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Oct 20

Rick Najera Talks with Tavis Smiley


Rick Najera

Reposted from SeFija!

Comic/actor/writer/producer Rick Najera sat down with Tavis Smiley on a recent installment of Smiley’s talk show. He talked about his new book Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood, including his own near-death experience, his life in Hollywood, and his view of Latinos in the entertainment industry.

Not so long ago, exhaustion, physical collapse and a head injury put Najera into a coma. He spent two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit, “as close to death as anyone could ever go,” he says. How he recovered and what it meant to him is part of his talk with Tavis. Najera also talked about the potential for “Latino humor” to cross over into other cultures and markets, and the importance of that process. “If you love your culture,” he says, “you can love other cultures. I’m all about inclusive, not exclusive.”

If you missed his talk with Tavis, watch it below. And you can click here to buy Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino, available on Amazon.

Sep 19

The ALMA Awards Live on TV for the First Time, September 27; Eva Longoria and Mario Lopez to host

Reposted from SeFija!

Robert Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson and Carlos Santana to receive special tributes, Tony Plana and Wilmer Valderrama among honorees. Jessica Alba, Alexa Vega, Gina Rodriguez, Rico Rodriguez, the cast of Devious Maids and more to present

Leading Latina actress and activist Eva Longoria (ABC’s Desperate Housewives) will return once again as co-host of the “2013 NCLR ALMA Awards,” joined this year by actor and television personality Mario Lopez (NBC’s Extra, FOX’s The X Factor). The barrier-breaking awards show will broadcast LIVE on MSNBC as a one-hour televised prime-time special on Friday, September 27, 2013, at 10:00 ET/7:00 PT. The awards show will also include complementary programming on MSNBC and mun2 and on digital platforms including and

Eva Longoria and Mario Lopez

The 2013 NCLR ALMA Awards honorees include:

Anthony Quinn Award for Industry Excellence:

Credited with reshaping the cultural landscape by integrating Latino faces, stories and themes into the mainstream with groundbreaking works such as El Mariachi, From Dusk Till Dawn and the Spy Kids franchise, Robert Rodriguez will be presented the Anthony Quinn Award for Industry Excellence by Jessica Alba (Sin City), who will be joined onstage by Machete’s Tito Larriva and Spy KidsDaryl Sabara and Alexa Vega as part of the special tribute.  Actors Cheech Marin, George Lopez and Danny Trejo will also take part in the presentation.

Outstanding Commitment to Cause and Community Award:  CARLOS SANTANA

Music legend Carlos Santana will be recognized for his tireless advocacy for increased access to the arts, education and health care for underprivileged youth, as well as the fight against child poverty and suffering. A ten-time Grammy Award® winner and three-time Latin Grammy Award® winner, Santana is an emblem of success and altruism in the Latino community and worldwide.

Outstanding Commitment to Cause and Community Award: ROSARIO DAWSON

The box-office darling Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Men in Black) will be recognized for distinction in service, where she matches her talents on the big screen with an equal passion for activism in the Latino community. Dawson supports the Lower East Side Girls Club, Voto Latino and other causes and charities that make a difference in the lives of women, protect the environment and have global impact.

Presenters also include: Jessica Alba (Sin City, Machete), Gina Rodriguez (Filly Brown), Rico Rodriguez (Modern Family), the cast of NBC’s new comedy Welcome to the Family (Ricardo Chavira, Justina Machado, Fabrizio Zacharee Guido and Joseph Haro) and the Latina-led cast of Lifetime’s Devious Maids (Roselyn Sanchez, Dania Ramirez, Judy Reyes, Ana Ortiz and Edy Ganem).

In addition, the “2013 NCLR ALMA Awards” will feature three new segments, including a comedic segment with special guest Al Madrigal (The Daily Show), a social media segment with mun2’s Yarel Ramos and Crash and a special performance segment featuring the young singer Sebastien De La Cruz, “El Charro de Oro” (America’s Got Talent).

©2012 Angela María Ortíz S.

A special one-hour pre-show telecast will honor actor, writer and director Tony Plana with the Ricardo Montalban Award for Lifetime Achievement, actor Wilmer Valderrama with the Outstanding Social Activism Award and writer and producer Nancy De Los Santos Reza with the Outstanding Industry and Community Service Award.

