Last night, some of our ChIFF crew had the distinct pleasure to view the restoration world premiere of The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, starring Edward James Olmos. For a couple of us, it was our first time ever being at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, home of the Academy Awards (aka the Oscars). This was a big deal! The theater has state of the art projection equipment and sound engineering, and has been specially designed to be Super Chingon.
Prior to the screening, film preservationist and Academy member Joe Linder illustrated the film’s modifications comparing the original version to the remastered, showing us exactly how they restored the film for today's digital projectors.
Mr. Edward James Olmos was in attendance right across the aisle from us, alongside his mother who was also in attendance. Que chulos!
The film is a western that takes place in the early 1900’s and deals directly with the racial tension between white Americans and Mexican Americans in Texas. An emotionally charged film, it felt very relevant to today. There are clear similarities in the issues currently facing our society, especially police brutality toward people of color. Gregorio Cortez is the true story of a Mexican man who stood up for his rights and protected himself and his family, standing up to the infamous Texas Rangers, who were responsible for more killings of Mexicans in the state of Texas between 1900-1915, than any other group in U.S. history during that same time period.
At the end of the screening Mr. Olmos received an overwhelming applaud and ovation, along with the other members of the film’s cast and crew, such as Moctesuma Esparza, Bobby Young, Lourdes Portillo, Bruce McGill, Ray Villalobos and Rosanna DeSoto. Representing ChIFF, we were honored to be in attendance. Our goal wasn't only to support this film and to learn from it, but also to see if we could invite Mr. Olmos to be a keynote speaker at our film festival this September 9-11 at Plaza de la Raza.
Like the others in attendance, everybody was trying to get to Mr. Olmos, as he is perhaps the most revered actor of our generation. Though we didn't get to have the ‘sit down’ conversation that we were hoping for, we managed to slip him a few of our business cards and were excited to hear that he is aware our festival is happening!
Edward James Olmos is a Chicano pioneer in cinema, the face of the Latino community in regards to film and a household name in East L.A. To be able to witness the 'human' side of Mr. Olmos, whose mother was in attendance, and to watch how he calmly made his way through the theater as the tumultuous crowd gathered around him, was ‘firme.’ He always keeps his cool. We didn’t have much more than a few seconds with him but it was an honor to even speak to him briefly and shake his hand. Attending the remastered premier of this important and relevant film at such a special venue, and to get up close to him, was the thrill of a lifetime.
It was a fabulous night for us ChIFFers and we thank the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences. With newly gained inspiration and perspective on the importance of film in society, we can’t wait for our film festival!