Hollywood has been a white bastion since it became the center of the movie industry of the United States in the early 1910s and its lack of diversity a sore point since the cameras began rolling. If this year’s Oscars are anything to go by, where the Latinx community shined by their absence, it continues to be an issue. And when Latinx people manage to carve out some degree of representation, Hollywood gifts us with a stereotypical portrayal. We aren’t all named Maria, you know. And we do not all twirl, sing, wield a knife, and cry on cue like if we were an extra in “West Side Story.”
There is still much to be done to gain equal access and representation and, to be fair, it is moving forward. But, is it fast enough?
If anyone knows the work that has been done and what lies ahead it’s Academy Award®-nominated actor Edward James Olmos. He has paved the way towards diversity on the big screen for years. Recently, BELatina News spoke to Olmos about the issue, and also about some amazing news he shared with us.
“We make up over 20 percent of the population. I think it’s a lot more. I think the census will prove that,” Mr. Olmos said. “But we make up less than four percent of the images and participation that we do in film, in the world of television, and this world of the art form.”
To that end, the Latino Film Institute, founded by Mr. Olmos, will be giving Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón, Director of Research and Civic Engagement of Social Sciences at UCLA, the sum of $100,000. This is the first monetary award provided by the Latino Film Institute Scholar program, and according to Olmos, there will be more.
Distributed over two years, the money will aid Dr. Ramón in her research pertaining, but not limited to, The Hollywood Diversity Report and it will allow her to study the Latino representation in Hollywood and the Latino audience, something she feels strongly about.
“As a daughter of Mexican and Peruvian immigrants who grew up in Los Angeles, I have experienced firsthand the erasure of the Latinx community in Hollywood,” she said.
“This generous LFI award provides me with the resources to expand my research on the entertainment industry and focus on Latinx representation,” Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón told BELatina News.
This award is a continuation of LFI’s core mission, which is to develop, activate, and support artists, creators, and executives through pathways and platforms that facilitate the expression and appreciation of their work.
Mr. Olmos said that this award will allow for the transparency so desperately needed in the film industry.
He not only wants Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón’s research to showcase the disparities in the industry but also hopes it educates the Latinx community on what their role in the industry is.
“The key to the whole thing is to make sure that we understand ourselves, that the Latinos understand themselves. The only way we can do that is by education. It’s necessary to understand what it means to be Latinx and an artist in the United States of America,” Mr. Olmos said.
The research will be an eye-opener for many; Mr. Olmos, as well as others, can’t wait to see what it uncovers.
“The next two years she will be able to use this money to continue the work she’s been doing, which to me is the most important work that one could do in this industry,” he said. “She’s advancing The Hollywood Diversity Report, the most extensive and concise report on Latinos in the industry and it will shine a light on what needs to be done in the community.”
He reminded us that our presence needs to be greater, not because we want it, but because the community deserves it.
The LFI has a board of directors that will continue to put forth candidates to help propagate and advance the studies and understanding of the Latinx and artistic community, he said.
Even though there is still much more that needs to happen for the industry to be where it needs to be, he continues to have a positive outlook on it. And, he wants everyone to do the same as well.
“Keep the hope and faith that this will change,” he said. “We will be able to look at this, at the industries, all of them, not only the film industry, and see a more understanding, equitable future. It will happen one day. That, to me, is really the key to life.”
The findings of Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón’s research on The Hollywood Report and anything else relating to her research will be updated on The Latino Film Institute’s website throughout the next two years. The information should also be available on UCLA’s College of Social Science site.
This is an important document, one that could change the future of Hollywood and give Latinos true representation.