Carta Abierta a Lupita Jones

Los Amantes Pasajeros…Nuevo Film de Almodóvar!

Movie Poster 2
Movie Poster 2

Cuando pensamos en el cineasta español Pedro Almodóvar, quizá lo primero que viene a la conciencia colectiva del público sean los colores audaces, guiones provocativos y bandas sonoras inolvidables, así como el reconocido y esperado efecto de shock Almodóvar.  Ese giro inesperado y escandaloso en las historias que provocan suspiros y retorcijones estomacales feroces que dejan al público con un deseo ardiente de un buen Martini o un trago fuerte.  Esto claro,  para digerir lo que Almodóvar se acaba de atrever a hacer una vez más en su estado de genio como uno de los cineastas más provocativos, auténticos y prolíficos de nuestra generación. Lo lleva haciendo desde sus inicios que datan a 1986 con joyas como La ley del deseo, Todo sobre mi madre y recientemente La mala educación y La piel en que habito. Foto: Paola Ardizzoni / Emilio Pereda para El Deseo SLU

No así su nueva cinta titulada Los Amantes Pasajeros (I’m So Excited!), la cual se estrenará en Estados Unidos el 28 de junio.  En esta ocasión, Almodóvar deja el melodrama, la tragedia y las curvas peligrosas de sus renglones torcidos para ofrecer una comedia ligera y sí, bastante provocativa, en la que el uso del color y el entorno y look “vintage” sesentero siguen siendo protagonistas de la historia.  Con un elenco de primera estelarizada por el fabuloso Javier Cámara, la musa Cecilia Roth, Carlos Areces, Raul Arevalo, Antonio de la Torre, Guillermo Toledo y la fabulosa Lola Dueñas y “cameos” breves de sus siempre fieles Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz y Paz Vega, Amantes Pasajeros cuenta la historia de un grupo bastante diverso de pasajeros y la tripulación del vuelo Península 2549.

Los_amantes_pasajeros-885537816-largeEl vuelo, debido a una falla técnica, causada obviamente por error humano, se ve en la extraña situación de estar circulando sobre La Mancha después de haber partido para Ciudad de México y entre el elixir provocado por el agüita de Valencia con los pasajeros de primera clase y unos calmantes que ponen a dormir a toda la tripulación y los pasajeros de la clase turista, el plato fuerte de la trama y la acción se desarrolla en la cabina y en primera clase.

Entre una comedia de errores de Mel Brooks y las tragicomedias clásicas de Hollywood, Los Amantes Pasajeros es un viaje de diversión que nos lleva del humor gay al existencialismo puro de una generación dominada por las redes sociales y los dispositivos de comunicación electrónicos que al final parecen ser el único escape de todos los tripulantes.

Si eres fan de Almodóvar, abrocha tu cinturón, apaga tus dispositivos electrónicos y prepárate para morir de la risa durante el vuelo Península 2549 de Los Amantes Pasajeros! El capitán Almodóvar ha recibido autorización para despegar, así que disfruta del vuelo y gracias por volar Península Airways.

 

Los amantes-pasajeros Cast

Iron Man 3- Un Comic de Puro Hierro!

Iron Man 3 Movie Poster
Iron Man 3 Movie Poster

Aún no iniciamos la temporada veraniega, donde la playa y el sol toman un papel secundario con la avalancha de éxitos taquilleros que suelen ser los protagonistas del verano, y ya de una empiezan a salir los grandes blockbusters que serán el barómetro de los nuevos récords de taquilla en el cine.  Y para muestra un botón, la tercera instalación de la aclamada serie de Iron Man de Marvel Studios, la cual se estrenó el 3 de mayo, 2013 y la cual está estelarizada por un elenco de primera: el consagrado y guapérrimo Robert Downey Jr., la siempre culta y bella Gwyneth Paltrow, el carismático Don Cheadle y el camaleónico Guy Pearce como villano.  La cinta está colmada de efectos especiales al por mayor y si eres fan de la serie y de los comics, pues Iron Man 3 no te defraudará.  Definitivamente Iron Man 3 tiene de todo, es cómica en momentos inesperados y la relación que Tony Spark (Downey Jr.) desarrolla en  la historia con el pequeño y simpático actor Ty Simpkins, es realmente excepcional. La aventura, las explosiones y los efectos visuales y de sonido de Iron Man 3 son lo que se espera de Hollywood. Las actuaciones y la historia de nueva cuenta vuelven a estar a la altura de las dos primeras partes de esta serie hecha toda un clásico gracias a los estudios de Marvel, cuyas inversiones en el mundo del celuloide parecen estar teniendo muy buenos resultados.  Si te gustaron las dos primeras, entonces no dejes de ver la tercera parte en la gran pantalla, porque esperar a verla en tu casa por DVD no es lo mismo ni es igual.

