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Defining Latino Films

8 Apr, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

LOS ANGELES — What makes a Latino film?

It's not easy to define, both content owners and content creators agreed April 8 at Home Media Magazine's Fifth Annual Latino DVD Conference.

“Specifically targeted to the Latino audience, the cast happens to be Latino, it has a Latino story, the language is Spanish,” offered Ligiah Villalobos, director of La Misma Luna.

Victor Elizalde with Maya Entertainment agreed, “Its subject matter, and of course language, makes a lot of sense when defining a Latino film.”

But while the subject matter, language and cast may determine whether something is a Latino film, the director doesn't have to be Latino, everyone agreed.

“If I defined myself as a Latino filmmaker, I'd get in trouble,” joked Youssef Delara, director of English as a Second Language (ESL).

David Hernandez, director of multicultural marketing for Warner Home Video said, “Just because you have a German director behind the camera, doesn't mean the film is German.”

Marketing Latino content correctly is key in trying to reach America's giant Latino population, panelists agreed. Family friendly fare tends to do well across the board, content owners said, a fact backed by Nielsen Media Research data which showed the top Spanish-language shows as being mostly children's programming and sports.

When it comes to films, big-name Latino actors — Guillermo del Toro, Salma Hayek, Javier Bardem — never hurt, but that's not easy and definitely not cheap. So when it comes to second- and third-generation Hispanics in America, the story becomes the main focus.

“We take some risks of course,” Hernandez said. “We do examine our resources … we make sure we look at previous releases. We use the same machine to put out Latino films (that is used for everything else).”

Maya Entertainment's Victor Elizalde said the “low-hanging fruit” in the world of Latino cinema is urban movies, with low-cost actors, soft production costs and familiar tales for today's younger Latinos. But finding the gems amid all the rough can be tough.

Challenges for content owners also exist when dealing with content creators.

“We're having an issue with a filmmaker right now,” Elizalde said. He described a director of a ‘PG-13,' sci-fi youth movie not wanting the film subtitled in English at all. Elizalde said the director told them “This is very much a Mexican film.”

“No subtitles, no deal,” Elizalde said. “And we want a dub.”

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