Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ latest project, “The Latino List,” takes a look at the struggles and triumphs of Hispanic Americans and follows his similar look at the issues confronting African-Americans.
“The Latino List” airs Thursday on HBO.
“We started ‘The Latino List’ just as the awful anti-immigration and antiforeigner legislation was being passed in Arizona,” he said. “We had a lot of people talking about it. For Latinos, it’s very heartbreaking.” The filmmaker decided not to dwell on the controversial law. “We wanted to show achievement,” he said.
Catherine M. Pino and Ingrid Duran, Washington, D.C.-based lobbyists and political activists, jump-started “The Latino List.” “They came to me and said, ‘We love “The Black List,” and we want to do a Latino list. Can you help us?’ I said no, but you can help me. They know a lot of people who are very respected.” Pino and Duran opened many Hispanic doors to the filmmaker, who also leaned on friends such as Christy Turlington and John Leguizamo.
The multimedia “Latino List” includes an exhibition of Greenfield-Sanders’ portraits of 25 subjects at the Brooklyn Museum, through Dec. 11. There was only room for 15 of the power players in the film.
The subjects Sandra Cisneros, Gloria Estefan, America Ferrera, NASA astronaut Jose Moreno Hernandez, military veteran Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, John Leguizamo, Eva Longoria, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), rapper Pitbull, PGA golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez, the ACLU’s executive director Anthony D. Romero, radio host Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, financial adviser Julie Stav, and scholar Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, were filmed in Greenfield-Sanders’ trademark spare style while journalist Maria Hinojosa conducted the interviews.
The stories are inspiring and surprising, such as the fact that Sotomayor took private salsa lessons and danced down the hallways of the Second Circuit Court, and that she’s still awestruck by grandeur of the courtroom. “The feeling I get when I see the expanse of the courtroom, it’s the most chilling moment. I hope I have that feeling for the rest of my life,” she says in the film.
The theme of alienation runs through the interviews. Armando Christian Perez, the rapper known as Pitbull, said people didn’t know what to make of him or his music at first. “He’s too Latin for hip-hop, he’s too hip-hop for Latin, he’s too English, he’s too Spanish, he’s too white, he’s too this, he’s too that,” he recalled. Ferrera, who played the title character in ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” says, “I was just more weirdly in between. You immediately see their polite faces. ‘Yes, we’re going to sit through this audition, but we’re never calling you back,’” she said of casting agents.
Leguizamo, meanwhile, pokes fun at the industry wags who would try to Americanize him. “My acting teacher said, ‘You could be my Latino Laurence Olivier if you work on your tongue-twisters,’” Leguizamo recalls. “I used to talk like this, ‘bafroom,’ ‘bof,’ ‘lenf.’ We were so ghetto, we couldn’t afford a ‘th.’”
“The Women’s List” is up next for Greenfield-Sanders. “I’m just starting it. The first person we’re shooting is Queen Latifah,” he said. “Generation 8,” a film about the post-Proposition 8 world of gay rights, is in the works and “About Face,” a movie about supermodels, will air in early 2012 on HBO. “We’re absolutely going to do ‘The Latino List’ Volume 2,” Greenfield-Sanders added.