For Edward James Olmos, Hispanic storytelling is key. The Academy Award nominee and Stand and Deliver star calls it the “most important movement.”
His latest film Filly Brown, which opens Friday in area theaters, chronicles the life of young Majo ( Gina Rodriguez, The Bold and the Beautiful) as she balances a promising career as a female rapper and a mother in prison with a history of shady, back-door deals. Her mother is played by late Mexican singer Jenni Rivera.
What ensues is a rite of passage with strong family ties, conflict and success. But such vital cultural stories make up a small portion of the mainstream movie scene, less than two percent by Olmos’ account.
“We have a blank slate when it comes to Latin culture,” he said from the Soho Beach House.
Olmos said that history skips a beat when it comes to the founding fathers. Even before the days of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, minority groups played a major role in our history.
“It’s like we have no participation. We don’t have one American hero story of Latin descent,” Olmos said.
With Filly Brown he vows to continue with original filmmaking. Rodriguez, he said, symbolizes a new wave in moviemaking.
“I think that Gina represents what is really the best part of the industry that’s coming up,” he said. “An educated, well trained, well disciplined artist who happens to be of Latin descent.”
In his heyday, Olmos faced an “uphill battle” with only a few other Hispanic actors in the industry like Anthony Quinn and Jose Ferrer; they were considered “above the realm of possibility.”
But today, filmmakers have greater access to equipment and the Internet to help shoot and market movies. Olmos, who also appears in the film as an attorney, said the most difficult thing about his film is making sure people know it’s in the theaters.
He hopes audiences give it a chance beyond the Rivera intrigue. The film also features Stand and Deliver co-star Lou Diamond Phillips as Filly’s father.
“Arts really represent a mirror of the humanity they represent,” Olmos said. “The art forms are the key.”