REFLECTION…why BIUTIFUL just isn’t.

Indie Wire.com reported yesterday that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences received the official submissions for the 83rd Academy Awards’ foreign language category.  While this is certainly a strong year for foreign films, some of the submissions are already starting to stir up old feelings between the smaller independent productions and the big Hollywood-backed films.  This year, award-winning Mexican filmmaker, Alejandro Gonzalez-Iñáritu, managed to get his film, BIUTIFUL, to officially represent Mexico at the gala ceremony.  While there is no guarantee that his film will be among those officially selected as a finalist, his decision to submit his film certainly guarantees that a lesser known filmmaker from Mexico gets his or her work recognized on the world stage.

The rules that govern what constitutes a foreign film are vague at best.  In Iñáritu’s case, BIUTIFUL is hardly a Mexican film.  Shot entirely in Spain, cast entirely with Spanish actors, with a story revolving around Spanish characters portraying their daily lives, this film should have, for all intents and purposes, represented Spain, not Mexico. But since Spain’s official entry turned out to be Iciar Bollain’s EVEN THE RAIN, the powers that be decided that Iñáritu’s citizenship was enough to consider his film Mexican.  This is not only unfair to those filmmakers trying to make a dent on the world stage; but it is unfair to Mexican audiences who I’m sure would have preferred to see one of their films, shot in, cast entirely in, and wholly about Mexico.

Films submitted for Oscar consideration are supposed to be that nation’s crown jewel.  It is supposed to represent the best of the best produced in that country, about that country, starring that country’s top talent.  In 1999, world audiences either hated or loved AMORES PERROS, Iñáritu’s last Oscar submission from Mexico.  While many didn’t think it matched the quality of film only produced in the US, that film was Mexico’s best that year, and so it rightfully deserved to represent Mexico.  Had it not, I’m sure fewer people would have ever gotten to know Iñáritu’s work as his nomination propelled him to stardom with studios in the US.  In 2007, Guillermo del Toro also pulled a fast one on Mexico by having his film, PAN’S LABYRINTH, receive the nomination as Mexico’s best foreign film.  Again, the only thing “Mexican” about that film was the director and a few of its crew.

As a filmmaker filled with national pride, I would like to see more undiscovered talent get an opportunity to have their work recognized on the world stage.  Just because a more established filmmaker is unable to get the nomination one way doesn’t give him or her the right to circumvent the rules by claiming that their citizenship alone makes that film part of that country’s experience.  The system needs to change, not just how AMPAS accepts foreign films officially, but how country’s themselves determine what makes that film submission that country’s national treasure.

You can see a complete list at:
http://www.indiewire.com/article/updated_list_of_foreign_language_academy_submissions/

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REFLECTION…of a valiant nurse.

Maj. Margaret Witt, a decorated flight nurse with 20 years of service, is the most recent winner of a federal court ruling ordering the her reinstatement after her superiors discovered her personal relationship with a civilian woman.  During her tenure with the Air Force, Maj. Witt worked for an air-medical transport unit that evacuated and treated wounded soldiers.  Though she was honorably discharged from the 446th AES (Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron), she remained convinced that the policy was unfair and that her relationship with her partner did not interfere with her duties as a medical rescue officer.

Typical of their response, the Air Force could only thank the judge for giving them enough time to properly prepare for their appeal to the appropriate federal appellate courts.  According to CNN, court documents described Maj. Witt in employee reports and by trial witnesses “as an “exemplary officer” who was an effective leader, caring mentor, and skilled clinician.”

Like many other gay & lesbian service members, citizen Witt’s love and admiration for this country was so great that her desire to serve outweighed her desire to remain true to herself — at least while wearing the uniform.  Now that she too has won a major victory, the Obama Administration has begun to set the wheels in motion to delay her reinstatement and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as ordered by the judiciary because they prefer the changes come from the Legislative and Executive branches of government.  Unfortunately, an attempt earlier this week to debate and vote on DADT was defeated by Republicans and a few Democrats.

As is now a common occurrence in politics, this is too important an issue to consider before the midterm elections, leaving 12,500 soldiers thus far discharged for coming forward to wait even longer before they can finally say to their friends and families that the country they have risked their lives for defending is no longer ashamed of them.  That day will come, hopefully as soon as Congress and the White House remember that important chapter in their high school government book that described the individual roles of the 3 branches of government.  In this case, the one branch created to check and balance the remaining two has spoken; have the decency to accept their decision and let those willing to serve openly do so without harassment and persecution.

Article can be found at:
http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/09/24/military.gay.reinstatement/index.html?hpt=T2

REFLECTION…of a modern day Cronkite.

