By Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun
One in six adults and one in four children in the United States are Latinos, but their reality is rarely depicted in the mainstream media. Interviews with scholars, actors, filmmakers, and a group of Latino children reveal a striking pattern: in both news and entertainment, Latinos appear overwhelmingly as gangsters, drug dealers, prostitutes, “hoochie mamas,” and welfare-leeching “illegals.” Most disturbingly, even children’s games depict the killing of Mexicans. The film shows how a narrow range of misrepresentation, combined with hate speech against undocumented immigrants and Latinos, has deeply affected children and had devastating consequences for this nation as a whole.
Director’s Statement (From Miguel Picker):
As a Chilean American who came to the U.S. right after the popularly elected President Salvador Allende was toppled by a CIA-sponsored coup in 1973, I experienced firsthand how the U.S. mainstream media had the power to distort reality and to make my lived experience unintelligible to most people. The same injustice is keenly experienced by millions of Latinos today.
Our crew interviewed a group of Latino children and when we showed them old and recent cartoon clips with animal characters, the children identified Latino characters by their Spanish accents (ironically voiced by white actors), and described them as “crazy,” “drunk,” “stealing money,” and “bad.” When we asked these children what Latino people they liked on TV or in films, most of them could not name any. When we asked them if they would create a Latino hero if they could make a movie, a nine-year-old boy said, “I couldn’t imagine a Latino person to be a main character for a film because a lot of the movies I watch, usually, all the main characters are Americans.” I was deeply saddened by that comment- indeed, what children have seen will affect what they can imagine.
At the same time, I saw that anti-immigration laws were being proposed and passed in many states, and a central provision of these laws that may lead to racial profiling was even upheld by the Supreme Court. I also came across top-selling video games such asBorder Patrol that present mass killings of Mexicans who are crossing the borders as fun and exciting. In social media sites, I found many videos of teenagers and young children playing games of capturing, beating, stabbing, and shooting “illegal immigrants,” “Mexicans,” and “beaners.” I wondered: If these children are not provided with accurate information and alternative visions now, how will they ever be able to “unlearn” their perceptions of Latinos before reaching adulthood? Or will their current beliefs only be further reified by media distortion?
From all the media projects that I’ve participated in, I feel the most urgency for this film. I hope you share the same conviction with me: Latinos Beyond Reel must be made and must be seen.
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Latinos Beyond Reel Team (partial):
Director and Producer:
Ronelle Rodriguez Torres
Re-recording Mixer and Sound Designer:
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