In a year where Latino stories are for the most part absent from the Hollywood spectrum, Ricardo de Montreuil's "Lowriders" is a sorely needed breath of fresh air.
Set against the backdrop of East LA's vibrant and historic "lowrider" car culture, the film stars two heavyweight names in Oscar nominee Demián Bichir and Eva Longoria. It follows the story of Danny (Gabriel Chavarria), a talented young street artist caught between the lowrider world inhabited by his old-school father (Bichir) and ex-con brother (Theo Rossi), and the adrenaline-fueled outlet that defines his self-expression.
In a recent podcast we spoke to Rossi. He's a second -generation immigrant, born in New York to a wide array of ethnicities, including Spanish. He plays Danny's brother, Francisco "Ghost" Alvarez, a role Rossi said he had to do.
"It was calling me, this was something I chased and wanted and I needed to make happen for a lot of reasons, but the script affected me like nothing else I've ever read," Rossi told us.
Bringing the story to life was a challenge Peruvian director Ricardo de Montreuil wanted to do. His immediate challenge though, was to tell a story that wasn't just about Latinos from Los Angeles, but for everyone.
"The music, the art, the cars, they tell an amazing part of American folklore - lowriding is an American invention that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world," de Montreuil has said about the film. "I thought that making a movie about lowriding was a chance not just to tell the story of the cars, but about East LA today, how diverse it is, how the cultures are mixed, and how young people are creating art. This was something I thought would connect with people all over the world."
But for all the vibrant lowrider culture the film offers, de Montreuil's vision is really about family, tradition and the preservation of a cultural legacy for future generations to enjoy. The script by Cheo Hodari Coker and Elgin James is lathered in family conflict, thought-provoking questions on the definition of being Latino today and the value of one's artistic integrity.
As Rossi sees it, "this is a family drama wrapped in the beautiful glitzing, glamour of this living art piece that is 'Lowriders'. We get to see how important culture and heritage is."
Rossi is right. This is a Latino story told through the eyes of a Latino family, but at its core, it is an American story about a part of our American life.