When Walter Cronkite commented on how terrible the war in Vietnam was going in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson was heard saying, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”  Shortly after Cronkite’s editorial report, President Johnson announced he was not seeking re-election.  Earlier this week, while appearing on the Bill O’Reilly show, Jon Steward remarked, “I thought he’d do a better job,” referring to Obama’s failed promises to change the structure of Washington.  Could Stewart be Obama’s Cronkite?

I know Jon Steward is seen by a few million fans, many of whom are young working professionals who trust him for news analysis.  Even the most prestigious news and press syndicates and foundations agree that Jon Steward, despite his use of comic relief to educate young audiences on newsworthy events, regard him as a legitimate news source — something the whole of Fox News isn’t. But with such a statement coming from one of the most respected non-journalist journalist, could his comment convince an already unsympathetic, unmotivated and sometimes apathetic voting bloc to stay home come this November, perhaps even in 2012?

President Obama recently received an earful from a woman during a town hall meeting where she expressed her frustration with the president’s policies and her exhaustion of constantly having to defend him.  Steward’s words also reflected her opinion, but stopped short of saying he regretted voting for President Obama or that he would not consider voting for him again.  I guess the main question here is, if one of the most ardent supporters of the president is feeling disappointed at his lack of progress, what’s to stop the rest of us from staying home come election day and wait for someone else with real political experience to promise us real ‘change’ before we start believing again, if at all.

You can find the news article at:
http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/23/stewart-saddened-by-obama/?hpt=T2

REFLECTION…of a Shameful Policy

CNN reported today that a federal court ordered the government for an immediate cessation of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, to which Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded, “A court should not compel the Executive to implement an immediate cessation…particularly at a time when the military is engaged in combat operations and other demanding military activities around the globe.”

There is a reason we have checks and balances in our system of government, so one branch does not trample on the rights of those in need of protection. What is it about “all men are created equal” that is so fundamentally hard to understand? I guarantee you a soldier pinned down by enemy fire is not going to care if the soldier rushing to his or her help, perhaps even willing to take a bullet for them, is gay or straight. I have a feeling “no soldier left behind” means the same to a gay and lesbian soldier as it does to a heterosexual one.  If one of the principal goals of the Pentagon is to see every fighting man and woman return home alive and well, shouldn’t they send the very people who despite the harassment and discrimination they endured while in uniform still stayed to fight?  Haven’t they proven their love for this country by hiding who they really are just to be given the chance to serve?  Isn’t self sacrifice an essential part of an all volunteer military?

I’ve never served in the military but I would think that at a time of need the last thing going through the mind of a soldier in trouble is if the person running to his or her rescue is gay or lesbian.  I know their spouses, parents, siblings and children don’t care who rescues them; so long as they come home.

You can find the article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/09/23/military.dadt/index.html?hpt=T2

REFLECTION…on Galvanizing the Latino Vote.

Seth Hoy’s article, “Will the GOP’s Failure to Move the DREAM Act Galvanize the Latino Vote”, brings up an interesting point that would have been completely plausible in a different time, perhaps in an alternate universe.  But today, based on how Democrats are behaving, it seems hardly a fact but rather one person’s hope that this becomes a community’s call to action.  In his article, Hoy wrote, “In a procedural vote yesterday, Senate Republicans (and two Democrats) voted not to proceed (56-43) to the Defense Authorization bill in a party line vote, preventing the consideration of, among others, the DREAM Act amendment. Hemming and hawing their way through floor speeches, Senate Republicans expressed sympathy for the plight of potential DREAM Act students and offered to “debate the merits of the DREAM Act” in a standalone bill, just not on the Defense authorization bill. This latest vote, coupled with some in the GOP’s recent anti-immigrant rhetoric on birthright citizenship and Arizona’s immigration enforcement laws, has the potential to not only alienate America’s fastest growing voting bloc, but drive them to the polls in November.”

I’m sorry, but I just I don’t buy it. Democrats are just as guilty, perhaps more so, as Republicans. Yes Republicans have galvanized their base to come out and vote on anti-immigrant legislations across the country; but it was quite irresponsible, almost criminal, for Democrats, who held the majority, not to do something about it. They could have prevented a lot of the damage already caused. Certainly they could have eased up the number of arrests and deportations of innocent families than had occurred under George W. But it seems to me that under Democratic leadership, more harm is done than good. This latest attempt to pass the DREAM Act was one Senator’s attempt to win the Latino vote in a very close election to win his state and for the president to save face. Again, this just shows how Latinos are responsible for bearing all the brunt of a political wrestling match for control. We are, as usual, paying such a high price with nothing in return. We’re smarter than that and we should make both Democrats and Republicans aware of that.

