Latinos In The Industry
  September 18, 2008  
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"Capadocia" Gives Viewers an 'Oz'-like Look Inside a Women's Prison

By Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times

If there's one institution with a more dubious reputation than women's prisons, it's women’s prison movies.

Trite dialogue, cheesy lesbian sex and prison guards with personalities somewhere between Heinrich Himmler and the Marquis de Sade are the staples of this pulp genre, the popularity of which mercifully peaked decades ago. While a talented director occasionally gets seduced into trying his hand at the form, as Jonathan Demme did with his semi-socially conscious 1974 feature film debut, “Caged Heat" -- featuring the immortal tagline "White hot desires melting cold prison steel!" -- most such flicks eschew reform-minded messages and pander with lurid clichés.

"Capadocia," the new 13-part HBO Latino TV series about a Mexican women's prison that has already had a successful run on Mexican pay television, doesn't exactly turn up its nose at cellblock sensationalism. Although there's no shortage of brutal mayhem and gratuitous skin, the series, which premiered last week, attempts to go beyond exploitation and shed light on the systemic corruption and inequity of Mexico's criminal justice network.

So nefarious are Mexico's penal colonies -- including Mexico City's infamous Santa Marta Acatitla penitentiary, on which the series is based -- that "Capadocia" could be regarded more as a reality show than a melodrama, said Guillermo Rios, one of its principal directors and co-writers. The series is especially timely given the recent spree of kidnappings, beheadings and other drug-related orgiastic violence engulfing Mexico.

"Currently, [Mexico] suffers a wave of violence, very much resembling, or no, rather we are surpassing, what Colombia had 10 years ago," Rios said. "So in this sense the reality of my country gives us a lot of material, unfortunately."

Like “Oz,” the lauded HBO series that helped inspire it, "Capadocia" is a sprawling ensemble drama that casts several of Mexico's best-known television and film actors in major roles, including Ana de la Reguera ("Nacho Libre"), Juan Manuel Bernal ("El callejón de los milagros") and Cecilia Suárez ("Spanglish"). It spins multiple, interlacing plot strands and characters into a single narrative, while constantly switching point-of-view from events inside to outside the prison.

The series, which will also be available on HBO On Demand with English subtitles, signals rising ambitions for the pay-cable network. With solid production values, a relatively big-name cast and a total of about 300 actors (including a number of actual prison inmates playing extras), the series is attempting to lure Spanish-speaking and bilingual viewers away from the immensely popular telenovelas (Latin American soap operas) that dominate prime-time Spanish-language viewing.

"The Latin market, the Spanish market, is diversifying," Rios said. "It's also becoming a little more demanding. It wants products that speak in a more complex way about reality."

So far, the program's unusually steep production costs have paid off in Latin America. Early episodes of "Capadocia" have earned higher ratings in Mexico than such other popular series as "Rome" and scored particularly well with women ages 25 to 34. Its second season is already in the works and is expected to be finished in 2009.

The series' principal ethical struggle is between humanistic reformers who want to build a rehabilitative model prison, and slick corporatists who see the new facility merely as a way to pump up the bottom line. A crusading lawyer, Teresa Lagos (played by Dolores Heredia), personifies the first group, while corporate shill Federico Marquez (Bernal) embodies the second.

The series' fictional Mexico City lockup serves as a microcosm of the society's larger failures. Human rights groups and investigative reporters have documented the considerable numbers of poor Mexican women who are sentenced to jail for relatively trivial crimes or simply because they couldn't pay a bribe or obtain decent lawyers. "The series, inside the prison, demonstrates the entire system of Mexican corruption, no?" De la Reguera said. "Because all these women always are in jail because of a lack of money, a lack of resources, because they stole a tin can of milk to give something to eat to their children."

Bernal, who'll be playing Iago in a stage production of "Othello" here this fall, suggests that his "Capadocia" character could be a kissing cousin of Shakespeare's smoothly reptilian villain.

"It's a character that develops in all social circles," Bernal said, speaking in Spanish like his colleagues, "that you can see having breakfast or eating lunch in a luncheonette in Mexico, contracting with two hit men to kill somebody, and at night he could be perfectly at home with the governor, perfectly at home in a tuxedo, and eating at a presidential dinner."

Individual chapters of "Capadocia" incorporate elements of some real-life crimes that have haunted Mexico lately. Episode 9, for instance, folds in a subplot about a serial killer of elderly women, based on a real incident.

Mirroring the mounting anxieties of the country's middle and upper classes, "Capadocia" also makes the point that no one is exempt from becoming a crime victim -- or suspect. De la Reguera's character, Lorena Guerra, leads a seemingly charmed life, complete with hunky husband and bourgeois creature comforts. But when she winds up on the wrong side of "the law," she realizes how delusional her middle-class sense of security was.

And as savage as Mexican men's prisons are, the situation is often even more dire for incarcerated women, De la Reguera pointed out.

"Society castigates a woman criminal more than a male criminal," the actress said. "If you go by a men's jail, there are queues of women entering, with Tupperware with food . . . . And if you go to a women's prison, no one visits them, the men abandon them. ."

