Wanted: Latino Heroes In Film


From Spy Kids to Patrick Juarez, the hero in Killing the Street Children

By Rey Santos

In 2001 when Robert Rodriguez wrote/produced and directed Spy Kids, his film about Latino spies, he turned it into a franchise whose combined box-office worldwide came to just over half a billion dollars. He gave the Latino community a film that was inclusive of them, while not including one stereotypical role. Dimension Films who produced the Spy Kids franchise made money by trusting that the world was ready for a different view of Latinos in film.

In the end, Latinos just want to see a good entertaining story, but if there are Latinos in the film, that’s the added bonus that tips the scale. They also want to see films that don’t just portray them as the usual stereotypes

As more and more Latinos question why Hollywood isn’t making movies about Latino heroes or when they do, they cast non-Latinos in the roles, they are speaking up.  That was the social media backlash Ben Affleck received when he decided he would play Tony Mendez, the CIA agent who orchestrated the release of the American diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979.  Using social media, Latinos voiced  their opinion stating that this was just not acceptable.  The Pew Research  Center reported that 80% of Latino adults in the U.S. use social media, so the Latino social media voice will only get louder.

Giving Latino audiences what they want makes financial sense in Hollywood, as Latino audiences are good for the bottom dollar.  Universal’s last edition of the Fast and The Furious franchise made $384 million on opening weekend, $142 million (37%) of that came from the Latino audience. A Motion Picture Association of America study showed that Latinos purchased roughly 25 percent of the tickets sold in 2013 in the U.S. although they account for just 17 percent of the U.S. population.

Looking to address the “Latino hero story deficiency” in Hollywood, screenwriter/producer Patrick O’Connor has written a screenplay which draws from his decades long experience in the shadow world of global  intelligence.  Based on the story’s franchise potential, O’Connor was able to raise the money and is now looking for a Latino actor to play the lead character of Patrick Juarez.

“I met Patrick Juarez when I was running an Intel/Security company in Washington D.C, that did  contract work for the U.S, Government and Juarez was working for a highly classified government agency,” says O’conner.  “Over the years, we worked on many assignments together and when he died, I decided to use him as the lead character in the semi-fictional, but based on true events, Killing The Street Children”.

Killing The Street Children is a taut, suspense, action drama that features all the elements necessary to keep audiences on the edge of their seat. It evokes elements of the Taken series starring Liam Neeson and Argo starring Ben Affleck. The story revolves around the central character of Patrick Juarez, retired intelligence field operative for the U.S. State Department whose last assignment was as a field operative in Latin America. His years in the black-ops have taken a heavy personal toll but his physical and mental skills that served him so well in the field, have scarcely diminished. Juarez is drawn back into the clandestine forces and he will have to reassert his skills in order to combat several criminal elements within the corrupt sectors of Brazilian government, working in concert with organized crime.

The story touches on several human interest levels; family, drug trafficking, corruption and bi-national government relations. But the most disturbing is the universally reprehensible crime of trafficking and murdering of children for expediency and personal greed.

O’Connor explains that like the Tony Mendez character in Argo, Juarez was Latino. But, unlike the misguided Hollywood practice of casting a non-Latino in a heroic role, O’Connor is adamant that the Latino characters in his script be portrayed by Latino actors. He feels this will be the best way to keep true to the story and also pay personal homage to those who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him in the intelligence service.

In addition to his closeness to the story, O’Connor’s strong connection to telling stories about Latinos goes way back.  “I got interested in telling Latino stories when I was a child, when I learned the O’Connor family had a long history of involvement with Latinos,” O’Connor recounts.  “My great Uncle Francisco Burdett O’Connor was one of Simon Bolivar’s top Generals, A cousin was one of the men who fought with the famous St. Patrick’s Battalion in Mexico. Several other O’Connor “Irish Wild Geese,” were involved in Central and South America”.

With first hand knowledge of the material, O’Connor’s Killing The Street Children races along at breakneck speed. It shifts from scene to scene jolting senses and embarking on an emotional and psychologically ride.  Start with a story about a Latino undercover agent, add the exciting city of Brazil, contrast it against the ugly underbelly of crime — and throw in a great soundtrack, and you have an action thriller with a strong probability of capturing the coveted Latino audience.

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