Friday, December 26, 2014

Good News for the New Year

The First Chicano Movie Is Added To The National Film Registry

Earlier this month twenty-five movies were added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. The films were recognized as "cultural, historical or aesthetic cinematic treasures."

The list included Saving Private Ryan, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Big Lebowski. But it also included some lesser known ones, like the 1976 drama Please, Don't Bury Me Alive! (¡Por Favor, No Me Entierren Vivo!)

The film was directed by Efraín Gutiérrez and historians consider it the first Chicano feature film.

Professor Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, and director Efraín Gutiérrez joined Take Two on Southern California Public Radio, KPCC, 89.3 FM, to talk about the film, how it was recovered, and its place in American film history. Click here for the interview.

The announcement from the National Film Registry said:

Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! (1976)
The San Antonio barrio in the early 1970s is the setting for writer, director and star Efraín Gutiérrez’s independent piece, considered by historians to be the first Chicano feature film. A self-taught filmmaker, Gutiérrez not only created the film from top to bottom on a shoestring, he also acted as its initial distributor and chief promoter, negotiating bookings throughout the Southwest where it filled theaters in Chicano neighborhoods. He tells his story in the turbulent days near the end of the Vietnam War, as a young Chicano man questioning his and his people’s place in society as thousands of his Latino brethren return from the war in coffins. Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, wrote, "The film is important as an instance of regional filmmaking, as a bicultural and bilingual narrative, and as a precedent that expanded the way that films got made." Cultural historians often compare Gutiérrez to Oscar Micheaux, the pioneering African-American filmmaker who came to prominence in the 1920s.


Chicanos Visit The State Capitol - From Justicia y Libertad

The recent half-hour documentary about the Colorado Chicano Movement aired by The Colorado Experience on Rocky Mountain PBS is now available for streaming at the RMPBS site. Click here to see the show. This is a very good project featuring several knowledgeable commentators including La Bloga's friend Pocho Joe of radio station KUVO in Denver.

RMPBS also has archived online its two part series entitled La Raza de Colorado. Episode One is La Historia; Episode Two is El Movimiento. These documentaries are each an hour long and offer a much broader and deeper view of Chicano history in Colorado. Click here for Episode One. Go here for Episode Two.


The Recording Academy® announced its Special Merit Awards recipients, and this year's recipients of Lifetime Achievement Awards are: the Bee Gees, Pierre Boulez, Buddy Guy, George Harrison, Flaco Jiménez, Louvin Brothers, and Wayne Shorter. Quite a list!

The announcement goes on to say:  "Five-time GRAMMY winner Flaco Jiménez has enjoyed a career that has spanned more than six decades, throughout which he has collaborated with artists such as Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, Doug Sahm, and Carlos Santana among others. Jiménez has maintained a huge influence on the Tex-Mex genre by continuing to record and tour, as he upholds his status as the definitive Tex-Mex accordionist."

Great recognition for one of the legends of American roots music.  Here's a clip of Flaco and his pals workin' the groove.


 Oxford American Music of Texas

Photo of Lydia Mendoza at XEJ. Courtesy of the Arhoolie Foundation's Frontera Collection

And speaking of American music: the Oxford American's annual music issue is on the stands and this year the focus is on the music of Texas. Not only does the magazine have some of the best writing and writers, but the CD that comes with this edition is loaded with absolutely terrific music. Everyone from Barbara Lynn (You'll Lose a Good Thing) to Big Brother and the Holding Company (Bye, Bye Baby.)  The CD includes songs by Los Super 7 (Sunny Ozuna's iconic Talk to Me), Rosita y Laura (Esperando), Rick Treviño (El Gustito), the Texas Tornados (She Never Spoke Spanish to Me), and Freddy Fender (Paloma Querida). Ada Limón has a fine piece in the magazine entitled An American Sound, a tribute to Lydia Mendoza, La Alondra de la Frontera. Here's a sample from the article, which you can find in its entirety at this link:

But the music of the border is as much a part of the heritage of American folk music as Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, or the Carter Family, and the Tejano sound has existed and evolved for just as long, and dealt in similar themes. Mendoza's songs were saturated with stories about the darker side of human love, the hardships of working life, and the isolation experienced by the outsider.  While her ballads of heartbreak voiced individual, though universal, laments, much of her music reflected a larger sense of loss -- that of an entire country -- with a relatable austerity.

Ada Limón is the author of three collections of poetry. Her fourth book, Bright Dead Things, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions.

End-of-Year Bits

To end 2014 with some encouragement and get the right jump on 2015 with some reality, here are two paragraphs from Patrick Modiano's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature 2014, which he delivered on December 7.

Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This
creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge, but to keep going. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.

I have always thought that poets and novelists are able to impart mystery to individuals who are seemingly overwhelmed by day-to-day life, and to things which are ostensibly banal – and the reason they can do this is that they have observed them time and again with sustained attention, almost hypnotically. Under their gaze, everyday life ends up being enshrouded in mystery and taking on a kind of glow-in-the-dark quality which it did not have at first sight but which was hidden deep down. It is the role of the poet and the novelist, and also the painter, to reveal the mystery and the glow-in-the-dark quality which exist in the depths of every individual.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2014 was awarded to Patrick Modiano "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation". 


Happy New Year.  Peace. Justice. Love.



Bruce J. Martin said...

Any idea where to get a copy of "Please, Don't Bury Me Alive!/ ¡Por Favor, No Me Entierren Vivo!" ?

Manuel Ramos said...

Bruce - You can order a copy of the film from SubCine, "an artist-run and artist-owned collective of Latino film and video makers." Here's a link to SubCine:

Anonymous said...

Cool news you posted. So, next year we top that, qué no? - RudyG

Manuel Ramos said...

¡Como no? It gets better every year.