Miguel Arteta’s “Star Maps” Celebrates 20th Anniversary at Cine Arte Screening

Cine Arte A Latinx Queer and Film & Arts Festival Screens Star Maps Sunday, April 23, 2017

Miguel Arteta’s directorial debut Star Maps is gem of a film that resonates more today than when it released in 1997.  Not only did it launch Arteta’s impressive directing career in Hollywood, it was a rarity at the time it premiered at Sundance Film Festival.  A Latino themed film with Latinos in lead roles which touched upon a very taboo subject matter in the Latino culture.  It was snatched up for distribution by Fox Searchlight for $2.5 million dollars.  Celebrating the film, cast and filmmakers, Cine Arte A Latinx Queer Film and Art Festival will be screening Star Maps on Sunday April 23rd at 5PM at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, The Village at Ed Gould Plaza at 1125 N. McCadden Place, in Los Angeles. For tickets click HERE https://cineartela.org/index.php/tickets

STAR MAPS, Douglas Spain, 1997, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

Arteta’s work continues to turn heads when this year, precisely twenty years after Star Maps made history at the at Sundance Film Festival, Arteta once again received rave reviews and a distribution deal for his latest film Beatriz at Dinner, starring Salma Hayek (set to release June 9, 2017).  In between, Arteta has had two other films debut at Sundance to critical acclaim,  Chuck & Buck in 2000 and The Good Girl in 2002.

Star Maps, is the story of Carlos (Douglas Spain), a handsome young 18 year-old who dreams of becoming a movie star.  His father is a pimp and abusive to his mom (Martha Velez); he has two siblings, a caring sister (Lysa Flores) and a younger brother Juancito (Vincent Chandler). His twisted father, Pepe (Efrain Figueroa) insists he pay his dues to stardom by working in the “family business” as a bisexual male prostitute, picking up customers while selling maps to star’s homes.   His father does everything he can to crush Carlos’ dream, all the while telling him how much he loves him.  He finally thinks he has found a way out of the situation, when he meets actress (Kandeyce Jorden) first as a customer, then as a lover, who decides to help him make his dream of being an actor come true.

Star Maps was written by Arteta and his producing partner Matthew Greenfield, who met when they were both students at AFI.  When asked how he came to pick the subject matter of the film, which was taboo in so many different levels at that time, most specifically for the Latino community, Arteta explains:

It was meant to be an allegory for frustrations I felt at the time being a Latino trying to get into the film industry.  The son allowing to have his father to prostitute him was meant to represent my own willingness to do the wrong thing to get ahead. And the film was a plea for self respect and love which always starts with forging your own family and circumstances.”

Arteta cast a relative unknown Latino actor, Douglas Spain giving him a rare a chance of playing a lead in a challenging role revealing the dark side of a Latino family.  Spain met the challenge and it launched his career in Hollywood.  Spain recounts how it all began:

“I first saw the casting for Star Maps in LatinHeat [trade publication]. From there I submitted my headshot and resume. Literally, a moment after I inserted the envelope into the blue mailbox I received a “page” (for all you modern folk, it’s like receiving a numbered text via a small device called a pager) from [casting director] Mina Vasquez asking me to come in and audition. One of my audition scenes was the sex scene with my character’s love interest played by the talented and beautiful Kandeyce Jorden. Since I was acting out the scene with a reader whom I couldn’t physically interact with because they were behind a desk along with the director Miguel Arteta and producer Matthew Greenfield, I threw myself on the floor and reenacted the wild love scene from there. It was one of the greatest love scene moments of my life. LOL”

Star Maps was ahead of its time in so many ways, for one the subject of sexuality and the Latino community was not a formula Hollywood could wrap their heads around.  The  critics recognized Arteta’s talent and several predicted his impressive future in Hollywood.  The New York Times’ Janet Maslin said at the time “[Star Maps]…introduces Mr. Arteta as a filmmaker with a credible style and a flair for caustic storytelling”. 

The Washington Post’s Eve Zibart captured the essence the film and Miguel’s work as noted in the this section of her review:

Star Maps is about Hollywood, about the rich white stars and the semi-underground Hispanic economy that caters to them. It’s about dreams, those that inspire and those that expose. It’s about insanity, the type that obsesses and the type that imprisons. And though it seems to be about sex, in a boisterous, businesslike way that initially seduces the audience into laughter, the sex inexorably is revealed to be violence; for Star Maps is, above all, about the rape of the soul, and as we know, rape has nothing to do with love.”  Adding, “…but it is itself evidence of filmmaking’s power over Arteta, and his future power in the fantasy biz.”

And for Latinos the impact Star Maps had on their careers, both in front and behind the camera, and the opportunity to shine given to them by Arteta and Greenfield was priceless.  Spain puts it best as he recounts the journey of Star Maps and what it meant to him:

Star Maps was definitely ahead of its time. Especially in terms of this type of storyline and in having complex characters that were predominately portrayed by Latino actors. It was a dark comedy and rarely did this kind of material ever reach the hands of Latino actors, I think it barely does nowadays.

I remember laughing at the turn of every page and feeling overwhelmed by the material. It definitely challenged me as an actor and that was extremely appealing to me. I only have fond memories from being on the set. Film festivals were not something I was too familiar with being that Star Maps was my first venture into films as an actor. Then came Sundance. Wow, that was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life. I remember Miguel asking me to stand at one of the busy corners in Park City handing out flyers to our screening… in the snow!

Our first screening was in a small room and the film wasn’t synced up to the sound. They had to stop and start the film twice. By the third time it still wasn’t right and Miguel stood in front of the projection demanding they stop the film and only start it when it was right. They finally got it. The reception was so good that the word of mouth generated a buzz and sold out our 2nd screening. That second screening was a huge success and soon after Fox Searchlight bought the film. While filming Star Maps, Miguel would always say, “This is the little film that could.” Well, 20 years later… it certainly could.”

Looking back and reflecting on his first film and what is signifies to him, Arteta shared:

“The most important thing I learned is that following your heart is the most energizing way to move forwards.  Star Maps was not a smart proposition for a first film — tough subject, 40 locations, 9 main characters— and yet because I decided to be true to my heart and ignore any kind of “managing” of what would work, I was able to convince the wonderful group of people that created the film with me that it was worth making.  I was very lucky that my risk paid off enough to get me TV work and another film I’m very aware of that but knowing how much energy I got from truly believing in my story has remained my guiding light.”

Cast: Douglas Spain (Carlos), Efrain Figueroa (Pepe), Kandeyce Jorden (Jennifer), Letti (Annette Murphy), Martha Velez (Teresa) and Lysa Flores (Maria).

Written and directed by Miguel Arteta; based on a story by Mr. Arteta and Matthew Greenfield; director of photography, Chuy Chavez; edited by Jeff Betancourt, Tom McArdle and Tony Selzer; music by Lysa Flores; production designer, Carol Strober; produced by Mr. Greenfield; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Members of cast and crew will be available for a Q&A after the screening.

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