Aspiring young filmmakers from the Canal neighborhood ended the "Future Profressionals" program by meeting actor Edward James Olmos at the Smith Rafael Film Center Tuesday night.
The eight-month program, sponsored by CFI Education and Marin Community Foundation, is an outreach program aimed at Canal and Marin Hispanic youth. The program focuses on filmmaking and careers for young Latinos in the film industry.
The 65-year-old actor is known for his roles in the films Stand and Deliver, Selena and American Me, and TV shows like Battlestar Galactica. Accompanied by Director Robert Young, Olmos delivered an inspirational speech to around 40 kids from the Canal neighborhood in San Rafael.
“We dominate this country. We are the future,” he said.
Olmos urged the Canal kids to study what they love and to learn discipline. “I didn’t come out of my mother’s womb saying 'To be or not to be.' I didn’t even know what that meant,” he said.
With roots in East Los Angeles, Olmos grew up in an area known for gang violence and crime. His father thought he should dedicate his time to finding a job instead of acting, he said.
Since education in the United States teaches mostly Western European history and culture, Olmos told the young audience that they must feel confident to tell their stories about their experiences and their people.
“Without us, there would be no Stand and Delivers, or Selenas or American Mes,” he said.
When he’s not making movies, Olmos spends his time advocating for at-risk youth. According to the Internet Movie Database, he makes 150 personal appearances a year in juvenile halls, detention centers, boys/girls clubs and schools.
Following the speech, the screened a Spanish subtitled version of the 1982 film The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, where Olmos stars as the Mexican-born Cortez who is accused of stealing a horse and murdering several Texans in cold blood. Young directed the film, which is based on a true story.
The movie had its first public viewing at the Smith Rafael Film Center for the Mill Valley Film Festival 29 years ago.
“[Both Olmos and Young] have had a profound effect on me in the 35 years that I’ve known them,” said CFI Executive Director Mark Fishkin, noting that both filmmakers are past honorees of the festival.
Although film takes place in 1901, the current ruling over Arizona’s immigration law shows that tensions between U.S. citizens and Mexico along the border are still alive, Young and Olmos said.
“This is a movie about America,” Young said.