Aiming films at Latinos and blacks

January 04, 2000|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

A group of Latino and black industry insiders is hoping to broaden the idea of a "crossover" from just success in the white community to mean making movies that appeal to the nation's two largest minority groups.

"We are trying to bring the two worlds and audiences together because it makes sense," said Debra Martin Chase, executive vice president of Whitney Houston's BrownHouse Productions. "As substantial minority groups, there are social and political situations that are common to both. Both groups are fighting for political and economic power that has been denied to them historically."

Although directors like Gregory Nava ("Why Do Fools Fall in Love"), Leon Ichaso ("Sugar Hill") and Randa Haines ("Dance With Me") have made films with both Latino and black sensibilities, more and more independent production houses are creating stories with mixed casts and narratives that appeal to both communities.

"We live with each other in the same neighborhoods," actor-director Forest Whitaker said. "We have a lot of cultural similarities, and I'm hoping we could use those similarities to make ... great films."

For instance, his production company, Spirit Dance Entertainment, is developing "The Lives of Danny Sanchez," a coming-of-age film about a young Puerto Rican boy.

BrownHouse is in discussions with Green Moon Productions, the company owned by Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, for a romantic drama starring Banderas and Houston.

And producer Moctesuma Esparza (HBO's "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge") is working on a new film based on the true story of a championship-winning Navajo girls basketball team. Laurence Fishburne has signed up for the role as coach of the team.

"It's all about economics and having a market size that is powerful," said Esparza, who as a leader in the Chicano rights movement modeled many of his activist tactics on the black civil-rights struggle.

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