Adiós Jenni…Remembering “La Gran Diva de la Banda”

Jenni & Me

There are simply no words or thoughts that can express the loss all Latinos, but particularly Mexican Americans, have experienced with the tragic and untimely death of one of Latin music’s larger than life icons, Jenni Rivera.  If Selena’s death was a national event, well, Jenni’s has to be that to the tenth power.  Not to take any merit away from the brilliant slain Tejano singer, but Jenni, in her own right, has had a longer and most prolific and polarizing musical career.

December 9th, 2012 will be forever remembered as the day that Regional Mexican music lost perhaps its most important contemporary leading lading.  Born in Long Beach, California in 1969, Jenni Rivera launched her musical career very modestly in 1995 behind the shadows of her older brother, the charismatic and media-hogging Lupillo Rivera.  But as the years went by, the roles reversed and Jenni took front and center stage in the family dynasty as not only the leading new female voice of Banda music, a genre dominated by Stetson hat, and boot-wearing macho Mexican cowboys, but also as a very savvy and astute business entrepreneur and media personality.  She came on to the scene strong and with the collective rage of a hurt lioness reflected in thousands of Latina fans who  found in Jenni a sense of consolation, strength and motivation from past failed romances and sour relationships.

Not that female empowerment had not been done before in Latin music, Lupita D’Alessio and Dulce had done it many years before and Paquita La Del Barrio had been at it for some time as well, but never had a young Mexican American taken that role in the U.S., and this is why Jenni carved her own territory and her own kingdom in the genre.  But aside from her music, Jenni was kind and loving to her fans, she always said she was one of them, and she proved it with actions to the legions of adoring fans: young women, older women, girls, men, and the GLBT community, who she embraced as her own without ever pandering or claiming to be a self-proclaimed gay icon, like others had done in the general market.

El Clan Rivera
El Clan Rivera (foto cortesía de Antonio Velasco)

I first met Jenni when I worked at Univision Records, as head of publicity for the recording label.  She had been in the Fonovisa Records side of the house working with my counterpart Mariluz Gonzalez.  I always envied the talent Mariluz got to work with, because she had all the iconic Regional Mexican acts, household names in Latin music such as Marco Antonio Solis, Los Tigres del Norte, Los Temerarios and of course Ms. Jenni Rivera.  But to my surprise, in my last year at the label, Jenni switched over to Univision Records and I had the immense pleasure of working with her for a year on the launch of her first album with the label.  I never befriended artists, because that was not my job.  But Jenni had a way of just clicking with people and immediately opened her arms and her heart to me as we prepared to launch not only her album but the first promotional single. I remember taking her to a gay night club for the album release party, because at the label there was no money for these types of activities, so I leveraged my relationships with promoters around town, and took her to a local West Hollywood club to launch her new album.  I thought she would have declined or thought I was crazy, but the minute I told her where we were going, she was just happy to get to be near her fans in a close and intimate setting.

Charitin with Gustavo Rivera, Doña Rosa and Jenni (circa 2004)
Charitin with Gustavo Rivera, Doña Rosa and Jenni (circa 2004) by Antonio Velasco

I also had the great pleasure of organizing and putting together a special with Charitin for Escandalo TV, a special on the Rivera dynasty, which aired for an entire week on the Telefutura Network back in that same year (circa 2004).  It was at this point that I realized how tight-knit and how close this family truly was.  That they were organically and truthfully one for all and all for one!  I saw the family in their natural element and in their turf.  They were genuinely loving with one another and from that occasion I realized what a strong bond the Riveras really had.

