An Open Letter to James L. BrooksSpanglish Poster

May 31, 2005

Chalfont, Pennsylvania

Dear Mr. Brooks:

I just finished watching your film, “Spanglish.” I never saw your film during its initial run. I had read a few reviews and as usual I considered the opinions of several friends. They all dismissed it with an arrogance you can only achieve growing up in Los Angeles and going to college in New York.

Unfortunately, this time they were wrong. Spanglish is a beautifully crafted, carefully considered gem of a film. The characters are well defined. The issues raised are important and meaningful and the characterizations are thoughtful and deliberate.

I now realize that the reviews I read completely missed the most important aspect of this film and the off-hand comments I heard were mendacious and ignorant.

So much was made in the press about your recent divorce. This is the most ridiculous aspect of those reviews. Film critics should stick to what they know and leave the rest alone.

I am no film critic and I don’t pretend to be. What I am is a third generation American whose grandparents came from another country (in my case Mexico) not only to make a better life for themselves but to make the life of this country better. This is the common heritage of many people reading this today.

The conflict inherent in the duality of cultures has never been more perfectly expressed than in this film. When Cristina is translating the argument between John and Flor it is both brilliant writing and a sincere understanding of the dynamic experienced by every child of monolingual parents at one time or another.

I related to this film not because my parents don’t speak English, they do, or because my mother was a maid, she was. It is because the themes are universal and the characters are thoughtfully portrayed.

I venture that if a Latino director had made this film it would have been one of the most highly acclaimed movies of the year. I can see the ads now, “A feel-good movie for the whole family.”

Unfortunately Latino directors are few and far between and the opportunities for Latino filmmakers are still paltry in terms of the distribution of film resources. But I’m not complaining. I have seen some horrible movie moments brought to you courtesy of a Latino filmmaker. The fact is, directors are directors. There are good and bad ones in every culture.

The pity is that is that it’s like a lopsided baseball game. If a Latino strikes out, that’s it for Latinos for a while. He won’t get another “at bat” and neither will his neighbors. As Seinfeld’s infamous Soup Nazi might say, “No films for you, ten years!”

You chose to make a film incorporating Latino characters and the film was called both misogynistic and racist. Please don’t let that dissuade you from making films with characters like this again. The parts open to Latinos are too few. As far as I am concerned you are a responsible filmmaker and I will always defend your right to create and cast as you see fit.

Let’s not have another debacle like the one that shut down the Luis Valdez version of the life of Frida Kahlo because Laura San Giacomo was not a Latina. How many other talented actors, actresses, not to mention, grips, gaffers and best boys also lost a gig as a result of that misguided fiasco?

I guess what I’m trying to say is, simply, thank you. Thank you for taking the time and the patience to research another culture. Thank you for looking past stereotypes so prevalent in your industry and seeking the truth behind the lies. Thank you for making the best film including Latino characters from Hollywood I have seen in a long, long time.

You join a small but elite group of filmmakers including John Sayles and Wes Anderson whose inclusion of Latino characters in their films is both honest and intelligent.

I’ll never listen to my friends again.

Best regards,

Urban Marauder