Two Film Reviews: My Family/Mi Familia and The Perez Family
Santiago Nieves and Frank Algarin
"Fantastic! People loved it! When Latinos see this film, they go crazy!" exclaims Gregory Nava on his film, "My Family" (Mi Familia), which was released last year and is now available on video. I agree. Wherever the film is, go find it, for there are at least three major and important reasons why "My Family" is a must-see for every Latino.
For one, it marks the first time in an English-language theatrical release targeted at Latinos where every single Latino character is actually played by a Latino, not Marisa Tomei, not Lou Diamond Phillips, not Angelica Huston.
Secondly, whatever faults I may have found with the film (and they are few), the film commands a certain integrity and respect by "taking back the very thing the methis always trying to take away from us--our culture and family," as director Nava puts it. Nava also called on the talents of a terrific ensemble of professional Latino actors, who often transcended mere scripted material into that universal connection, an essential in making the film appealing to all audiences.
Thirdly, a Latino has written and directed such a film. Chicano director Gregory Nava, who says that the family is the protagonist of his film, not any one person, fought against Latinos being perceived as a poor subculture. "For the first time in a film, 'Mi Familia' puts family in the center, as it is in our culture."
Not as powerful or riveting as his film, the classic "El Norte," "My Family," written by Nava and produced by Francis Ford Coppola and his American Zoetrope studies, is the epic and sprawling story of three generations of the Sánchez family living on the perimeters of American soil during the 1940's and 50's in "what was still then" Mexico.