‘La Bamba’ and Leaves It Changed

When “La Bamba” It premiered in the summer of 1987, with low expectations for its success. The film was based on the life of Richie Valence, a Mexican-American teenager (born name: Richard Steven Valenzuela), one of the first Latino in rock ‘n’ roll. It covered his debut as a farmworker in Delano, California, with his controversial older brother, his bond with Bob, and the intricacies of hiding his background to make it into the music business with hits like the title tune. At its core, it was the story of two brothers working to achieve the American dream, a dream usually reserved for white Americans.

Plain died in 1959, a year after signing on to Delance-Fi Records, including two other stars, Buddy Holly and JP Richardson, known as Big Bopper.

The short-lived career of a Latino teenager did not go to Hollywood executives at all. Dubbed “ethnic” stories, that were not considered a box office draw. One Opening article Privately feared marketing experts in the Los Angeles Times said that “La Bamba” – a Latin playwright, written and directed by Luis Valdez, and played by Lou Diamond Phillips, an unknown actor of Filipino origin – who lived up to the expectations of “fat Lack “. Other films about Latino would be “Sour” Hollywood.

Still, the biopic, made at only $ 6.5 million, went gross. More than $ 54 million. Adjusted for inflation, it is over $ 120 million.

Phillips said via video chat, “La Bamba is going to be the wave of Latino in Hollywood, becoming the mainstay of this.” “But it never took hold where it became a mainstay.”

“In this sense, ‘La Bamba’ is unique and refreshing, as there is not much to compete with,” Valdez said.

Together “La Bamba” is playing on HBO Max And making a brief return to theaters, Valdez reunited with Phillips to discuss the film, and it’s influence, 34 years later.

These are parts of our conversation.

“La Bamba” is still considered one of the Must see latino stories In cinematic history. How does it feel that a film you made three decades ago is still so influential?

VALDEZ It feels both good and bad in a way. It is good that the film is relevant, it is up-to-date and people can enjoy it because of what it is. At the same time, there should be dozens of films like “La Bamba” representing the Latino experience. Not only the Latino experience, but the minority experience across America. Because I think what makes the film stronger is that it references a new consensus in America, what does it mean to be American. It certainly has multicultural roots, but it subscribes to the same basic universal concerns in every person’s life: family, work, hope, ambition, dreams, desires, and it is relevant in that sense, because those things are never far away. Does not go. They are human and eternal.

Phillips I agree with what Luis said. We want to move forward at this point in time. From what we have seen, I think there is a very vocal African-American community for the last 20 years and is a very motivated and determined producer, director and writer. When you have Tyler Perry, Ava DuVernay or Shonda Rhimes, you had these makers who became touchstones to open their own shop. Louis was a pioneer in that. He did not get enough people to follow in his footsteps.

Sean Valdez, you mentioned that the film was an American story. It inspired many first- and second-generation American Latino children to dream big. Why is such an obstacle to putting an American label on what is considered an “ethnic” story?

VALDEZ I think it is a question of American narrative. What story are we telling here and from whose point of view we have been sold on the idea of ​​all pilgrims and 1492 and the coming of Europe and so forth, right? Well, it should include the story of Mexico, which is another country as far as American fiction is concerned. But in fact, the whole case will have to be reviewed again. There is a need to revisit the narrative and say again, “Well, what is an American? What does it mean to be an American?”

We all live ordinary lives. We do not have to be gang members. We do not have to be criminals. We should not be drug addicts. We do not have to be violent. We can be normal people who go to shopping centers and buy food and clothes for their children, and send them to school. We have life that is depicted in all the films that work with white people. They get full range. Not a minority; They lock into a stereotype. And the more violent and the more alien and stranger it is, the more commercial it is. Well, this is a lie.

I am curious about your filmmaking career after “La Bamba”. You directed and wrote a few TV films, but then went back to the theater and stopped making films. What happened?

VALDEZ I became a film producer after being a union organizer and founder of El tetro campesino And a college professor. I went for many other things. I went back to teaching. As one of the founding professors [Cal State University] Monterey Bay, I started this institute under the name Institute for Teledramatic Arts and Technology, which anticipated some changes that are now streaming and such. But frankly, there was a lot of difficulty trying to get new projects that I wanted to do. They offered me things I did not want to do and so I decided because I did not have other options.

In the late 90s, you said that you were going to start work on the sequel to “La Bamba”, which would follow Richie’s brother Bob. What happened to that project?

VALDEZ I felt that there was an extension of the story. I followed Bob to the film, God bless him, he died a few years ago. He was 81 with a seductress and an earring. He was just a sensible man, and really one to enjoy as a friend. There was a story that had to do with the expansion of the history of rock ‘n’ roll, how we moved from the ’50s into the’ 60s. The vehicle to get there was actually through Bob’s line. So I took this idea to many manufacturers and I got no hooks.

I think quite frankly, we don’t have enough producers who understand the minority experience in America. They always go to the same things – violence, drugs and sensationalism, wondering what it is going to sell. More often than not, it is the quiet human story that connects with the people at the end, which I think is the secret of “La Bamba”.

Did the story change you? Does it inspire you to do something you may not have done before?

Phillips It underlines and underlines my own dream. I was studying for Bob for a few days and then one day Luis walked up to me. I was sitting in the hall. He goes, “Tomorrow you read for Richie.” I remember walking with Pico Boulevard, “Man, oh my god. I’m wrapping my head around Bob. Now, how do I play Richie? The epiphany that came to me, I’m already Richie. I’m a I am a child with a big dream, a desire to go after it. The whole process of becoming Richie and having it misled me in the way that it did, it changed my life.

I had a vision: This is going to change my life, but it is not going to change me. The experience introspected me for the rest of my career and did not feel like I deserved it, that I was lucky, and never, less than grateful.

VALDEZ Richie and I were part of the same generation. I was in high school when rock ‘n’ roll came back in the 50s, and I can understand Richie’s ambitions because I had similar ambitions. We were all back to Gagan-ho American, and I dreamed that all opportunities were available to me. If I wanted to do whatever I wanted to be a rock star, I could do it, and Richie had that dream and he worked on it. And the same thing happened to me in the theater. I mean, when I started, there was no Latin theater, and I realized, no one else has done, so I’ll do it. I started writing plays in the 1980s. It was a completely different world at that time. This is why I identified with Richie: he died for it, but he lived his dreams.

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