. Fans of his son Douglas Fairbanks Jr. might remember him mocking his father's performance in the film Our Dancing Daughters. In the cast is also Noah Beery, brother of Wallace Beery and Walt Whitman, although no relation to the poet (darn!).

I thoroughly enjoyed this silent film. Fairbanks was quite acrobatic and his stunts were enjoyable to watch. The representation of Mexican/Spanish people in the film I thought was done very respectfully. What I found interesting is that although the main division is between the townspeople and the law, there is a cultural division between the light-skinned noble Spanish blood which is higher in ranking than the dark-skinned natives. As I am fascinated with early Dominican culture, these kind of cultural divisions always fascinate me.

Level of Brown Face: 2 out of 5 shades

Oh my! Those pants are rather tight, aren't they Mr. Fairbanks?

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Tuesday May 5th

Ramona (1910)
The Mark of Zorro (1920)
Old San Francisco (1927)
Big Stakes (1922)
In Old Arizona (1929)
The Gay Desperado (1936)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

People En Español ~ Latinos Channeling Classic Film Stars

What seems like absolute perfect timing for TCM's Latino Images in Film, People En Español magazine came out with their annual issue Los 50 Mas Bellos de 2009 (50 Most Beautiful of 2009). In the current issue, the feature a handful of Hispanic celebrities dressed as classic film stars in their iconic roles. This kind of reinvisioning the past with contemporary stars is not new, in fact Vanity Fair does this all of the time (see my previous post about last year's March-Hitchcock issue). However, I was surprised to see People En Español participate. Pleasantly surprised. They are loose interpretations by all means but I'm glad they at least exist! Please make sure you check out the website or pick up a copy of the magazine. However, just to warn you that it really is in en Español!

Friday, May 1, 2009

TCM's Latino Images in Film Festival

After successful runs with their Asian Images in Film, Screened Out: Gay Images in Film and African-American Images in Film, Turner Classic Movies is giving my people their due with Latino Images in Film festival for the month of May. I have been super excited about this festival since I heard about it a few months ago on the TCM message boards. On Tuesday and Thursdays, TCM will air 5 films that deal touch upon Latino culture and issues. They also have a snazzy new site devoted to the festival (check it out here).

Why am I excited about this? Because I'm a Latina. I'm first generation American and my mother is 100% full-blooded Hispanic from the Dominican Republic. I am fluent in Spanish, I eat my arroz con habichuelas and have the cadera to prove it. What does it mean to be a Latina? For me it means maintaining the culture, learning about my heritage and embracing that Latina fire and passion that runs through my veins.

Classic films are predominantly Caucasian but it has been surprising to find out over the years how many films either have Latino characters or showcase Latino actors. With TCM's list of films for their festival, I have discovered even more!

In honor of Latino Images in Film, I'll be doing a month long series on this blog. For the first three weeks I'll be posting a review of one film on Mondays and Wednesdays before it airs the next day and will also include the following day's full schedule. I'll be reviewing a total of 6 films and all of them happen to be available on DVD just in case you don't have TCM. I hope this will encourage you to watch the films or at least be aware of the films that are out there. For the last week, I tentatively have planned a Latino Images in Film contest.

Each review will contain a summary, background information and what I think about the representation of Latinos in the film. I'll also include a rating level of "Brown Face". Brown face is what I call the Hispanic equivalent to Black face. This is when they take Caucasian actors and put some dark make-up on them to make them look more ethnic. They also used Mediterannean and olive-skinned European actors to look Latino and I also consider this a form of Brown face. I'll point out along the way the level of brown face in each film.

Disclaimer - I'm doing this purely because I want to and not because I was asked to.

I hope you'll enjoy the series!

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