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2019: Muchas Gracias, Mexico
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2019: Muchas Gracias, Mexico

This episode will look at the success of Mexican film artists at the Oscars―Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro Gonzalez lfiarritu, Guillermo del Toro, and Emmanuel Lubezki and why US Latinx filmmakers and films are far less prevalent in the industry overall.

Guests: America Ferrera, actress/producer; Patssi Valdez, artist and founding member of the Chicano artist collective ASCO; Vanessa Erazo, entertainment journalist/critic/film curator; Carlos Aguilar, journalist/film critic; Gregory Nava, filmmaker

Academy Museum digital engagement platforms, including this podcast, are sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies

Support for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford, who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live.This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Jacqueline Stewart 0:00

Back in 2019, Vanessa Erazo was the film and TV editor at Remezcla, a small but respected Latinx media site. And she was determined to get one of her reporters to cover the Oscars in person.

Vanessa Erazo 0:13

I, I was really looking for us to get more attention and to be respected as an outlet. You know, the more, the more kind of prestige you have, the more likely you have publicists answer you and say yes, and give you, you know, access to talent for interviews.

Jacqueline Stewart 0:28

Hundreds of media companies worldwide apply for a press pass to the Academy Awards. After an initial rejection -

Vanessa Erazo 0:35

I got another email saying that we had been accepted.

She called up one of her reporters, Carlos Aguilar, and started preparing for the big day. [E. Scott Kelly music plays]

Carlos and I got together, I was like, Hey, let's put together a document of all the categories that were of interest to us. We need to anticipate who would win and what questions we would ask to them that would be relevant to our outlet.

Carlos Aguilar 0:58

You also have to understand that you might have a chance to only ask one question.

Jacqueline Stewart 1:02

This is Carlos, the freelancer reporter for Remezcla.

Carlos Aguilar 1:05

And what is that one question, you know? Cause you cannot do any follow up. That you know, as Vanessa saying, that question had to count for something, had to really be meaningful.

Jacqueline Stewart 1:14

They both quickly realized that there was one nominated movie in particular that they were gravitating toward.

Vanessa Erazo 1:21

Pretty much Roma, I think, in all the categories was like that's of interest to us.

Jacqueline Stewart 1:28

Roma is the semi-autobiographical film written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron about his childhood in Mexico City. It's focused on the relationship between a white Mexican family and the indigenous woman who worked in their home. It seemed to be a front runner to win Best Picture that year.

Vanessa Erazo 1:45

We wrote out questions, you know, with different scenarios. If they win Best Picture, then we're going to ask Cuaron and we had a question for you know, their producer. If, if you know, we had to prepare for all scenarios. If Yalitza wins, what would we ask her?

Jacqueline Stewart 1:59

Yalitza Aparicio is the star of Roma, and is of Mixtec and Trique heritage. She was only the second indigenous woman to be nominated for Best Actress - after Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated in 2002 for Whale Rider.

Vanessa Erazo 2:14

Roma's going to win something, we knew that, right. Roma's gonna win something. It may not be like the actresses or this or that. But, if we only have chance for one question, then we had that at the top. We're gonna ask Alfonso Cuaron about the difference between Latin American filmmakers and U.S. Latino filmmakers, because that's the thing we want the world to be talking about right now.

Jacqueline Stewart 2:36

And so Vanessa and Carlos had a game plan in place for Oscar's night coverage. But press has to go through a lot of steps before actually attending the Awards, as Carlos soon learned.

Carlos Aguilar 2:47

You, you have to go a few days in advance to pick up your credential and to get an explanation of how the room operates with the things that you can and cannot do. You know, the way that you have to dress, you know, 'cause even even if you're in that, only in that room, because you're going to be in the presence of the winners, you have to be dressed as if you were attending the actual award. So women are asked to be in gowns or in dressy suits and men have to wear tuxedos or suits. You know, I remember I went to the alleys in downtown LA and that's where I bought my, you know, my tux to wear to the Oscars, a blue tux. You know, because it was also very significant for me. I will, I've been a long, you know, long time movie fan and Oscar fan. I've been watching since I was very young. I grew up in Mexico City. I'm a DACA recipient and you know that all these things just make it very unlikely for me to think that I will ever be in that room. Right, or walking down the carpet and entering that space.