La Familia Rivera by LethalFatal.com
La Familia Rivera by LethalFatal.com

I can’t say Jenni and I were close friends, because I knew my role in her career, but years after I left the label, I would run into her at various functions and events, and even was invited to her house in Chino Hills to celebrate her birthday with her family, and she would always greet me with a warm friendly smile, a hug and a kiss and made me feel special, like I had mattered in her career at one point, and that, I shall never forget.

Her voice, her style, her persona will live on forever and one more time, Latinos all over the world will mourn the passing of another idol that was their pride and joy, a new legend, a new icon relegated to the Pantheon of great Mexican American heroes.  A collective sense of anger, disbelief and sadness will forever permeate in the lives of her fans and those who were fortunate to be a part of her life.  Descansa en paz Gran Señora!

Fiercely Independent and Entrepreneurial…Introducing LiLo!

LiLo- Te Quiero Confesar

After being in the music industry for a while now, I can see why so many industry insiders and journalists become so jaded when new talent comes by, especially if they’re coming to you in person delivering their dreams and hopes encased in the form of a CD.

The music industry has changed drastically; as a matter of fact, it was in the midst of a major metamorphosis when I came into the scene back in the late 90’s. Digital music was becoming a threat to an old fashioned recording industry that resisted the wave of a changing time and failed to catch that wave and ride it with the likes of iTunes and other downloading sites when it had a chance to be a driving force in that new era.  Instead of welcoming it, it turned its back on it, consequently affecting the livelihood of thousands of people involved in making music; from the writers, engineers and musicians, to the marketing, operations and sales staff at the record labels.

Fast forward to the 2000’s, the era of digital music downloading, where music is still king, but distribution is actually god!  Like in TV newsrooms, where journalists have become a one-person shop, acting as reporter, sound and light engineer, producer and sometimes even camera operator, recording artists today, at least the indy ones, are basically their own record labels; they’re the CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s, marketing gurus and PR directors of their own brand, themselves!

And this is how I met LiLo!  We met at an industry event in late September at The Grove in Los Angeles, and we sat together at this breakfast, sponsored by Hispanicize 2013.  It was early in the morning on a Saturday. I was hungry, a bit hungover and tired, so the last thing I wanted to do was be pitched by a new artist.

But, unlike many anxious and nervous new artists, LiLo was the exception, not the rule to this industry pattern exhibited by the juniors, the beginners.  LiLo, stage name for the singer song writer Linda Lopez (originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco but raised in the City of Angels), actually had a great conversation with me about everything other than her music; I didn’t even know she was a recording artist. It was not until we said our goodbyes, that she presented me, to my pleasant surprise, with a copy of “Te quiero confesar,” her debut album, which she produced and recorded independently in Mexico City a year-and-a-half ago under the Mexican indy label Class Music.

Talk about a BAM moment.  It was that element of surprise and intrigue that captured my attention, and my interest in discovering this singer-songwriter’s music as soon as I got in my car.  If first impressions matter, LiLo hit a home run in my book.  I popped in the CD, and I must say, I was captivated by her sound instantly. I have not been able to put it down since!

“Te quiero confesar” as she puts it in her website, is “half personal diary, half sonic experiment” and this couldn’t be more accurate.  The album is a collection of 10 tracks, masterfully produced by Jose Tajonar, with 9 tracks written by LiLo and Tajonar, with the exception of a fabulous Spanish rendition of Blondie’s “Call Me.”  A bit pop rock, a bit rock with a splash of electro pop at times, “Te quiero confesar” is charged with an honesty and sensibility that only an indy artist can get away with.  Lilo show’s her vulnerability not only in her emotional range, but also in her vocal transparency and awesome diversity.

The first single, which is my favorite of the entire album is “Estupida no soy,” a heart-wrenching tale of a love gone wrong and the reality of an infidelity uncovered.  The lyrics by Jose Maria Ruiz are sickening (in a very positive and flattering way of course), fueled by LiLo’s passionate rendition and vocal range; in my opinion, the crown jewel of the entire album.

