MADRID — Soon to be seen in “Blade Runner 2049,” where he reprises his role as Gaff, Edward James Olmos sounded a note of large hope for Latino moviemaking as he talked to journalists in Madrid a day before he receives the 2017 Honorary Platino Award for career achievement.
Latinos account for more than 20% of the population but only 4% of images in the U.S., said Olmos, a seasoned voice of Hollywood’s Latino film and TV community who shot to fame in “Miami Vice” to snag an Oscar nomination for “Stand and Deliver.”
That contrasts with Afro-Americans – 12% of Americans and 17% of images. In 1940, there were 750 cinema theaters in the U.S. screening movies in Spanish. Now there are only 35, Olmos said, adding he was shocked no mention was made in “Argo” of the fact that the real-life Tony Mendez played by Ben Affleck in the film was Mexican-American.
The situation, Olmos argued, can only get better.
“Currently, there’s an incredible prejudice, discrimination,” he lamented, noting that anti-Latino sentiment was “much stronger than at any other time, because people are afraid of us.” But that merely encouraged the 70-year-old – “but 70 is the new 68,” he joked – to continue making movies.
“I’m going to go on, because it’s very different what’s happening in North America.” But “we’re a lot of people and we’re going to be many more and we’ll dominate movie art,” he predicted, noting that Latinos already represented 52% of first-weekend audiences for “War for the Planet of the Apes.”
Latinos spend $2.5 on beer, compared to an average $1 for non-Latinos.
“The film industry loves us because we give it a lot of money and for that reason you’re seeing more Latinos in secondary roles,” Olmos argued.
What Latinos needed was “patience,” Olmos summed up. Donald Trump has “put us in a very different position” and “done what he’s liked all his life. But everything will be investigated and finally come out,” he predicted.
Olmos said he had battled for 30 years to make a film about a Latino winning the U.S. Medal of Honor. He has failed.
“I’ve tried my whole life to make movies for the whole world, using stories about Latinos in the U.S. It’s very difficult but we will be able to make our own stories [in the future],” Olmos concluded.
Olmos spoke to a captive audience. Focusing on movies and now TV from Ibero-America – Latin America, Spain and Portugal – the 4th Platino Ibero-America Film Awards unspool Saturday night in Madrid at a gala ceremony which will bring together much of the Latino filmmaking community.
In a first kudos salvo, three Platino Audience Awards were announced Friday morning. Directed by Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn, Argentina’s “The Distinguished Citizen,” a lament of small-town small-mindedness, won the Best Picture Audience Awards and best actor for Oscar Martinez, adding to the Volpi Cup best actor award Martinez won at last September’s Venice Film Festival for the same film.
Uruguay’s Natalia Oreiro (“The German Doctor”) won Best Actress for another Argentine film, music icon biopic “I’m Gilda,” a box office hit in Argentina and healthier international export.
It remains to be seen whether Argentina’s strong run in the Audience Awards will play out across major prizes tomorrow night where “Aquarius” faces off with “The Distinguished Citizen,” “Smoke & Mirrors,” “Julieta” and “Neruda” for Best Ibero-American Picture.