Social Impact13 February 2020
In addition to serving as the launchpad for more than a hundred films, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival served as the launchpad for The Latinx House, which made its first appearance at the annual film festival.
Co-founded by attorney and social entrepreneur Mónica Ramírez (Justice for Migrant Women), actress-producer-activist Olga Segura (Netflix’s Verónica) and writer-producer Alex Martinez Kondracke (The L Word), the initiative was started in 2019 to create community, engagement and further opportunities for Latinx voices in and outside of Hollywood.
“Our ultimate goal in creating the Latinx House is to change the perception and position of the Latinx community in this country, and we believe that sparking conversation and igniting action in culturally relevant places, like Sundance, will help us get there,” Ramírez said.
America Ferrera and Diane Guerrero at The Latinx House. Photo credit: Owen Hoffman/Getty Images
The Latinx House hosted a dozen panels over three days at the festival. Topics included, fittingly, inclusion in film festivals, Latinas leading cinema, providing a platform for Latinx writers and a fireside chat with America Ferrera (Netflix’s Gentefied). Presented by Netflix, the discussion was moderated by Diane Guerrero (Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black) and tackled representation in Hollywood and how that topic has evolved in recent years.
“We have internalized a certain way of thinking about ourselves and thinking about what’s possible for us. And we’re beginning to disintegrate those,” Ferrera said.
Ferrera became emotional when discussing what it was like trying to break through in Hollywood as a young Latinx actress nearly 20 years ago. “As my career progressed and I began to see the impact… I also began to feel so lonely in this industry. You can’t help but feel like something’s got to change,” Ferrera said. “And so for me, I am just as hungry to see people like me succeeding in this industry as anybody else.”
That’s one of the reasons why Ferrera signed on to executive-produce Gentefied, which hails from Latinx creators Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez. “I saw myself represented in a funny, stylistic, hilarious but heartfelt way,” she recalled. “I had to be a part of it and I had to see this get made because it’s what my little 10-year-old soul craved and it’s what my 35-year-old soul craves.”
Gentefied centers on three cousins - Chris, Erik and Ana - who, after the death of their grandfather, band together to keep his popular Boyle Heights taco shop in business. Throughout the show’s first season, the cousins confront their differences in their connections to their heritage, their sexuality and their commitment to the family business, all while navigating larger themes of gentrification and the marginalization of Latinos in America. The series premieres Feb. 21 on Netflix.
In addition to her Q&A at The Latinx House, Ferrera also joined her fellow Gentefied producers for a panel at the MACRO Lodge. Eva Longoria, who next steps behind the camera as a director on Netflix’s forthcoming comedy series The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia, moderated the discussion. Naturally, gentrification came up during the wide-ranging conversation, as did the importance of authentic stories.
“I think there is this mistake a lot of times in our business where they are trying to share a particular voice but it’s not coming from the loins of those who have lived that authentic life,” said executive producer Teri Weinberg. “Marvin and Linda brought their heart, their souls, their family and everything that they had grown up with and experienced.”
Eva Longoria, Wilmer Valderrama and Gina Rodriguez at the Latinx House-Netflix kickoff event. Photo credit: Owen Hoffmann/Getty Images
Netflix also teamed with The Latinx House to co-host a kickoff celebration at the festival. Wilmer Valderrama, Gina Rodriguez (Netflix’s Carmen Sandiego), Ferrera and Longoria, in addition to multicultural press and influencers, were among the 150 people in attendance.
Featuring music from DJ Ana Calderon, the event also served as the launch for Netflix’s newest social media community for all things Latinx, Con Todo, which debuted on Instagram and Twitter on Jan. 21.
Among the fun and festive decorations at the opening night event were the capes of Walter Mercado to mark the Sundance premiere of Netflix’s upcoming documentary Mucho Mucho Amor.
The film centers on Walter Mercado, who seeks to resurrect his forgotten legacy as the world's most famous astrologer. Raised in the sugar cane fields of Puerto Rico, Walter grew up to become a gender non-conforming, cape-wearing psychic whose televised horoscopes reached 120 million viewers a day for decades before he mysteriously disappeared. Premiering this summer, the documentary was one of 11 Netflix films that screened at the festival.
-- Melody Regalado Nanna
Melody Regalado Nanna is a member of the Netflix communications team.