By Bel Hernandez
For the longest time U.S. Latinos have been wondering where to find the Latino investors willing to invest in films by and about Latinos, in non-stereotypical roles. The African American community has been helping fund their films and TV shows now for over a decade and in some cases longer than that. Back in 1992 when Spike Lee ran over budget on Malcolm X and it was Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey and Magic Johnson who came through with the funding to finish the film. To date Winfrey, and TV producers Shonda Rhimes and Tyler Perry as well as other African American producers continue investing in Black productions. Could it be that Latinos with deep pockets are taking a cue from the African American community and have started to do the same?
Armando Christian Perez (AKA Pitbull) is listed as executive producer on Puerto Ricans in Paris, the buddy comedy which stars Luis Guzman, Edgar Garcia, Rosario Dawson, and Rosie Perez. With Pitbull’s name above the title one might suspect he came up with some cash to get the film done. Another tell-tale sign might be the casting and the non-stereotypical roles in this film. It’s definitely not the M O of Hollywood casting.
In any event, it was a nice surprise to see two Latinos headlining a comedy; one a very well known, beloved character actor (Guzman) and the other, whose biggest credit (one of only three) is a season on How to Make it in America from 2010-2011 (Garcia).
Puerto Ricans in Paris is a film devoid of Latinos playing drug dealers, gardeners or gangbanger, in fact the two leads are detectives brought to Paris by a company which designs high-end handbags. Counterfeit is the crime here, and Eddie (Garcia) and Luis (Guzman) are flown all the way to Paris to find the guilty person, enticed with the promise of a six figure fee.
Guzman is always great to watch in anything and Rosario Dawson, who plays his girlfriend, along with Rosie Perez, who plays Eddie’s wife, do not disappoint in the cameo roles they are given. The revelation of the film is Edgar Garcia, who in spite of his lack of credits and leading man looks, he proves that he has the talent to endear himself to the audience, much like the character of Collette in the film (Alice Taglioni) who is taken by his charm and falls for this teddy bear of a man.
Will Puerto Ricans in Paris make enough at the box office to even break even? Will it be enough to prove that comedies with Latino leads are profitable? Well if you go by the initial box office numbers, that certainly will not be the case. On opening week the film came in 42nd making a mere $90,884 at the box office, releasing in 41 theaters with a per-screen average of $651.
What can be said is the film was a great first effort of a buddy comedy with Latinos in the lead. That being said it did not quite make the cut, not withstanding the talented cast.
Another thing that can be said is that the distributor, Focus World needed to invest more marketing and advertising dollars on the film. At the very least, if they had believed in the film and talent enough to invest some marketing dollars (as it is obvious there were almost zero dollars spent) to get a buzz going, they would have given the film a chance — at least to be seen.
The film will surely make most of its money on VOD and online sales, and maybe that is what the distributor is counting on. But how many films must die on the vine until the studios and distributors understand that you need to “invest” in the marketing Latinos films? When “the community” does not come out to support them, “they” use it as an excuse to not bother with films by and about Latinos.
Yes, Latinos are the number one film going audience, but if you don’t even let this audience know the film is releasing, how do these Hollywood executives expect the audience to show up?
Puerto Ricans in Paris was directed Ian Edelman and written by him and Neel Shah. Luis Guzman also served an executive producer, and the cinematographer was Damián Acevedo.