The 2013 NCLR ALMA Awards on MSNBC will be live for the first time since its inception in 1995. The telecast, during National Hispanic Heritage Month, will celebrate the contributions of Latinos in the entertainment industry with a look back at this year’s outstanding achievements; tributes to career excellence, outstanding causes and philanthropy; and inspiring music performances and acts. The barrier- breaking awards show is the only nationally televised prime-time English-language program celebrating Latino contributions to entertainment and media.

In addition to the live NCLR ALMA Awards special, MSNBC will also present a one-hour news special discussing issues impacting the Latino community. The special will draw on the most important issues that the Latino community and the country are facing, such as immigration reform and education, as well as the causes featured by the honorees of the awards tributes. Over a two-hour span, viewers will see an exciting show, touching tributes and meaningful discussion connecting some of the biggest names in the Latino community with the important causes and issues that are being addressed to strengthen the country.

The festivities begin Friday, September 27 at 10P Eastern, 7P Pacific on MSNBC. For more information on the event, presenters and nominees, keep checking the NCLR ALMA Awards site here.

Jun 11

2013 RRAFF Career Achievement Award: CARMEN ZAPATA

Carmen Margarita Zapata, born in New York in 1927 to a Mexican father and an Argentine mother, has distinguished herself as an actress, teacher, activist, and leader of Latino Hollywood for more than sixty years.

Carmen began entertaining on the musical stage, making her Broadway debut in the chorus of Oklahoma in 1946, and continuing in regional and summer stock roles in Bloomer Girl, Bells Are Ringing, Guys and Dolls, Carnival (with Liza Minnelli), and many others. In 1956 she appeared on Broadway in The Innkeepers, starring Geraldine Page and directed by Jose Quintero. Carmen was active on the stand-up comedy circuit as well, performing in clubs and hotels across the country while billing herself as “Marge Cameron” in order to encourage non-discriminatory employment.

She returned late to acting in the early 1960s as Carmen Zapata, and the search for ethnic support roles proved both difficult and unfulfilling. It was impossible to steer clear of the severe stereotypes imposed on her, yet she managed to establish a name for herself on 1970s TV. She appeared as a series regular alongside Anthony Quinn in The Man and the City in 1971, played the matriarch in the ethnic family sitcom Viva Valdez in 1976 appeared as Arthur Hill’s housekeeper in the detective drama Hagen in 1980, and had recurring roles in everything from The New Dick Van Dyke Show to Flamingo Road.

Always striving for dignity, intelligence and positiveness in her work, she was often defeated by token appearances that underused her vast talents. When afforded the opportunity she could be quite touching and heartfelt. Dramatic and comedic performances included roles in literally hundreds of dramas and comedies throughout the Seventies and Eighties, from Bonanza and Marcus Welby, M.D. to Wonder Woman, L.A. Law, Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman, and many, many others. She was seen sporadically in the late 1980s and early 1990s on the daytime soap Santa Barbara and most recently appeared as one of the choir nuns in the box-office bonanza Sister Act (1992) and its sequel.

More significantly, Ms. Zapata established herself as a prominent benefactor to the Los Angeles-area performing arts. In 1973 she co-founded the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts (BFA), a resident theater company and organization dedicated to bringing the Hispanic experience and culture to the Southern California community via the medium of bilingual stage productions. Serving as its president and producing director, many honors have been bestowed upon her for her selfless contributions. Establishing a durable relationship with the Los Angeles Unified School District to bring the works of great Hispanic authors to public school students, she has produced over 80 plays on BFA’s mainstage. On TV, she starred as the town mayor for nine seasons on the PBS’ bilingual children’s television show Villa Alegre. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 11

2013 RRAFF Pioneer Award: PEPE SERNA

Pepe Serna, a constant whirlwind of activity and enthusiasm, has been one of the backbones of Latino Hollywood for decades, and one of its most recognizable faces.

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1944, Serna was initially discovered in Roger Corman’s film Student Nurses in 1970, and soon thereafter appeared in the Hal Wallis-produced film Red Sky at Morning in 1971. Within months, he was working steadily on television dramas and comedies that have become classics: Mannix, Kung Fu, Police Story, and on and on. Along the way, he’s appeared in some of Hollywood’s most memorable films, including Scarface, Silverado, Car Wash, and Clint Eastwood’s The Rookie. He was Reno Nevada in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, he was part of Latino landmark films and television projects like Resurrection Blvd., An American Family and American Me. He even played Jennifer Lopez’ father twice, in two different CBS series in the 1990’s, before she became a superstar (for the record: Second Chances and Hotel Malibu).