Jacqueline Stewart 3:38

Wearing his blue tuxedo, Carlos showed up February 24th, 2019 to the Loews Hollywood Hotel where press set up shop.

So when you're when you're there, what what is that room like?

Carlos Aguilar 3:52

It's like a, like a, like a hall for a wedding, you know, inside the the hotel right next to the Adobe Theater. I calculate, there's probably to a 150 to maybe 200 people in that room. You see all these people in the little stations, you know.

Vanessa Erazo 4:08

Being in the room, Carlos felt the pressure of coming from a smaller and scrappy outlet like Remezcla.

Carlos Aguilar 4:14

I remember that some people within the, in the flashy outlets, they can pay for the internet, you know, because you don't have internet access while you're in that room. So some folks have like, their little routers by themselves. There's a lot of tables with a lot of journalists from around the world. And you know, a lot of them are there to ask questions specifically to their countries or to the major talent so the the chances of you getting to ask the question are very slim.

Vanessa Erazo 4:41

All the journalists were multitasking between answering texts, emails and paying attention to the live broadcast as the show began.

Tina Fey 4:48

[Academy Awards sound bite] Good evening and welcome to the one millionth Academy Award! [Audience laughs]

Vanessa Erazo 4:54

The ceremony had no host, but Maya Rudolf, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler did the show opener.

Maya Rudolf 5:00

[Academy Awards sound bite] So just a quick update for everybody in case you're confused. There is no host tonight, there won't be a popular movie category, and Mexico is not paying for the wall. [Applause, laughter]

Vanessa Erazo 5:11

The way it works for the press is that they see the award handed out and the acceptance speech.

Maya Rudolf 5:16

[Academy Awards sound bite] And the Oscar goes to... Regina King! [Applause]

Jacqueline Stewart 5:24

And then the winner goes to the press room to take questions.

Margaret Crowe 5:24

[Press Room sound bite] Regina, congratulations!

Regina King 5:29

[Press Room sound bite] Thank you.

Margaret Crowe 5:29

[Press Room sound bite] First of all, my name is Margaret Crowe with KNX Radio.

Regina King 5:32

[Press Room sound bite] Heyyy.

Margaret Crowe 5:26

[Press Room sound bite] The what was it - How sweet was it to have your mom there?

Carlos Aguilar 5:37

And so you're in there, you know, fully dressed, and you know, expecting the winners to be announced. And then you know, there's uh, a system that you know, you have to - You're given a number and you have to raise your number when you want to ask the question. And if you're picked, you get to ask the question.

Press Room Announcer 5:52

[Press Room sound bite] So we're going to 116 and then back to 258...

Press Room Reporter 5:55

[Press Room sound bite] Congratulations, right here...

Carlos Aguilar 5:57

The more famous the person that you want to ask the question, the less likely is that you will you will get to ask. It's a very sort of like tense scenario.

Vanessa Erazo 6:05

Around the halfway mark that night, Best Foreign Language Film is announced.

Javier Bardem 6:10

[Academy Awards sound bite] And the Oscar goes to... Roma! [Cheering and applause]

Carlos Aguilar 6:20

It was Mexico's first international Oscar win. So there were Mexican outlets and U.S. Latino outlets, uh Spanish outlets like, you know, Univision or Telemundo also wanting to talk to him.

Alfonso Cuaron 6:20

[Academy Awards sound bite] Eh, I grew up watching uh, eh, foreign language films and learning so much from them and being inspired. Films like The Citizen Kane, Jaws, [audience cheering, laughing softly] uh, Rashomon, The Godfather - I'm breathless.

Vanessa 6:48

When Alfonso Cuaron got up in front of the press room, Carlos raised his number and against the odds, he's picked.

Carlos Aguilar 6:56

[Press Room sound bite] Carlos Aguilar from Remezcla. Um there's a lot of film [laughing]...

