Sony releases Quinceanera, movie about a Latino neighborhood in transition
Posted by Elena del Valle on August 18, 2006
Emily Rios as Magdalena in “Quinceañera”
Photos: Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics recently released “Quinceañera,” (Spanish for 15 year old girl), winner of the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature at the Sundance Film Festival 2006. According to the film’s promotional materials, the 90-minute “Quinceañera” is a look at what happens when teenage sexuality, age-old rituals, and real estate prices collide. It is described as a “reinvention of Kitchen Sink drama, fueled by the racial, class, and sexual tensions of a Latino neighborhood in transition.”
In the movie, Magdalena (Emily Rios) is the daughter of a Mexican-American family who run a storefront church in Echo Park, Los Angeles. With her fifteenth-birthday approaching, all she can think about is her boyfriend, her Quinceañera dress, and the Hummer Limo she hopes to arrive in on her special day.
A few months before the celebration, Magdalena falls pregnant. As the elaborate preparations for her Quinceañera proceed, her religious father finds out about the pregnancy and rejects her.
J.R. Cruz as Herman, Jesse Garcia as Carlos and Hector Quevedo as Dancing Boy
Forced out of her home, Magdalena moves in with great-great uncle Tomas (Chalo Gonzalez), a gentle man who makes his living selling champurrado (a Mexican hot drink) in the street. Already living with him is Carlos (Jesse Garcia), Magdalena’s cousin, a tough young cholo who was thrown out by his parents for being gay.
The back house rental where Tomas has lived happily for many years is on a property that was recently purchased by an affluent white gay couple (David Ross and Jason L. Wood), pioneers of gentrification in the neighborhood. Carlos quickly attracts the couple’s attention and they soon make him their plaything in an ongoing three-way.
As Magdalena’s pregnancy grows more visible, she, Carlos, and Tomas pull together as a family of outsiders. But the economics of the neighborhood are turning against them. Ultimately, this precipitates a crisis that threatens their way of life.
“Quinceañera” was written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Cast members include Emily Rios, Jesse Garcia, Chalo Gonzalez, David Ross, and Jason L. Wood.
Noticed the last reference to how it was written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Glatzer had done two films prior to this, the last one being about adult films. Westmoreland is from Britain. For two guys who aren’t Latino and don’t seem to have ever lived in East L.A., this isn’t very encouraging to do a film about quinces set in Echo Park.
I have to go see this movie, but based on the story line explained here, I must admit I will probably have a few issues with this version or portrayal of the Hispanic quince coming of age celebration. Granted… I am a Hispanic event planner and a special event magazine publisher, and I also understand, that Latinas have many real, important challenges, struggles and diverse issues to deal with. But to have a movie titled Quinceañera, where a young fifteen year old girl faces so many harsh conditions, may give some other cultural groups a wrong idea of our young Hispanic ladies as a whole. This is a very special time in a Hispanic girl’s life. Quince celebrations are planned by all cultural Hispanic groups, of all economic levels. Small or large, modest or expensive, they bring joy to a young girl’s life, and much income to the special event industry in any city. Could someone please film a movie about Quinceaneras that focuses on a happy girl, a joyful time, fun planning and a great, beautiful party? There are many of these happening in many of our Hispanic communities. Many of our young ladies are Hispanic achievers, and many proud parents are pleased to give their daughters a splendid quince event. Can we please have a positive Hispanic, non-dramatic movie? I will look forward to that release!