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Life Imitates Art

2 May, 2006 By: Angelique Flores

What started as a short film became a rallying tool for the recent wave of immigrant protests and the May 1 Day Without an Immigrant boycott.

The 2004 film A Day Without a Mexican, on DVD from Visual Entertainment and Xenon Pictures, is seeing a resurgence of interest.

With both the boycott and Cinco de Mayo in mind, Visual and Xenon offered the $14.99 DVD to retailers at a 15% discount through May 5.

“There's been a spike in shipments as a result,” said Tom O'Malley, GM of Visual Entertainment.

The title is also back among Amazon.com's Top 5-selling Latino-American DVDs.But it's not just the discount that's raising consumer interest.

Xenon also has been receiving interview requests from TV stations and requests for EPK information for broadcasting on CNN, NHK (Japan), Telemundo and Univision, said Kristi Alires, VP of product management for Xenon.

Yareli Arizmendi, who starred in the film — which she co-wrote with husband and director Sergio Arau — is receiving upwards of 100 e-mails daily with requests to re-release the film in theaters and screen it on university campuses and agricultural communities, and for other organizations.

“It's symptomatic of what's going on,” Arizmendi said. “It's of out of our hands. People have made the film their own.”

The controversial film, about a day when Latinos inexplicably disappear all over California, grossed $4.2 million at the domestic box office in limited release and $10.1 million worldwide. The title has been on DVD since Nov. 9, 2004, and has sold nearly 500,000 units.

And Xenon is making sure the film gets into more people's hands with a repromotion.

Xenon sent a street team to the rally in downtown Los Angeles May 1 to hand out A Day Without a Mexican screeners, T-shirts and posters. Also, radio stations are running promotional ads and giving away DVDs in Miami, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, San Diego and Norfolk, Va. The marketing promotion will continue through May, and more street teams may be sent to other protests, possibly in other states.

“This film was made at the forefront of the movement,” O'Malley said. “The filmmakers clearly had foresight.”

A Day Without a Mexican debuted as a short in 1998, when it was screened at film festivals nationwide. That year, a few attempts were made to have a “day without a Latino” in such cities as Chicago and San Antonio, where the short was screened. About 100 people participated, Arizmendi said.

Still, filmmakers had no idea that a real day without a Latino would occur at such a national scale as it did May 1.

“It was something that we wanted to happen,” said Arizemendi, who marched on May 1 in Los Angeles and documented the event.

Arizemendi is pleased the mainstream media has been addressing the issue raised in the film, which is being used as an organizing tool and a reference point for discussion.

“It gives people a common language,” Arizmendi said. “It's opening dialogue between voters and politicians and changing discussions.”

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