Vanessa Erazo 7:00

Well, I I told Carlos, I'm like, that must be like, getting the chance to, you know, ask a question, must be like, the feeling of winning an Oscar. You know, you're like, oh, my God, everyone's looking at me. I gotta get it right.

Carlos Aguilar 7:15

[Press Room sound bite] There's a lot of films being made in Mexico and Latin America, because the government there funds or helps on the the films of those film makers, but U.S. Latinos born in the U.S., uh don't have the same access. What do you think uh needs to change for Latinos in the U.S.?

Alfonso Cuaron 7:28

[Press Room sound bite] You know, th- this this this uh a interesting question, because there's so much talk about diversity. And uh, and and I mean, some progress has been made. But definitely the Hispanic and Hispanic Americans and specifically, Chicanos are really really badly represented still.

Press Room Announcer 7:30

[Press Room sound bite] So let's go to --

Alfonso Cuaron 7:47

[Press Room sound bite] You know, it's uh, it's it's amazing, you know, is uh a and is, I mean, it's a huge percentage of the population, so...

Jacqueline Stewart 7:55

[Nicolas Britell music plays] I'm Jacqueline Stewart. Welcome to The Academy Museum podcast. This is our first season: And the Oscar goes to... In every episode, we'll revisit a specific Oscar ceremony. Today - 2019. We'll be hearing from filmmakers, actors and critics about what Roma's success meant for U.S. Latinx films and filmmakers. [BREAK]

Roma was a big win for Mexico. But Carlos and Vanessa wanted people to understand that the success of Roma was not necessarily a step forward for Latinos, and more specifically, U.S. Latinos, a group that continues to be greatly under represented in front of and behind the camera.

Carlos Aguilar 8:48

You know, U.S. Latinos, U.S. born or U.S. based Latinos don't have the same access that filmmakers from Latin America have to make films and that their stories are different.

Vanessa Erazo 8:58

I come from the film festival world. Uh, so I have worked as a film programmer, San Francisco Latino Film Festival, the New York Latino Film Festival. And that was something that I saw this gap, you know, between U.S. Latino filmmakers and Latin American filmmakers. Latin American immigrants have reached a level of success that U.S. Latinos are far behind and still trying to reach for various reasons. But it comes down to really like class and access to film school, filmmaking, capital. Money is really what it is about, right.

Jacqueline Stewart 9:34

Could you explain that more, what those resources are?

Vanessa Erazo 9:38

Yeah, you know, and I don't want to paint like this rosy picture about filmmaking in Latin America, because obviously it's been a struggle there to make films, particularly in the 80s and 90s. You can go back to interviews and hear Guillermo del Toro or Alfonso Cuaron or Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to like, they came to the states for a reason. Their generation didn't have a lot of opportunity back in their countries. But they all come from a certain social class that is more privileged than most U.S. Latinos here. But around, I think it's maybe the late 90s, early 2000s, there was like legislation passed in a lot of Latin American countries that provided government funding for independent cinema, right? Because there are not film studios in the same way that there are here. Right. So this government funding is really what has been really instrumental in raising the level of Latin American cinema. So you'll see, you know, starting in the 2000s, is when Mexicans are winning Cannes and like taking over like, there is this Latin American nonprofit that promotes Latin American filmmaking called Cinema Tropical, and the founder of that, Carlos Gutierrez, he jokes like because it was three years in a row, I believe that Mexican directors won at at Cannes, and he called it like MexicanUS? You know, like, which I thought was hilarious. But there was this profile raised here in the United States. This is the richest country in the world, it's the you know, the most like, potent economy that there is, we are not seen as needing help from the outside. So there's all these European Film funds that say we want to help the developing world, and they have grants for Latin America, you know, for Mexico, for South America. They're not gonna give money to someone in the U.S. because they assume that you have money or that you have access to money, right? But where U.S. Latino filmmakers are like, more disadvantaged here, there's less access to capital here than you would if you make your film in Latin America.

Jacqueline Stewart 11:50

[E. Scott Kelly music plays] At the end of that Oscar ceremony in 2019, Julia Roberts announced the Best Picture winner...