As for me and the community I serve, the devil I know is not the devil I will continue to support, cuestenos los que nos cueste. If collectively voting for a 3rd candidate or no one at all means no reform for the next two years — something congresswoman Loretta Sanchez said anyways in an interview that if Dems don’t win this November, regardless of a major win in 2012, there will still be no reform for 10 to 20 years — then so be it. At least the candidates running in 2012 will know we’re tired of constantly supporting the lowest common denominator.

Let me be clear, it was devastating to learn that the DREAM Act did not pass.  All I kept thinking about was the many AB540 students I met and helped house at my apartment when they needed to stay late to study for midterms or finals and there were no buses available so late at night to take them home because they could not afford to live nearby.  I kept thinking about how hard they studied and worked to pass the DREAM Act so that their younger sisters and brothers could have an easier journey.  I kept thinking about my friends who through hard work, commitment and sacrifice earned their degrees but can’t get jobs because of their status.  It’s sad and heartbreaking.  But it’s sadder to think we are allowing ourselves to be played and manipulated in this manner, more so now than ever before.

We will have the DREAM Act one day, hopefully without sacrificing our sisters and brothers as cannon fodder to the industrial military machine, only to see them forced to remain longer than the mandated 2 years under stop-loss.  Yes we’ll have immigration reform.  But the way things are going, I don’t think it will happen under this president.  We should instead prepare ourselves for 2012 and let the chips fall where they may.  In the meantime, let’s make 2010 the year we spoke loud and clear to both parties that we will not be held hostage or as Congresswoman Sanchez made us painfully aware, threatened by exercising our vote the way we choose to.

You can find his article at:
http://immigrationimpact.com/2010/09/22/will-congress%E2%80%99s-failure-to-move-the-dream-act-galvanize-the-latino-vote/

The Devil We Know is No Longer the Devil We’ll Keep!

In what many consider this to be a very close midterm election, California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez may have inadvertently sealed the fate of many Democrats running for office.  Not since Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” helped Republicans control both houses of Congress have Democrats held a true majority in both houses today.  But with the numbers being so close, the White House, and certainly the Democratic Party leadership, have been careful not to alienate any of their allies.  Polls may show one politician leading over another, but when the issue is as important, as divisive, and as unstable to an incumbent’s re-election chances, the last thing you want is a known leader openly threatening an entire bloc of voters.  Ms. Sanchez may not have really considered her words carefully, but you know that many watching have finally heard the last straw.  At least, let’s hope they have.

In her interview with Jorge Ramos’ show, “Al Punto” this past Sunday, Jorge Ramos asked Ms. Sanchez if Democrats are as much to blame as President Obama for failing to push through immigration reform when he promised he would.  Being completely mindful of an earlier exchange where Ramos reminded her that they [Democrats] had a chance but did nothing about immigration reform — referring obviously to holding a majority in both Houses of Congress — Ms. Sanchez then launched what I am certain will be the very last thing anyone in her party wanted her to divulge:

“I am going to lay it in front of the Latino community. If we do not win in November, there will be no vote for a reform for another 10 or 20 years.  If we win, we will have a vote in November or December.  I do not know if we’ll pass the law but we will take a vote. But if we do not win, we are going to have to wait another 10 to 20 years because what is happening in this country is very anti-immigration.”

Is it possible that Ms. Sanchez finally revealed the Democratic strategy for winning re-election? For many of us who like to pay attention to these things, this is nothing new.  We can read the writing on the wall and know when we’re being yanked around.  This is precisely why a group of community leaders in Los Angeles created the Southern California Immigration Coalition within days of President Obama’s victory in November 2008.  Their goal was simple: to hold the President accountable for his promise and ensure that whatever immigration reform package that comes out of Washington, D.C. is humane and just.  While the organization was criticized by other more established immigration-rights organizations, the folks at SCIC did not shy away from protesting against a popular president, even standing up to members of their own community whose attempts to silence them fell on deaf ears.

Many of us knew from the moment the president delayed pushing for immigration reform within his first 100 days, first 6 months, or first year over external factors that immigration reform was not going to be likely; and we were right. Even before taking office, certainly before the financial crisis really hit home, his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, was already saying he didn’t see this happening until after the midterm elections — proving yet again that more often than not the Chief of Staff, or as was the case with President George W. Bush, the Vice President, is the de-facto President of the United States.  The president rarely knows what is going on or how to govern, which is why he must surround himself with people smarter than him to set the wheels in motion.  After the economic crisis came health care, then banking reform, Haiti, and a slew of other excuses to even initiate genuine dialogue.  Even his attempts to address our concerns over the status of immigration reform were nothing more than photo ops with carefully selected and loyal-to-the-party ‘Latino community leaders’ at the White House.