But LiLo doesn’t stop there.  Listening to “Te quiero confesar” is truly a journey, a roller coaster of emotions that take you from melancholy in tracks like “Sola” and “Da igual” to very cool soft pop rock tracks like “Si te vas” and “Por amor”.  And if you didn’t think her indy spirit and songwriting talent was fierce enough, try garnering your own sponsorship deals to expand your own music’s exposure, as she did with “Cuentos de radio,” (electro-pop track reminiscent of LaRoux, and another favorite of mine) which served as the anthem for the Nike campaign Nosotras Corremos, a run in Mexico City in 2011 that attracted 8 million people, or the hot track “Mr. Hollywood,” which is featured in MTV’s Popland… both deals organized and closed by LiLo herself!

New artists come and go.  Few are the ones with a permanent quality.  LiLo is the NEW, NOW and NEXT recording artist.  The fiercely independent artist that has transcended the “dream” stage and has taken her dream, her music and her talent to the goal-setting track.  She’s on a path to stardom because she not only wants it badly, she was born to do this and it shows in her music and her strategy of making things happen on her own.

Make no mistake, LiLo is no dreamer.  She has talent, beauty, vision, a voice to boot, and a business savvy virtue rivaled only by the likes of JLo and PitBull.

If you’re a fan of good Spanish pop, than LiLo delivers the good and does not disappoint!

End of Watch Offers Breakout Performance of 2012: Flakiss Is Back!

End of Watch Movie Poster
Byron Brizuela, Jae-P, Patricia Lopez and Univision Records Exec @ LATV

Many of you know that many moons ago I worked at Univision Records (now defunct- sold to Universal Records) as National Publicity Manager.  Boy! we had it all, radio, TV, “synergy” and talent to boot.  We were the #1 Latin record company in the U.S. and well, had the luxury of experimenting and introducing new genres.  In 2004, we introduced to the world the Urban Regional movement; a fusion of Banda Mexican music mixed with the streets’ urban Hip Hop beats.  Reggaeton had nothing on us; it didn’t even register in radio airwaves and Univision TV in a spirit of “synergy” with the record label and its radio partners made of the Urban Regional genre a movement all its own.  Artists at the forefront of this musical movement were Akwid, Jae-P (keep an eye out for a future piece on this one), Flakiss (the only female Latin rapper in Spanish music at the time aside from Ivy Queen and La Mala Rodriguez, as well as Mexiklan, David Rolas (now with Latino 96.3 FM in LA) and Crooked Stilo.

Flakiss

So why the history lesson you ask? and what does it all have to do with Director David Ayer’s current box office smash End of Watch (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, América Ferrera)?  Well picture this… Arclight Cinema Hollywood, on a recent sunny and hot Saturday LA afternoon.  I’m with two dear friends, one of them Justino Aguila, West Coast Latin Features Editor for Billboard Magazine and as the movie gets going something crazy happened.  A few minutes into the film, a scene opens with crazy gangsters in a mini van being driven by a crazy gangster girl.  Camera pans to driving girl and there she was, on a Hollywood screen, the girl, the artist I had met in 2003 and who I helped launch her Latin hip hop musical career…  “La Flakiss,” AKA Yahira Garcia.

Justino turns to me as I turn to him, our jaws wide open and with the same face of disbelief… like, is that who we think it is? Can it be Flakiss?  And guess what? It sure was.  My sense of pride and happiness for an artist I disconnected from when I left the music industry was there, before my eyes in a major box office hit, sharing credits, scenes and screen time with Gyllenhaal, Ferrera and Peña as a seasoned actress doing her thing and doing it quite well.

Flakiss with Jake Gyllenhaal and Cast

As my buddy Manny Ruiz of Hispanic PR Blog had told me earlier, the film was one not to be missed and he gave plenty of reasons why, but primarily, he said that it was a positive film about Latinos.  Now, at first sight, you may not get that impression, but as you dig deeper and you follow the plot and the premise of the story, you realize that Ruiz was actually right on the money.  While Flakiss may play a crazy, perhaps to many, stereotypical Latina gangster, Peña on the other hand is the complete opposite of her, as is America Ferrera’s Lesbian officer character.  Peña is not only the voice of reason for Gyllenhaal, he represents everything the latter is not or has not: family values, love of family life, culture and self-identity.