Julia Roberts 11:55

[Academy Awards sound bite] And the Oscar goes to... Greenbook. [Cheering and applause]

Jacqueline Stewart 12:03

So Roma didn't take home the nice biggest prize, and neither actress in Roma won for their performance. But Alfonso Cuaron did win for Best Director.

Alfonso Cuaron 12:12

[Academy Awards sound bite] I want to thank the Academy for recognizing a film centered around an indigenous woman, one of the 70 million domestic workers in the world without work rights, a character that historically have been rele- relegated in the background in cinema.

Carlos Aguilar 12:29

I think with with with Roma, the very unique thing was, you know, Yalitza becoming a symbol, you know, for Latin Americans who have very rarely seen themselves, even in Latin American films and television.

Vanessa Erazo 12:43

She can become a symbol for both, you know, Mexicans in Mexico, and Mexicans in the United States. Because if you look at that film, the point of view of that film is from Alfonso Cuaron's childhood. If you read interviews of him describing the film, it's like, it's about a white Mexican family, and their indigenous maids, right? So putting her at the forefront, and turning her into an international symbol can affect the lives of U.S. Latinos. Why? Because we're more likely to look like her than we are to look like him. But to me, what was really impactful to see was that the next morning, you know, Variety, always does interviews with the winners. They go find them wherever they are, like hung over in their hotel room, you know, and take pictures of them in their life. You know, I went back to that article and read that it was like his crumpled tuxedo from the night before and holding his Oscar, you know, at some fancy hotel. And they asked him about just diversity in general. And he responded what with, Yeah, but there's still a real lack of Mexican American representation and, and I was like, boom. Like we, you know what I mean, we changed the narrative, like right there. Like, we brought this issue to his attention. And now he's talking about it in other really big outlets like Variety. [E. Scott Kelly music plays] And I felt like to me, it was like, we made a difference.

Jacqueline Stewart 14:08

Mexican Americans and other U.S. Latinx groups have been fighting for decades to tell their stories and be seen on screen. When we come back, we'll hear from actress America Ferrera, director Gregory Nava, and artist Patssi Valdez. [BREAK]

So tell us when you first walk through the museum and you saw that image of yourself in the museum, significant movies and movie makers exhibition, like what was going through your mind and going through your heart at that moment?

America Ferrera 14:47

I think at first it was hard to take in like hard to sort of wrap my mind around it.

Jacqueline Stewart 14:55

In the Academy Museum's, Stories of Cinema Exhibition, our core exhibition, we have an area that's devoted to what we call significant movies and movie makers. You can see Rosebud from Citizen Kane. And then directly next to that, there is a huge image of America Ferrera and Lupe Ontiveros from the 2002 film, Real Women Have Curves.

America Ferrera 15:19

To first walk through the Citizen Kane uh room into the Real Women Have Curves room, that I think, added to the surrealism of it. It was so beautiful. It's such a warm room. I had an incredibly emotional response to you know, what that film has meant to so many people.

Jacqueline Stewart 15:44

It was extremely important to us to have a film that was shot in LA, a film that reflected Latinx experiences. Real Women Have Curves was directed by Patricia Cardoso, based on a play by Josefina Lopez, and it was America Ferrera's first film.

America Ferrera 16:01

You know, it's bittersweet, because uh it's incredible to be included. It's incredible to be remembered and to have an impact. But, you know, in my opinion, it hasn't changed all that much, you know, for, for projects, like Real Women Have Curves, and that's, you know, a bitter pill to swallow. You know, as wonderful as it is to, to get to celebrate the, the the far too few moments of what feels like success for our community in the industry.

Jacqueline Stewart 16:32

I wanted to take you back to that moment in 2019, when Roma was so richly awarded at the Academy Awards. What, what were you thinking at that time?

America Ferrera 16:45

Well, I was so happy. I mean, I was I thought it was a beautiful film. I thought Yalitza was a revelation and, and deserved everything that came her way. I, I'm a huge fan of Cuaron. But this conversation is sort of like who does that represent? Right? Like who is that supposed to create more opportunity for, right? Who is that meant to inspire? And as an artist, I'm deeply inspired by by the work. But I think that Latinx/Latine identity is so nuanced. There is no one experience of being. I mean, we can't even decide on like, what's the right thing to call ourselves, right? Um, and and even that is limited because what does that even mean? Like being born and raised in a Latin American country, is a very different experience than being born Latina in the United States of America.

