Comedically minded Latinos this weekend will be faced with a conundrum:
To see, or not to see Will Ferrel’s new Mexican themed, Spanish language comedy Casa de mi Padre?
Surely, there’s arguments in its favor. Just check out the list of Latino talent involved in the production:
- Gael Garcia Bernal
- Diego Luna
- Genesis Rodriguez
- Pedro Armendáriz, Jr. (in one of his final two roles before his death)
- Adrian Martinez
- Efren Ramirez (of Vote for Pedro fame)
- Manuel Urrego
- Sandra Echeverría
And that’s just naming a few. This film will give all of these actors greater exposure to American audiences, as well as open the door for more mainstream Spanish language entertainment, even Spanish language entertainment produced by US mainstream companies seeking to capitalize on the sudden viability of subtitled movies. It’s an exciting prospect for Latino filmmakers both in the States and abroad. (And not just Latinos, but any potential “foreign language” market.) Here, finally, is a Spanish language film that won’t be relegated to indie houses.
On the other hand, the film is a reminder that, in order to popularize media with a focus on non-Whites in the United States, you need a white person in lead. The film’s biggest – and maybe, judging by the trailers, only – joke seems to be, “Hey, check out Will Ferrel speaking Spanish; isn’t that funny?”; the film is based on the ridiculousness of casting a White star in the lead as a Latino, and plays it up for laughs, but there’s no indication that it’s making fun of the long established practice, or even acknowledging it. It’s just a running gag. This isn’t necessarily the filmmakers’ fault, but let’s be honest: with a Latino in the lead, the film wouldn’t have gotten made.
But maybe I’m just biased. I love Will Ferrel in Melinda and Melinda and Stranger Than Fiction, and I guess Anchorman’s not bad, but overall I’m just not a fan.
I’m going to see Casa de mi Padre, and I really hope I’ll like it. What about you?
UPDATE: Will Ferrel appeared on Jimmy Kimmel last night and did an entire interview en español. It was a bit tedious…but then Diego Luna showed up all handsome like and was awesome. This has allayed our fears a bit.
I’m excited for this movie, but every fiber of my being feels a little dirty for it.
UPDATE 2: A Wall Street Journal article was released on the film. You can read it here, but there are a few choice quotes. For example, the producer seems to acknowledge the issue I mentioned above when he says:
“We wanted to say, ‘Let’s have the Gringo validate it.’ [...] A lot rides on him.”
As for Nala Films’ mission (emphasis mine):
“Casa de mi Padre” is Nala’s first film to hew — somewhat — to the company’s original business plan, which was to make movies in English, but featuring Hispanic actors and themes. After attempting to develop several such projects, Mr. Diez Barrosa says he realized “we, as Latinos, wouldn’t watch these films.” Instead, they focused on movies that would appeal to broad audiences, such as “In the Valley of Elah,” about a soldier who disappears after returning from Iraq, and “Shelter,” a horror movie with Julianne Moore. Last year’s “Ceremony” swiftly went to DVD.
Interesting stuff, there. Sad when even Latino filmmakers give up on Latino audiences – but hey, he’s got to make a living. Is is true that Latinos wouldn’t go to see these films? Why not?