To call Flakiss’ work a “breakout performance in 2012” is no stretch, especially when you hear the story as to how she got the role and how she was discovered.  Needless to say, after viewing the movie I immediately went to today’s 411/911 people locator, Facebook, and it worked. I located my old friend and I simply sent her a message to congratulate her on her performance and her new-found talent, acting!

To my surprise, Flakiss immediately responded and well, the rest is history.  We had an awesome long phone conversation, got all caught up with our lives and the following is just a quick summary of why Flakiss is back.  Yes, improved, remade, remastered and revamped as an actress.  Music is still one of her passions and in the future, expect more from this versatile chica that came out of the barrio a winner.

Perhaps the most understated and best kept secret of the season has to be, hands down, Yahira “Flakiss” Garcia’s role as LaLa in David Ayer’s box office hit End of Watch. Playing the main female villain, Yahira, a native Angelena from South Central LA and former Univision Records recording artist better known as Flakiss, her MC alias, came to the role with zero acting experience and pretty much pinching the part from Hollywood royalty of the likes of Michelle Rodriguez and America Ferrera (rumor has it, they coveted LaLa’s part).

After 3 albums under her belt her recording career came to a halt in 2006, as music industry declined and her label (Univision Records) was sold to Universal, Flakiss found herself at the end of the road feeling like every door was closing on her.

With the realities of her tough surroundings and the end of a short-lived musical career as one of the few female Latina rappers in the U.S., Yahira was about to seek employment at a local McDonald’s after applying for a job with a temp agency when director David Ayer came knocking to her door.  To her surprise, Ayer and his wife Mireya had been fans of her Latin rap music and they had her in mind for LaLa’s character.

And that my friends is a TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY!  Go get em’ Flakiss… SI SE PUEDE!

 

The Original Queen Is Back: All Hail Ivy Queen

Conga Room Poster for Ivy Queen’s Musa CD Release Party

Just when you thought that Latin Hip Hop had no representation, Ivy Queen, the Boricua “Spitfire” comes back with a whole new arsenal of infectious hip hop beats and a tongue sharper than your momma’s sugar cane machete in her much-anticipated new album Musa!  And this is what the New York Times has said about her: “There is only one significant female reggaeton rapper; Ivy Queen,” so please don’t get it twisted!

As she embarks in a promo tour to launch Musa, her latest studio album, Angelenos can gear up for a hot summer night at LA Live’s Conga Room,where she promises to bring the house down with old classics such as Dime, La Vida es Asi, Papi Te Quiero, Guillaera and Quiero Bailar, to name a few.

The Conga Room @ LA Live

If you haven’t been to the Conga Room, you’re missing out.  The venue has become a hub for showcasing emerging and established artists like Ivy Queen, Moenia, Alejandra Guzman and Alejandro Fernandez. It’s a small and intimate space, which truly allows the artist and audience to connect in an MTV Unplugged kind of setting. On Thursday, August, 23, Ivy Queen is scheduled to appear in a special, private CD release party.  If you got your ticket, consider yourself lucky. Aside from its fab acoustic and stage setting, the interior design of this LA staple is modern, hip and oh so inviting!

Though I’ve only heard a few of the new tracks on iTunes, I can guarantee you, la diva, la potra Ivy Queen is destined to bring down the house with her unique take on hip hop and Reggaeton.  The new album is a little bit of a throw back to her pure Reggaeton roots, sprinkled with some hints of Bachata (Cupido), but overall, Musa is a fusion of contemporary upbeat rhythms juxtaposed with some good ol’ classic Latin beats such as the Colombian-cumbia-sounding A Donde Va.  Tracks you must not miss on the new album include Como Bailo Yo, La Killer and Cuando las Mujeres!

The Conga Room is to intimacy what chocolate is to an aphrodisiac delight.

La López and Iglesias: Beauty and the Grunge?