For more than forty years, Pepe has worked regularly in film and television; he’s still frequently recognized on the street for everything from Miami Vice to “that guy from Dragnet” (or Matlock, or Diagnosis Murder or thirty other TV shows) He’s worked on stage as well, most notably in a one-man show called El Ruco, Chuco, Cholo, Pachuco, Serna’s own version of the panorama of Latino cultural history. Over the years he’s branched into voice-over and cartoon work as well. He played “Sanchez,” the only continued Latino Character in Eddie Murphy’s animated series The PJ’s. Today, he has half a dozen film projects filming or in post-production, often offering his support on projects that include many young Latino talent, including Road to Juarez, Clean Sweep, and Man from Reno.

Serna in “Scarface”

Pepe’s sideline as a painter has met with critical success as well. His vibrant paintings and recent one-man stage shows reflect a serious return to his Mexican roots, and he has been commissioned quite frequently. In fact, Pepe was recently commissioned by the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project and the Mark Taper Foundation to paint an inspirational canvas on the subject of reading. It was turned into a poster and given to students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Pepe has been honored by the Screen Actors Guild Heritage Achievement Award; the League of United Latin American Citizens; and the prestigious Estrella Award for Arts & Culture from the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. His energy, enthusiasm, and constant stream of ideas and projects had made Pepe Serna an important part of the Latino community in Los Angeles, and a valued ally in our continuing cultural movement.

Website: pepeserna

Apr 22

Pimping the Reel Rasquache Art & Film Festival Fundraiser with Lalo Alcaraz

L-r: Lalo Alcaraz, Angela María Ortíz S. and Juan Escobedo

The Reel Rasquache co-director and publisher of Se Fija! Angela María Ortíz S. and RRAFF13 producing consultant, Juan Escobedo, director of Tela Sofa, were on the Pocho Hour with Lalo Alcaraz on Friday, April 19. They Talked about the big fundraiser coming up on Saturday, April 27 at Self Help Graphics in Boyle Heights. If you missed it, you can listing to the show here. A great time time was had by all.

Photos: ©2013 Anselmo S. Ortiz

Mar 15

RRAFF13 Official Selection Trailers

Trailers of some of the films that were seen at RRAFF13.

Bryan Ramirez’ Mission Park (drama)

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 07

2013 RRAFF Trailblazer Award: KENNETH CASTILLO

Independent writer/producer/director Kenneth Castillo has built an impressive portfolio over the last decade or more. In 2000 he and his now-wife Karla Ojeda formed a film production company called Valor Productions; their first project was The Misadventures of Cholo Chaplin, a re-framing of the Charlie Chaplin silent shorts of the 1920’s and 30’s set in the Mexicano world of the Day of the Dead. Some of the Cholo episodes screened at film festivals across the country, and one appeared at the 2007 Cannes film festival and won the Imagen Award for the Best Theatrical Short Film the next year. Since 2008, Kenneth has written and directed four features, a series of “urban Latino” films under the group name of The Drive-By Chronicles: Sidewayz, Ghostown, and Confessions of a Gangster have been picked up by Comcast and Time Warner cable for Video on Demand distribution. Today he has more than half a dozen projects or more in various stage of pre-production, shooting, or post-production.

In spite of all that activity, he doesn’t begin to fit the stereotypical image of the young Hollywood hustler. “I’m not a networking guy,” he says. “I believe in building relationships. They’re truer and they last longer, and they’re more solid than ‘networking’ relationships. I’m proud of the process I’ve developed over the last twelve to fifteen years, proud that the actors want to continue to work with me after they’ve worked with me.”

Castillo’s Counterpunch is the feature film at the center of Reel Rasquache 2013’s closing ceremonies. And there’s plenty of work to be done. This touching and dramatic story of a Cuban boxer out of Miami who suffers from bipolar disorder includes a number of well-known Latino actors in its cast, including Danny Trejo, Steven Bauer, and Yeniffer Behrens, among many others. “A really great cast of established and up-and-coming talent,” Castillo says, and a real challenge for him both creatively and organizationally: he served as co-writer/director on Counterpunch, and the budget was three times larger than what he normally works with.

