Actor-director-producer Edward James Olmos was lauded yesterday for his artistic achievements, his community service and his “ability to inspire young people” as he received the sixth annual Eastman Kodak Second Century Award at a BevHills hotel lunch.
Olmos called the award “very humbling” and said it was “for just trying to live my life” as a filmmaker and community activist who tries to “advance the humanities through the use of my life.”
Proclaiming that he makes the kinds of movies that “don’t make a lot of dollars (but) make a lot of sense,” Olmos called on the industry to “change its understanding of its values.” He urged Hollywood to give an equal voice to women and to ensure that its commitment to social issues “will last 365 days of the year.”
Olmos’ leadership role in the Rebuild L.A. movement following the April L.A. violence that stemmed from the Rodney King verdict, and his widely televised example in going into the streets asthe head of a cleanup brigade, were praised by speakers at the industry gathering.
Producer-director Gilbert Cates told Olmos that people were “so moved with the dignified, thoughtful way you handled yourself during the terrible rebellion-riot.”
Actress Anjelica Huston, who presented the award, called Olmos a “hero” and added, “Eddie Olmos continues to sweep the streets today, six months later. And he swept the streets long before that.”
She noted that Olmos makes 150 appearances each year at schools, jails, detention centers and Indian reservations, spreading his message of hope and empowerment Peruvian-born L.A. filmmaker Carlos Avila said, “Eddie Olmos has served as a touchstone for many young Latino artists, and as an inspiration in the Latino community in general.”
Avila called Olmos’ landmark performance as El Pachuco in the legit version of Luis Valdez’ “Zoot Suit” (which the actor repeated in Valdez’ 1981 film version) an “epiphany” for many young Latinos, and said it made him want to “give characters like El Pachuco a place to exist on TV and film.”
Paying tribute to his YOY Prods. partners Robert and Irwin Young, with whom he made this year’s Universal release “American Me,” Olmos vowed, “The films that you will see by me and my partners will be films we are proud of.”
He added, “Some of them will hurt you immensely. Some will make you laugh. Some will make you cry. They will all be made with tremendous affection for the story and the subject matter.”