Enrique and JLo
Enrique Iglesias and JLo Concert Poster

OK, so I recently went to see Ms. JLo and Enrique Iglesias (uh, yeah, awkward combo) at the Staples Center in LA Live in Downtown LA.  I know money moves the world and concerts are no exception to this very well-known fact, but to pair the Diva of Glam with the pseudo grungy crooner of Enrique Iglesias was confusing at best and disturbing at worst.  If pop stars are king, then concert promoters are god, and this concert evidenced this sentiment.

Mind you, I admire both pop stars tremendously and have been following their careers since they both hatched in the constellation of celebridom (yeah, I just made that one up!).

While I truly admire Enrique Iglesias and his commercial pop style, I feel that he keeps on serving the same old tired shtick.  Come on, dress up a little, look like a pop star not like a typical urban college student… you’re passed that age Enrique.  I mean, Beto Cuevas, former La Ley frontman, looks like a rock star, exuding sensuality and passion with every lick of his lips, every pelvic movement and every note that comes out of his gifted voice.  I’m not proposing Enrique becomes someone he’s not, but he has to step it up a tad and really exude the fact that he is a global Latin pop star, so I say, act and look like one.

Enrique’s show has not changed much since I saw him 10 years ago, when he was dabbling into the world of English pop with Bailamos.  Yes, to his credit, he’s extremely connected to his audience, but the same routine gets a bit old and quite predictable.  You know what I’m talking about, the invitation of the gay guy on stage, who he flirts with and romances with a song, making it very clear that he’s as straight as an arrow and of course, the obligatory overweight female fan who forever makes out with him on stage and disappears with him under stage after he makes her feel like she’s the only girl in the world!

It’s all good and fun, but after seeing Enrique three times, you wonder if he’s just a one-trick pony.  I sure hope not, because he’s talented to boot and has music that still resonates with a growing, multigenerational, cross-cultural and cross gender fan base.

On the other hand, La López delivers what fans expect of her, glamour, fierceness, fashion, divaesque choreographies and entertainment galore. To expect JLo to belt out a soprano note and not crack is like expecting the Second Coming of Christ announced a day before on the cover of the New York Times, so haters, leave Ms. JLo alone!  Jeez Louise.  She’s a global brand, and entertainer who ran with her assets and learned to exploit them; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  If you want Liza with a Z or Barbra Streisand, then go buy tickets for their shows.  JLo is now, and she’s also 2020, not 1970, so don’t get it twisted.

JLo and Enrique Iglesias Concert Poster

To say that I enjoyed JLo’s performance would be a gross understatement.  The woman delivered in every aspect.  Her performance was a little Broadway with a splash of Vegas extravaganza eleganza!  The highlights of the night were her ability to captivate the audience with her sensual moves, including the 29 second ode to her posterior wiggle.  But aside from the upbeat rhythms of her repertoire, she was able to take it back to her beloved Bronx in a hip hop medley that is reminiscent of her notorious Puff Daddy past.  But a great slow interlude was her slow jam of  Until It Beats No More, which she basically dedicates to her children in a video montage that is quite sincere and emotional.

But for her dance fans, JLo did not disappoint and she brought her music videos to life in tracks like Papi, Waiting for Tonight, On The Floor, Dance Again and the grand finale track Follow The Leader with her fellow Boricuas Wisin and Yandel, which pretty much brought the house down and was the perfect close to a night of glitter, sensual hip/booty gyrations and a global icon who just happens to be one of ours…Latina de corazon.
So for all that it’s worth, let’s be proud of our Latino global stars and support them so that they may continue shining in that Hollywood constellation for many, many years to come.  Viva Puerto Rico!

Pablo Escobar…Telemundo’s Golden Ticket to Become #1!

By LethalFatal

To call Pablo Escobar a modern-day Robin Hood is akin to calling Adolph Hitler a goddamn saint. So, just to be crystal clear, Pablo Escobar was an unscrupulous, cold-hearted terrorist murderer who engulfed the southern country of Colombia with death, cruelty and terrorism for almost two decades.