It remains to be seen whether U.S. audiences made up of Latinos and Latin American immigrants will embrace a series that recalls the grimmer aspects of the countries they left behind. But Rios believes that, despite its bleak subject, "Capadocia" will reward viewers with a rich, multifaceted picture of Mexican society -- the good, the bad and the ugly.

Added Rios: "They [viewers] will say, 'This is what we are, and to be Mexican is good, with all that comes with the dark situations that we are living, but also we have beautiful things that can be rescued in this moment.' "


WGA Gay & Lesbian Writers Committee Presents: Those '70s Shows

The event will look back at the surprising array of LGBT characters that--for better and, sometimes, worse--were featured in so many TV episodes back then. The original writers of these episodes, including Bob Illes (“Sanford and Son”), Robert Dellinger (“The Streets of San Francisco”), Patricia Jones & Donald Reiker (“Bob Newhart”), Gary Markowitz (“MASH”), Diana Gould (“Family”), Rita Lakin (“Medical Center”) and Tom Reeder (“Barney Miller”), along with veteran actor Robert Mandan (“Soap,” “Maude”), will shed light on their approach to creating LGBT characters within the histori cal context of the times. The discussion will be moderated by Stephen Tropiano, author of “The Prime Time Closet,” the definitive book about LGBT television characters. A reel of clips from the highlighted shows, as well as from other popular ‘70s series, will introduce this fun and nostalgic evening. A prize drawing will be held for ‘70s TV trivia experts and a desert reception will follow the panel.

GAY & LESBIAN WRITERS COMMITTEE PRESENTS: Those ‘70s Shows.
Wednesday, 9/24, 7:30 p.m., WGA Headquarters, Multi-purpose Room.

RSVP: diversity@wga.org and put ‘Those 70’s Shows’ in the subject line.


Call for Entries: 6th Annual IndieProducer Screenwriting Contest

As an aspiring screenwriter, what you need more than anything is exposure. It doesn’t matter how great your script is if no one has read it. The goal of the IP Screenwriting Contest is to get your screenplay in front of the people who can hire you, and help get your movies made. Our judges are high caliber industry professionals, so regardless of whether you win an award, your work is being seen by the right people.

First place prize of $1000 cash and the IP Award for Best Screenplay. Second place prize of $250 cash, third place prize of $150 cash.

Submission deadline is October 15, 2008.

Visit the IndieProducer website for more details and submission information.

 

 

Roberto Gudino
NALIP member wins DGA Award for doc

NALIP member Roberto Gudino's (LPA 2008) film "BELOW THE FOLD:The Pulitzer that Defined Latino Journalism" was recently announced a winner in the Honorable Mention category for the Directors Guild of America Student Film Awards.

Roberto produced, directed, photographed, and edited this film. "We're honored to call attention to these exciting young filmmakers and to encourage diversity in the entertainment industry at the same time," said DGA president Michael Apted. "We look forward to seeing more of their work in the future." Roberto hopes to expand this film into a one hour documentary for national broadcast.

Most recently, Gudino photographed a short film for AARP's Stolen Dreams Short Film Campaign. Nine young filmmakers were challenged to make engaging short films based on health care or financial security—two of the most pressing matters facing Americans today. Please click here to view the short Gudino shot and vote.


Anayansi Prado
NALIPster's doc receives Fledgling Fund Grant for Outreach Campaign

NALIP member Anayansi Prado's film (LPA 2003) Children in No Man's Land, a documentary that uncovers th ecurrent plight of the 100,000 unaccompanied minors entering the United States every year, received a Fledgling Fund grant to fund its outreach campaign. With support from Chicken and Egg Pictures and in partnership with Working Films, filmmaker Anayansi Prado is launching an outreach campaign to work with various organizations along the border to bring awareness to the humanitarian issue of immigrants crossing the border.

 

News

Pondering the Future at Independent Film Week: Festivals and Distribution
(indieWIRE) - Dedicated to the theme "Filmmaking 2.0," the first weekday of Independent Film Week '08 explored changes emerging in the film business at F.I.T. in New York City. FULL STORY


Clip Strategy Links Lionsgate, YouTube
(The Hollywood Reporter) - Lionsgate has quietly introduced a new branded channel on the popular video site YouTube this week, with dozens of clips from its library linked to DVD and download-to-own film opportunities. FULL STORY


Filmmaker Joe Cardona Returns to Stories of a Cuba he Would Never Know
(Naples Daily News) - “Celia the Queen” represents the most commercially viable film of Joe Cardona’s 15-year career: A combination of his loves of documentary filmmaking, Cruz and the musicians who populated her life. FULL STORY


Jobs & Opportunities

Visit the NALIP Job Opportunities page for all the latest listings.

Part-time Assistant to Publicist / Paid Internship
Part-time assistant to publicist wanted for Mid-Wilshire Literary Management and Production Company to help in the launch of books and film projects. FULL JOB DESCRIPTION

 

From the Editor

 

Editor
Alex Mendoza
Alex Mendoza & Associates
AMARTE Design & Digital Printing
9513 Longden Avenue
Temple City, CA 91780
626-614-8277

Co-Editor
NALIP
1323 Lincoln Blvd., #220
Santa Monica, CA 90401
310-395-8880
membership@nalip.info

Contact us at webmaster@nalip.infoTo post news, announcements, business data or job postings.

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