Jacqueline Stewart 17:53

[E. Scott Kelly music plays] If America's film, Real Women Have Curves, a movie about a young Mexican American woman in East LA, was groundbreaking in 2002, back in the 1970s, that kind of film seemed like an absolute impossibility.

Patssi Valdez 18:09

Growing up in Los Angeles, especially in East LA, as a young brown woman, Hollywood and the film industry, might as well have been on the other side of the planet.

Jacqueline Stewart 18:21

This is artist Patssi Valdez, a founding member of the Chicano artist collective ASCO, that was active in the 1970s and 80s.

Patssi Valdez 18:29

We were rarely central or three dimensional characters, and rarely presented as beautiful, alluring. Or at least when I was younger, I didn't see any of that.

Jacqueline Stewart 18:44

Patssi loved glamour and took theater classes at East LA College.

Patssi Valdez 18:49

I was trained in you know, theatrical makeup.

Jacqueline Stewart 18:52

And her friends were glamorous too.

Patssi Valdez 18:54

My friend Gronk, another ASCO member, he dressed very extreme. I mean he wore glitter. He wore um sequined vests, with hair out to here, with torn jeans with fishnets underneath. [laughing] And I, for like bracelets, all the way up to here and all this makeup.

Jacqueline Stewart 19:15

They were edgy and rebellious. They named their collective ASCO which translated into English means disgusting or repulsive. They started staging photographs they called "no movie movies."

Patssi Valdez 19:28

They were our response to the absence of Chicanos and Chicanas from the Hollywood film industry. So we decided to make our own stories and document. We didn't have a movie camera, and that's why we called them no movie movies. In the ASCO group, I decided I'm going to make myself a star for the camera. So that's why I would act out these different roles and I'll show you one image like this one.

Jacqueline Stewart 20:00

Patssi looks like a femme fatale from the 1950s in a black and white image. She's sitting atop a table with a beautiful white wrap dress, high heels and black gloves.

Patssi Valdez 20:11

So I would dress up. We'd find a location. We'd snap. We didn't have a movie camera, so we'd snap a still.

Jacqueline Stewart 20:22

Two other members of ASCO, Gronk and Harry Gamboa, are standing behind her, one of them with his hands in his pockets with a casual cool energy.

Patssi Valdez 20:32

Well, I was always being pulled over by the cops. So I thought I'm going to make a piece on that, where I'm always being patted down, but I of course, I did it in a more glamorous way.

Jacqueline Stewart 20:44

The image Patsy shows me is of her with her hands outstretched on the wall of the 2nd Street tunnel in downtown LA, looking over her shoulder alluringly. Her fellow ASCO member Harry Gamboa is wearing a dapper all white suit and feeling up her leg while a cigarette dangles out of his mouth.

Patssi Valdez 21:03

And then, I received my first award, the Aztlan Award and there I am as Best Actress in the ASCO. So we did create our own Oscar.

Jacqueline Stewart 21:19

That image you just showed. Um, it's just amazing. Could you describe the design of this award?

Patssi Valdez 21:26

So Gronk went out and found this probably plaster statue, painted it gold.

Jacqueline Stewart 21:36

The award is a giant gold Cobra. In the image Patssi shows me she's holding the award and wearing what looks like a gold lame dress with a sexy plunging neckline.

Patssi Valdez 21:47

Because the one thing about the group, we didn't wait around for like exhibits. We didn't wait around to be discovered. We didn't do any of that. We just said we're going to do it. And that's how we decided to make our own Oscar and give it to ourselves.

Jacqueline Stewart 22:02

Patssi struck out on her own after ASCO and began painting. That work inspired Gregory Nava, the director of popular films, including Selena, to hire Patssi to design sets for his film, Mi Familia.

Gregory Nava 22:17

So in bringing Patssi on, it was a way for me to, and essentially bring the design perspective from the community that I needed.

