Directed by Diego Luna — whom you may remember as one of the stars of Y Tu Mamá También — Cesar Chavez, a biopic about the farm worker turned civil rights activist, hits theaters Friday. It is this year's only major studio release about (or starring) Latinos.
"You think about the last big hit story about a Latino, a true story? The last one, I would say, is 'Selena.'"
The film stars Michael Peña, America Ferrera and Rosario Dawson and has already won an audience award at SXSW. But the numbers at the box office are important. As Dawson puts it:
"I can only hope that this film does well, because then it bodes well for more of those stories to be told. It really is a group effort… People need to participate all across the board. There are people who are still saying no [to financing Latino-focused movies], but also saying, 'I'll sit back and see how it goes, and if it does go well, maybe that script that's been sitting in the back over here, maybe I'll give it a second look and throw some money at it and see if I can make it happen.'"
While Sofia Vergara may be the highest-paid actor on TV, Latinos face some of the worst stereotypes in entertainment and in movies; Latinas are often cast as in "spicy" overly sexualized roles or as maids. Before she died, veteran actor Lupe Ontiveros played a maid about 150 times, including Rosalita in The Goonies; actor Teresa Yenque has been on at least seven different episodes of Law & Order, playing "Cleaning Lady," "Housekeeper," and "Housekeeper/Nanny." And when Eva Longoria brought a Latina-centric pilot to ABC, it was Devious Maids.
Luna stresses the importance of this film being an uplifting, true story, telling The Wrap:
"…There's no film about a Latino character, a biopic, that is not a person from the entertainment business. As if we had no input in politics and science or sports or whatever. It's ridiculous, and no one wanted to take the risk to be the first."