Last fall, leading actor and one of my favorite outspoken leaders in the Latino entertainment community, John Leguizamo called for a boycott of the film “Alina of Cuba” citing the casting of non Latino James Franco in the role of Fidel Castro.
Leguizamo took to Instagram and fiercely condemned the casting, calling it yet another example of cultural appropriation, considering Franco doesn’t have Latino roots.
To be honest, my first instinct was to get all riled up and annoyed with the casting. After all, I’m a huge fan of Leguizamo as both an actor and what he has done to educate the public about Latino history.
All that aside, having read the book and being a Cuban immigrant, I was happy to see that a movie was being made. I wanted to learn more about this project and did some research on the film.
That’s when I noticed nearly everyone in the cast and crew except for Franco was WAS Latino.
In the past year AmigosMax has held several panels with Latino celebrities, writers, directors, actors and politicians to discuss the topic of Latino representation in Hollywood.
So this is a very important issue to me and to our community.
The question that kept hitting me was, “Is it right to boycott a film that supports so many Latino talent and workers over ONE person?
Are we doing more harm than good over ONE person?
So I reached out to the film’s producer, John Martinez O’Felan to have an in-depth discussion about the impact of this social media call for a boycott and, more importantly, to learn about the film, its cast and the intention behind the project.
A few of the topics we covered were…
- Statistics on Latino representation in movies.
- John Martinez O’Felan’s journey into movie making.
- How this project came to fruition.
- The film’s premise.
- His reaction to John Leguizamo’s call for a boycott of the film.
- Why James Franco was cast as Fidel Castro.
- Diversity of casting within the Latino community.
- How did revolutionary Cuba represented in the film with no ability to film in Cuba?
- Alina’s overall reaction to the film being made.
- Why Martinez O’Felan prefers being called Hispanic.
- How do you think Cubans will receive this movie?
- Impact of Revolution on Religious Freedom in Cuba
- Issues with typecasting Latino actors.
I invite you to listen to this interview and leave a comment with your reactions and thoughts on this topic.