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10 Directors to Watch: Esteban Arango Channels Immigrant Experience in ‘Blast Beat’

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Arango moved to South Florida with his mother and brother when he was 14, a cultural shift that directly informed his debut feature, the Sundance-bound “Blast Beat.” (The film is inspired by his 2015 short of the same name.) With that project, which features Colombian-American brothers (and former Disney Channel stars) Mateo and Moisés Arias as siblings, Arango wanted to correct a problem he found in Hollywood-produced Latino narratives.

“There were stereotypes in those stories that I didn’t associate myself with: the violence, the drug trafficking,” Arango says. “You would see movies that reference Colombia, and it would look like the jungle. It’s far from the truth. I wanted to tell stories that felt cinematic, sophisticated and fun, where it’s not about underprivileged characters from Latin America, but the opposite: [people] with complex personalities and cool taste.”

In the film, the brothers skateboard and listen to heavy-metal music, but they’re also good at school, and one aspires to become a rocket scientist at NASA.

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“When you cast a wide net and try to encapsulate the whole community in one box, you’re alienating people,” he says. “But if you’re hyper-specific with your characters’ speech and actions, it becomes more truthful and gives a level of credibility.”

Arango, who wrote the original short’s script with the Arias brothers in mind after hearing Moisés’ “perfect Colombian Spanish” in “The Kings of Summer,” originally planned to incorporate it directly into the feature.

“But through the editing process and discovering what the movie had to offer, the short got pushed away from the main narrative. The same themes are still there — brotherhood, identity — but we have matured a lot. The personalities for both characters have become deeper and the magnitude of the situations these characters face have evolved.”

For the future, Arango hopes for bigger projects. He’s developing a horror series about cursed treasure and plundering in Colombia with co-writer Erick Castrillon.

Agency: Paradigm
Manager: Valor Entertainment Group
Legal: Hirsch Wallerstein

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