Courtesy of Telemundo

OK, so now that we’re clear on that minor detail, and as Juan Camilo Ferrand stated in a recent preview screening of Telemundo’s upcoming and much-anticipated TV series Pablo Escobar, El Patrón del Mal, when asked if Pablo Escobar was like a Robin Hood because of all the supposed good deeds he did for his community (e.g., “he spent millions on parks, schools, stadiums, churches and even housing for the poorest of Medellín’s inhabitants”), Ferrand replied– “If people only knew the atrocities and how many deaths and blood were shed for each house he gave, they would think twice before calling him a modern-day Robin Hood, but I’ll leave that up to the audience to determine.”

This is the story line and subject matter of the new TV series, which is to make its U.S. debut on Telemundo Network on Monday, July 9, 2012 at 10:00 PM, giving way to an open discussion at the office water cooler over a man who caused so much havoc in his native Colombia, but went on to become perhaps the most infamous and to a certain degree, legendary drug cartel leader of the 20th Century.  Comprised of a stellar cast lead by Andrés Parra in the starring role as PABLO ESCOBAR, Angie Cepeda as REGINA PAREJO, Cecilia Navia as PATY DE ESCOBAR, Vicky Hernández as ENELIA, Nicolás Montero as LUIS CARLOS GALÀN, Ernesto Benjumea as RODRIGO LARA, and  Germán Quintero as GUILLERMO CANO, to name a few, this new series is undoubtedly going to cause a major tremor in Spanish television this year.

According to Ferrand and the producers of Pablo Escobar, El Patrón del Mal, the TV series is based on countless journalistic pieces, victims’ testimonies as well as police reports, some, never before published.  And, while the initial fear for some may be that this series will glorify the gruesome acts of a disturbing criminal, the truth is, that it actually aims to shed light to the story behind not only the perpetrator but that of the untold stories of thousands of his victims.

If one thing defines Ferrand’s work, is his prowess and innate ability of objective story telling.  No stranger to the world of script writing and popularity, think Las Muñecas de la Mafia and El Cartel, which he wrote, Ferrand is also an accomplished novelist, he wrote Las Fantásticas del Cartel, book which inspired Las Muñecas de la Mafia, and which I actually reviewed some time ago on this blog.

In the heels of the highly acclaimed La Reina del Sur and if history is to repeat itself, Pablo Escobar, El Patrón del Mal promises to be a home run investment for Telemundo, as the TV series broke audience records in Colombia, where it was aired and produced by Caracol Telvision.  Telemundo is certainly banking on this premise, as it did with previous Colombian imports, namely Yo Soy Bety La Fea and the aforementioned Ferrand TV hits for the network.

Juan Camilo Ferrand (Photo by LethalFatal)

I have full confidence that this series will break audience records in the U.S. and may even outrank #1 heavyweight Univision in its time slot.  From what I saw in the first episode, Pablo Escobar, El Patrón del Mal, is a high-end, high touch level production, which is bound to become a major tour de force among Latino audiences in the U.S.  I mean, it’s not a typical “telenovela rosa” with the same old refried story line about the poor, young girl that falls in love with the rich guy (YAWN!), and which Televisa and Univision insist on force feeding to the masses in the U.S.  It’s tired, it’s old and it’s boring.

So, once again, as I’ve done before, I applaud not only Caracol, but also Telemundo for being risk takers and for thinking out of the box, offering original, thought-provoking and high quality Spanish television programing.

I don’t watch Spanish television anymore, but if I do, it seems like Telemundo is the only Spanish-speaking network in this country that does not undermine or underestimate forward-thinking Latinos who are thirsty for high quality and intriguing Spanish television dramas.

Bravo Caracol, bravo Telemundo and joven Juan Camilo Ferrand, don’t ever deprive us of your amazing writing talent.  You are indeed a Latin American treasure.

Juan Camilo and Antonio Velasco (Photo by LethalFatal)

A Very Mexican Musical: Si Nos Dejan

I know it may sound unconventional or even as a paradox to put the words Mexican and musical together, but it actually does happen, and more than you know or can imagine.  Mexico City (DF) offers some of the most enriching cultural experiences in the planet.  As a matter of fact, I can actually venture to firmly say that “el DF” is the NYC of Latin America.  It has the feel and look of a cosmopolitan metropolis like the Big Apple and offers just as much culture and art in the compact confines of its concrete jungle.