Jacqueline Stewart 22:27

Mi Familia is Nava's 1995 film about three generations of a Mexican American family in East LA. For Gregory, authenticity in a movie goes much deeper than the script or the actors.

Gregory Nava 22:27

The entire hair and makeup department in Mi Familia was Chicano. Completely. And they hired, there were nobody else, and that was really important to me, because that not only does did they get the hair and makeup right, understand the skin tones and all of these things that are are so important, but it prepares you to do your part. You know, the hair and makeup part of a film is more than just hair and makeup. It's where the actors prepare for their role. So when they're with their own in the hair and makeup talking, you know, chisme and the whole thing, they're getting into their parts. By the time they come to me, they're ready. They not only look right, but you know, they are, they haven't had to be like, okay, you know, you know that there's a distance culturally between them and the person who's doing their hair. So that was very important to me. All of the costumes for Selena, all of her costumes were made by the women who made Selena's real costumes.

Jacqueline Stewart 23:43


Gregory Nava 23:44

The costume that Jennifer wears for the Houston Astrodome concert, for example.

Jacqueline Stewart 23:48

Jennifer, as in Jennifer Lopez, who played Selena in the 1997 film.

Gregory Nava 23:54

Which looks exactly like the real one that Selena wore was made by the same woman who made the one that Selena wore for the Houston Astrodome concert.

Jacqueline Stewart 24:03

So I want to ask you some questions related to the core theme of this episode, which is the nuances or even the tensions between Latin American filmmaking and U.S. Latina/Latino, Latinx filmmaking. I would love to hear your perspective on the relationship between the two in terms of the perspectives that filmmakers bring from these different experiences, but also the resources, the differences in resources that filmmakers have coming from these backgrounds.

Gregory Nava 24:35

You know, I was surprised when I got that question because I'd never thought of it that way. And I don't think you know, I'm very close friends with Guillermo del Torro and Cuaron and Inarritu. You know, we're all friends, right. We're all filmmakers trying to get stuff made, right. And we all support each other to get stuff made. So that's not anything that's ever come up with respect to us. But it is a legitimate question. So it's not about, you know, Mexican American and Mexican filmmakers. Right. And it's not about the Academy either, you know, recognizing Mexican filmmakers as opposed to Mexican-American filmmakers, because the Academy can only recognize films that get made. Okay?

Jacqueline Stewart 25:16

It's true.

Gregory Nava 25:17

They're not making films uh about Mexican Americans but Chicanos in our culture, they can't nominate them, you know, they're going to nominate, you know uh, the good films, you know, like Roma or the Revenant, or what have you. So the issue really gets back to the industry itself. And that's the same problem that I was talking about when I made El Norte way back when, hasn't changed.

Jacqueline Stewart 25:39

In the early 1980s, Gregory Nava wrote and directed El Norte, a film about two young Mayans from Guatemala, attempting to escape persecution, and come to the U.S. during the Guatemalan Civil War.

Let's talk about your film, El Norte. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. And one of the many notable things about the film is that you didn't pursue big studio financing for this film. You ended up getting financing through PBS. Could you talk about your thinking in terms of how you financed El Norte?

Gregory Nava 26:13

I had an agent. I gave it to him to read and he goes, Greg, this is great. I know you're dealing with your with your heritage. But tell me, what can you do to help me make my payments on my Mercedes? I said nothing. I walked out of his office, you know, I was determined to make that film. The rejection letters that I got from that script, the one that was nominated for the Oscar, were so brutal. So negative, so horrible!

Jacqueline Stewart 26:44

What did they say? What what were people saying to you?

Gregory Nava 26:47

It was horrible. It was terrible. You can't have two protagonists. You you won't believe it. They're so brutal. The rejection was so brutal, but I was determined. And, you know, I had a meeting once -someone was thinking about doing it for movie TV, and they're going and this is the issue that we still have with with Latino films. Casting, as you know, is is still gigantic. So they say, God, you know, we could get Brooke Shields and Robbie Benson. And, you know, they could play Rosa and Enrique. And I go like, No, they can't play Rosa and Enrique. And they go like, you're never gonna, you're never gonna get it made. Right? And and I remember walking out of that office, with the script under my arm, and I and I, and I told them in the office, I said, It's better that the movie not be made than be made wrong. You know, with with bad casting that was just me going, I want indigenous actors to play Rosa and Enrique. That's what I need.