So what was Ms. Sanchez really saying then?  And why aren’t we surprised?  For the past 25 years, since President Reagan’s general amnesty, Congress has been promising a more comprehensive reform package that would streamline the process, but nothing has come of that.  Over time, politicians on both sides of the aisle have used the need for reform for political gain and manipulation.  When Republicans don’t want Democrats focused on passing or trying to defeat a specific law, they come up with some anti-immigrant legislation to distract them.  In 2005, House Resolution 4437, “The Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005”, commonly referred to as the Sensenbrenner Bill,  created an uproar with the community that put Democrats on the defensive, at least in front of the media but not in front of their respective floors.  Worse yet, when the timing isn’t quite right for a national anti-immigrant law, Republicans turn to the states to create the same confusion Democrats keep falling for time and again.  Two years into President Clinton’s term, Republicans began their strategy of immigrant bashing in California when Proposition 187 was announced.  While Democrats scratched their heads, more and more states began to consider similar legislations.  Yet rather than act to derail the Republican control agenda, they let things happen without even putting up a fight.  Unfortunately for Democrats, the passage of Arizona’s AB1070 and other legislations across the country aimed at denying housing and other services to undocumented immigrants resulted in an uproar by the community and the world.

As expected, just shortly before AB1070 was to be implemented, President Obama became the saving grace, sending his army of lawyers to Arizona to sue that state in federal court, promising to fight tooth and nail to defend the Supremacy Clause.  Many in the Latino community praised him for doing this.  Yet underneath this act of heroism hides another side of the Democratic party, one that Congresswoman Sanchez mistakenly made public on Sunday.  While most Latinos were taking a big sigh of relief when the Democrats came to the rescue, the President approved $600M of money we don’t have to pay for agents the southern border States will not be getting for another year and a half.  In the meantime, however, to appease those Democratic voters sympathetic to the Arizona law, he sent in a few thousand members of the US military to provide security until those men and women have undergone their training.  This is a typical Sun Tzu tactic; distract thine enemy.  But why would the Democrats feel the need to treat undocumented immigrants and the Latino voters with such disrespect?

When Congresswoman Sanchez opened that can of worms, she in essence threatened those eligible Latino voters and those of us questioning and criticizing the Democrats that if we don’t get in line, if we don’t maintain our allegiance, if we don’t do our solemn duty to support them and oppose the others, and the Democrats lose, they will not do anything about immigration reform for quite some time.  But 10 years? Twenty years?  If in 2014 the president should win re-election and Democrats should win both houses — assuming they lose one of them or both in 2012 because we did not vote for them —  is she suggesting that even then they won’t move to pass some form of reform? If that is the case, would that be their vendetta against us?  I don’t like to be scolded anymore than the next person, so when an elected official figuratively pointing her finger at me and says that if they lose we won’t get our ultimate prize for another 10 to 20 years, even if they were to win just 2 years down the row, I can’t help but wonder how else they seem to be screwing us.  Somewhere out there are smarter people than me who know the answer to this question; but for my part, I can say that the devil we know will no longer be the devil we intend to keep.  So Congresswoman Sanchez, you and the Democratic Party can keep your common-sense analysis of the voting process and while you’re at it, be sure to draft up some last minute friendly bill that congratulates the Democrats for the good work you think you’re doing and have done for our community, because up until this moment you’ve been nothing but a constant disappointment.  And come November, you and the president will see just how much we’re really going to be looking forward to electing “new change” in 2014.

REFLECTION…of a community in mourning.

I was thinking about the presentation made by LAPD’s Chief of Police at the community meeting yesterday and I began to wonder: if the LAPD officer had given the victim 2 choices, 1: take two direct hits to the head and die or 2: let us assault you a la Rodney King, and those were his only two choices, I have a feeling he would have preferred to be beaten like a dog so long as he would have had a living chance of seeing his wife and 3 kids back in Guatemala again. LAPD is considered by many as the best civil law enforcement agency in the country, surely the best armed and best trained for any scenario.  But if relations between it and any community of color are to improve, they are going to have to find a 3rd choice, and a 4th, and a 5th to offer those they are trying to apprehend.  We all know there are a lot of good officers out there.  But until LAPD adopts new strategies, the people’s motto against the agency will continue to be: “LAPD change your ways, Racists, Sexists, Anti-Gay!”

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