Edward James Olmos’ new HBO documentary ”Americanos” celebrates the growing importance of Latinos in the United States. But Olmos tells EW Online that while the Spanish-speaking population flourishes nationally, Hollywood keeps shutting it out: ”The industry doesn’t speak to one of the largest unclaimed markets in America,” says the Oscar nominated actor. ”If studios figured out how to make and market stories that relate to the 40 million of us, we’d be a [box office] force to reckon with.”
Well, Olmos can worry a little less this year, because at least SOME production companies are trying to reach out. Here’s a look at five upcoming Hispanic themed projects that will soon be spicing up a silver or small screen near you.
PROJECT: ”Bordertown” In this thriller, Jennifer Lopez will play a journalist investigating hundreds of murders on the Juarez/El Paso border. Director Gregory Nava’s production company El Norte is developing the film for New Line.
WHY WE CARE Did we mention that Jennifer Lopez is the star? Besides, Lopez and Nava drew a sizable audience with their 1997 teaming, ”Selena,” which grossed $40 million on an $18 million budget.
STATUS Nava’s currently writing the script.
QUOTE ”I gave Jennifer her first big movie role,” says Nava of 1995’s ”Mi Familia.” ”I had to fight the studio to keep her in, but it certainly wasn’t like that this time.”
PROJECT: ”American Family” The multitalented Nava gives the tube a try with this hour-long pilot for CBS about a multigenerational Mexican-American clan living in Los Angeles. It stars Olmos, Sonia Braga (”Kiss of the Spider Woman”), and Raquel Welch.
WHY WE CARE It’s the first drama starring an all-Latino cast to hit network TV.
STATUS The Tiffany network has yet to announce its fall lineup, but with CBS honcho Les Moonves on his side, Nava’s series should air next season.
QUOTE ”I figure television started on a multicultural note with Ricky Ricardo,” says Nava, ”So, it’s only taken 50 years for us to get back on TV.”
PROJECT: ”Tortilla Soup” This low budget comedy for Samuel Goldwyn Films is based on Ang Lee’s ”Eat Drink Man Woman,” except the protagonist chef and his three daughters are now Mexican American. Hector Elizondo stars.
WHY WE CARE It’s respected Chicano director Luis Valdez’ first feature since 1987’s Ritchie Valens biopic, ”La Bamba.” Lee’s producing, and Emmy winning supporting actor Elizondo finally gets a lead role.
STATUS Elizondo says he and Valdez are busy ”auditioning every available Latina actress” to cast the daughters so production can start later this summer.
QUOTE ”I’m glad I play a very fancy chef,” Elizondo says. ”They always show Latinos on the bottom, and it’s important to show that the Latin community is successful and empowered.”
PROJECT: ”Luminarias” A romantic comedy about four Latina friends who meet at an L.A. restaurant to talk money, sex, and relationships. The cast is led by an ensemble of newcomers, including Evelina Fernandez and Angela Moya, with Scott Bakula as Fernandez’s love interest.
WHY WE CARE Distributed by the Hispanic-run New Latin Pictures, ”Luminarias” has been called the Latina ”Waiting to Exhale.” And yes, this could be a good thing.
STATUS Now playing in limited release.
QUOTE According to the Austin Chronicle, ”Watching ‘Luminarias’ is like going to a really great party.”
PROJECT: ”New Mexico” Nava, Hollywood’s go-to Latino, will direct yet another drama for New Line. This one’s about a family of renowned guitar builders living in, you guessed it, New Mexico.
WHY WE CARE The half-Mexican brothers Mark and Mike Polish, who wrote, directed, and starred in last year’s Sundance hit ”Twin Falls Idaho,” are writing the script.
STATUS Waiting for the Polish brothers to finish their draft.
QUOTE ”If a black- or white-oriented movie does badly, people don’t blame the audience,” says Nava. ”They blame the movie or the studio. But if a Hipanic movie does badly, then all of a sudden the audience is missing, giving studios an excuse not to make more. How ridiculous is that?”