Jacqueline Stewart 27:45

With funding from PBS, Gregory was able to cast Zaide Silvia Gutierrez and David Villalpando in the starring roles. Gregory remembers being with them at the 57th Academy Awards, when he was nominated for his original screenplay in 1985.

Gregory Nava 28:01

So Zaide and David, the two stars of the film, they come with us to the Oscars, all right. So at at at that time, the Oscars were at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and we go and it was fantastic. And then we go to the governor's dinner. And in those days, everybody had a specific table, and you had your place, and they would serve you, right. So uh, so we're sitting there with Zaide and David at our table, and they got the caviar and the champagne and all this kind of stuff, you know. So all of the servers were Hispanic. They were from Mexico, and they were from Guatemala. And, you know, and everybody in the kitchen, you know, they're all Latinos serving, the you know, the luminaries of the film industry, right. So this lady comes around and she starts pouring champagne. She goes, Rosa and Enrique! You know? [laughing] El Norte! She can't believe it. Right? So then, word spreads through the entire staff of of the Beverly Hilton, right? They didn't care about Steven Spielberg! They didn't care about all these stars! They didn't care ab - all they cared about was Rosa and Enrique from El Norte were in the room! And that meant the world to them, because suddenly that meant they were in the room sitting there, not as servers but as participants in this. [E. Scott Kelly music plays]

Jacqueline Stewart 28:28

It's been 40 years since El Norte came out, and casting indigenous actors is still noteworthy. A significant shift in recent years of the Academy Awards has been the greater inclusion of international films and filmmakers beyond the Best Foreign Language Film category, from Latin America, from Korea and elsewhere. But there's a troubling irony that as global cinemas are getting more Academy recognition, the largest ethnic group in Hollywood's back yard - nearly 50% of Los Angeles is Latinx - continues to be sidelined by the industry. It's something America Ferrera is keenly aware of.

America Ferrera 30:17

I am an Academy member. I'm an Academy voter. And so I, from where I sit, have the context of, oh, this is not just about all things being equal, all things are never equal. That context is important, because of what it reinforces to everybody who historically feels excluded. Right? In a way, it's devastating that we take art and try to, you know, rank it to begin with. But the other side of it is that as a young person growing up dreaming of a career, you know, watching the Academy Awards was like, really important to me, and and who won did reinforce or transform my story about what was possible. And so it's, it's, it's a big responsibility. It's a big role that our industry plays in society, in culture. It is nothing short of determining where our worth gets reinforced and where worthlessness gets reinforced. And you know, we can we can try to divorce ourselves from from that responsibility, but that's the impact whether we pay attention to it or not.

Jacqueline Stewart 31:42

[Nicolas Britell music plays] The Academy Museum podcast is written and hosted by me, Jacqueline Stewart. This episode was produced by Antonia Cereijido. The Academy Museum podcast team includes Kimberly Stevens, Victoria Alejandro and Monica Bushman. The show was a production of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in collaboration with LAist Studios. Mixing and Original Music by E. Scott Kelly. Our theme music was composed by Nicholas Britell. Antonia Cereijido and Leo G are the executive producers for LAist Studios. Our Academy Museum website is designed by Fantasy and developed by Impossible Bureau. Our LAist website is designed by Andy Cheatwood, and the digital and marketing teams at LAist Studios. The Academy Museum marketing team created our branding. Thanks to the team at the Academy Museum, including Shawn Anderson, Peter Castro, Stephanie Sykes and Matt Youngner, and to our academy colleagues, Randy Haberkamp and Claire Lockhart. Thanks also to the team at LAist Studios, including Sabir Brara, Kristen Hayford, Kristen Muller, Andy Orozco, Michael Cosentino and Leo G. Academy Museum digital engagement platforms, including this podcast are sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Support for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford, who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.