For Castillo, it’s not about a single project–though he has plenty to his name. It’s about a body of work. “Filmmaking is a craft; You only get better at it by doing it. Other filmmakers want their first film to be a Picasso and it’s just not. They put everything into that one project. But if I’m shooting something that means I’m already writing the next project, and if I’m editing then I’m getting ready to shoot the next project. I never feel like ‘This is the one.’ I never know, I just know at this moment, I have to do the best with what I have. I don’t play this game like the lottery.” Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 28

2013 RRAFF Featured Artist/Vision Award: JUAN SOLIS

Photo: Juan Escobedo

Lupita Dolorosa

Soy Chingon

Juan Solis is an artist whose passion for his art takes him to the outer limits of his imagination, to capture his own reality of life and through his art and to demonstrate the beauty of his community.

As a struggling artist Solis, who began painting when he was 12, never gave up hope that his talent would one day endowed would one day be recognized. In the meantime he spent years studying his craft at various art academies in the United States and Mexico. Returning to the states, he spent eight years at the Academia de Arte Yepes of East Los Angeles, developing and creating his own distinctive techniques under the guidance of world-renowned artist-muralist George Yepes. Growing recognition of his work has led to comment like this from art collector Armando Duron: “There is a reality about his work that puts it one step above the heroic images captured by other artists.”

Juan Solis in front of one of his large panel paintings

In 1995, Solis was one of eight young Hispanic master painters who worked on the Cassini mural with Charles Kohlhase of the Cassini project. This 12’x25’ mural was commissioned by JPL/NASA through the Academia de Arte Yepes. The painters of this stunning blend of art and science were lead by artist Ulysses Garcia. The mural can be seen at JPL in Pasadena, CA. Juan Solis is a resident artist at ChimMaya Art Gallery located in East Los Angeles, CA.

Solis is committed to his community. You often find him painting in his community and being part of philanthropic causes that also benefit the community. Issues dear to him are, education, arts, culture, children and families.

Website: juansolisart


Jan 07

Guillermo del Toro Shows Us “Mamá”…

Originally published at

…the short that was so scary, he had to make it into a movie

On January 11, Guillermo del Toro—working as a producer this time, as he has so often in the last few years–will be premieringMama, a horror film about two young orphan girls adopted by a nearly unrecognizable Jessica Chastain…who seem to bring the mad spirit of their deceased mother with them.

The film is the first feature-length effort of a Spanish brother-and-sister team, Andrés and Barbara Muschietti (writer and producer respectively). Guillermo got a glimpse of it and was so impressed that…well, here, let him tell you the story, in this beautifully produced commentary from Guillermo that include the complete short that started it all.

Scared yet? You’ll be able to see the full-length feature in theaters nationwide beginning January 11.

Jan 07

Jennifer Lopez Returns to Her Action Roots in “Parker”

Originally published at

Given her stellar career in music and her great work in romantic comedy, it’s easy to forget that Jennifer Lopez had some of her first big successes in thrillers and action pictures, notably Steven Soderberg’s Out of Sight with up-and-comer George Clooney and the still-cult-classic Anaconda. Now she’s returning to her sexy-action roots in Taylor Hackford’s (Officer and a Gentleman, Proof of Life) new high-octane thriller Parker, where she’ll co-star with action hero Jason Statham. It’s about what you’d expect from this multi-faceted woman; she recently told Harper’s Bazaar: “I’m a singer. I’m a dancer. I’m a performer. I’m an actress. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing. It makes me a better parent, a better person.”

The movie is not the first to be based on Donald Westlake’s relentless tough-guy thief “Parker,” first seen in a long series of almost thirty novels written from the 1950’s until Westlake’s death in 2008 (other Westlake novels that have been made into movies include Payback, The Grifters, The Stepfather, and The Hot Rock).

Parker also opens the gateway to a lucrative new franchise for everyone involved. Bobby Cannavale and Clifton Collins, Jr. also appear in this story of heists, hostages, and double-crosses, opening nationwide on January 25.

Here’s a featurette on the film, including some face-time with J.Lo herself:

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