by the Latino Collaborative
Cut, no. 38, June 1993, p. 79
The Latino Collaborative is a film and video membership organization, established to support and promote the development, funding, production, and distribution of films and videos made by and about Latinos in the United States. Based in New York, the Collaborative has a growing membership of over 200 nationwide.
The organization was formed in the summer of 1987 after a group of New York-based independent filmmakers met and discussed the need to break the vacuum within which many Latino artists worked. As a result of many meetings and surveys, a series of short and long term goals were developed. The areas of most concern to the members still are funding and the need to provide more visibility for the diversity of Latino films and videos.
One of the Collaborative's achievements has been to identify a network of Latino independents and to create channels for the open flow of information both among its members and with other groups. To this end the organization publishes a bi-monthly newsletter and maintains a members' skill bank. It also has held workshops and seminars on fundraising, grant writing, scriptwriting, directing, and distribution.
The Latino Collaborative is very active in trying to get the work of Latinos distributed and exhibited. As part of that objective, it publishes a Title Directory and holds regular membership screenings. Last year the Collaborative initiated a special bi-monthly screening series in collaboration with Downtown Community Television Center. This series highlight recently produced works of Latinos in a diverse range of subjects and styles. The screenings provide the New York public with a most needed outlet to see works by Latinos. This year, beginning in April, the series will be presented at the Joseph Papp Public Theater.
There is a growing and culturally diverse Latino population in the United States. While media attention on Latino issues has increased in recent years due to the sociopolitical climate, the level of Latino participation in forming these images still needs work. Faced with the usual problems of independent film and video productions, Latino film and videomakers must also deal with the tremendous need for Latinos to establish their own voice within and outside of the community. The Collaborative attempts to address this issue.
Very often Latinos are "rediscovered" by the general public when major film productions like THE MAMBO KINGS are released. These films introduce some elements of Latino cultures to a wide audience, and the producers are to be commended. There are some disturbing elements, however, in terms of their production. For example, THE MAMBO KINGS, a big-budgeted Hollywood movie, retraces the story of two Cuban brothers who come to New York to make it big. While the film is visually beautiful and the music riveting, there is something disturbing about it. Could it be that of the four lead actors, only one is Latino? Could it also be that in a $30 million movie there is not one Latino in the film crew? Of course, producers are quick to point out that there are Latinos in the supporting cast (Celia Cruz and Tito Puente, both musicians) and that the screenwriter, Cynthia Cidre, is Cuban. This is all very true, but it does not change the fact that capable Latino producers and technicians are not regularly hired for Hollywood films, even in those few instances that the production deals with a "Latino" subject So it is up to Latino film and videomakers, and organizations like the Latino Collaborative, to make the film industry aware of this discontent and, more importantly, of the fact that Latino producers and directors are here and are here to stay. As these struggles unfold, the Latino Collaborative will continue to support Latino filmmakers in their efforts to produce independent, alternative media, and to seek wider distribution and exhibition for their work.
For more information on the Latino Collaborative and its services, write or call our offices at: 280 Broadway, Suite 412. New York, NY 10007. 212-732-1121.