While Mexican theater and musicals are no novelty in Mexico, the latest tribute to Mexican folklore and the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema is by far “sui generis.”  Mexico has produced and offered thousands of Broadway musicals in Spanish, from Cats to Evita and if you ever want a brilliant sampler of a Spanish rendition of some of Broadway’s’ biggest hits, look for Rocio Banquells’ Un sueño alguna vez soñé album, it’s worth every track.  Other Mexican theater productions worth mentioning  are Aventurera  produced by Mexican theater and cinema icon Carmen Salinas, and Perfume de Gardenia produced by Omar Suárez.

Si nos dejan, one of Mexico’s signature staple mariachi songs, penned by perhaps the single most prolific writer in the ranchero genre Jose Alfredo Jimenez, is the inspiration and driving force behind the musical Si nos dejan, el gran musical mexicano, which opened in the summer of 2011 in Mexico City.  The musical, directed by Jose Manuel Lopez Velarde is a tribute not only to Mr. Jimenez but to the legendary iconography of the splendor of Mexican Cinema in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and the melodrama of the all too familiar Mexican telenovela.

Si nos dejan is set in an abandoned Cine Mexico, which is discovered by a mariachi band looking for a place to rehearse.  In the old and abandoned ruins of the once great Cine Mexico, the band members switch on the projector of the theater which gives life to the last film that was showcased in the movie house a few decades before.  And this is how the movie comes to life in a very clever and outstanding amalgamation of multimedia features juxtaposed with conventional theatrical sets.  Starring a talented cast of actors led by Leticia Lopez (Paloma) and Mariano Palacios (Jose Alfredo) with their respective sidekicks Ricardo Maza as Tristán and Michelle Rodriguez as Eufemia, Si nos dejan takes the viewer through an amazing journey of Mexican staples, mostly from Jose Alfredo Jimenez, but sprinkled with some Juan Gabriel and Agustin Lara tracks.

Unless you have grown up or been around the vernacular and traditional mariachi music and have read some of Mexico’s or Latin America’s greatest writers like Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Mario Vargas Llosa, then the Magic Realism in the production, which I will not spoil, will definitely go over your head, as I noticed it did a good friend of mine who is of Basque descent and who lives in DF and simply could not get past the idea of a part in the musical, which takes on the magical realm of the concept of death, resurrection, and La Llorona, a very Mexican and indigenous embedded tradition.

Aside from the gorgeous multimedia effects that recreate scenes of the ocean or cotton fields in California, the unbelievable mash-ups done with some of Mexico’s most iconic songs is simply to die for.  Imagine a masterful mix mashup of Por un amor and Volver volver, or Estos celos and La ley del monte, and my favorite No volvere and La media vuelta… the thought alone gives me goose bumps all over again.

To say that Si nos dejan is a masterpiece would be an understatement.  It is an invocation of all things Mexican, from the colorful costumes, to the “albures” and Mexican colloquialisms that are now common place anywhere in Latin America thanks to the very cinematography that Mexico exported to the world in its Golden Age, the era of glamour and distinction that El Indio Fernandez, Pedro Armendaris, Maria Felix, Dolores del Rio, Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Antonio Aguilar, Cantinflas, Flor Silvestre, Silvia Pinal, and Tin Tán, to name very few, made so glorious and unforgettable to Latinos all over the world.

The powerful performances of the lead characters, supported by the ravishing vocals of Juan Navarro as El Rey and Maria Filippini as Doña Lola, truly make of this musical a production up to par with and able to rival any Broadway production or any London show.

Whether this production will ever make it north of the Mexico border is yet to be seen, but if it does, you can rest assured I will go see it again.  If it does come to the US, you should consider going yourself.  If you like mariachi music, stellar vocals and Mexican melodrama, then Si nos dejan is the perfect solution for that nostalgia of a good old fashion classic romantic story.

Si nos dejan is by far the most Mexican musical you’ll ever witness.  It will make you cry, it will make you laugh and it will remind you of how rich our Mexican and/or Latino culture/heritage really is.  The goose bumps and tears are merely optional!