(Actor Benjamin Bratt, narrator. Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)
PBS SERIES “LATINO AMERICANS” TO BE NARRATED BY BENJAMIN BRATT AND INCLUDE INTERVIEWS WITH GLORIA ESTEFAN, RITA MORENO, HERMAN BADILLO, MARIA ELENA SALINAS AND MORE
– Landmark Six-Hour Documentary Features Interviews with Nearly 100 Latinos and More Than 500 Years of History, Premieres Fall 2013 –
PASADENA, CA; JANUARY 14, 2013 -- Today at the Television Critics Association meeting, PBS announced actor Benjamin Bratt will narrate LATINO AMERICANS, a landmark three-part, six-hour documentary series that is set to air nationally on PBS in the fall of 2013. It is the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape the United States over the last 500-plus years and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S.
Bratt, the son of a Peruvian mother and a German-English father, and a multi-award winner for his work on television’s “Law & Order” and in such films as Pinero and Traffic, will narrate LATINO AMERICANS, which is led by Emmy Award-winning series producer Adriana Bosch. A team of filmmakers will document the evolution of a new “Latino American” identity from the 1500s to the present day, with interviews with close to 100 Latinos from the worlds of politics, business and pop culture, as well as deeply personal portraits of Latinos who lived through key chapters in American history.
“It is time the Latino American history be told,” said Bosch, a Cuban-born filmmaker whose previous PBS projects include LATIN MUSIC U.S.A. and documentaries for the series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. “Latinos are an integral part of the U.S., and this series shares the stories of a rich collection of people coming from so many different countries and backgrounds. It is the story of Latinos, and it is the story of America.”
LATINO AMERICANS features interviews with an array of individuals, including entertainer Rita Moreno, the Puerto Rican star of West Side Story and a winner of Academy, Tony, Grammy and Emmy Awards; labor leader and 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dolores Huerta, who in the 1960s co-founded with César Chávez the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers of America; Mexican-American author and commentator Linda Chávez, who became the highest-ranking woman in the Reagan White House; and Cuban singer and entrepreneur Gloria Estefan, who has sold more than 100 million solo and Miami Sound Machine albums globally.
Interview subjects also include journalist María Elena Salinas, co-anchor of “Noticiero Univision,” the nightly newscast most watched by American Latinos; columnist Juan Gonzalez, author of Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America and co-founder of the Young Lords Organization, a Puerto Rican nationalist movement; Rep. Charles Gonzalez, a retired Texas congressman who from 1999-2012 served in the House of Representatives for the district that his father, Henry B. Gonzalez, represented for nearly four decades; and Herman Badillo, the Bronx politician who, in 1970, became the first Puerto Rican elected to the House of Representatives and ran six times for Mayor of New York.
The diversity of the Latino American experience is reflected in both the on-camera interview subjects and the filmmaking staff. The production team, most of who are Latino Americans, includes individuals who are of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran and Dominicans heritage, among others. In addition to Bratt as the narrator, award-winning composer and classical guitarist Joseph Julián González will compose the musical score for LATINO AMERICANS, and the acclaimed singer-songwriter Lila Downs will serve as the featured artist for the series, performing the closing song in LATINO AMERICANS.
González has scored films and television programs for more than 20 years. Of Mexican farm laborer origins in California’s Central Valley, González has worked with symphonies around the world and artists as varied as Quentin Tarantino, Britney Spears and Slash, and conducted orchestras at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. “I’m excited to create the score for this series,” González said. “It’s an important project to be a part of, and it allows me to draw on the multi-faceted musical heritages of many cultures, much like the history told in LATINO AMERICANS.”
Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico, began performing traditional Mexican rancheras as a girl, and singing with mariachis. She has toured the world and released seven studio albums with songs in Spanish, English and several native Mexican languages, and is the winner of two Latin Grammy Awards and other industry recognition. “The importance of music as a form of cultural expression to Latinos cannot be understated,” Downs said. “It’s a privilege to have our music be a part of this series, building on that rich tradition.”
LATINO AMERICANS relies on historical accounts and personal experiences to vividly tell the stories of early settlement, conquest and immigration; of tradition and reinvention; of anguish and celebration; and of the creation of this new American identity with an influx of arrivals from Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and countries in Central and South America.
The series is broken into the following six chronological segments that cover the 1500s to the present day:
1. “Strangers in Their Own Land” (w.t.) spans the period from 1500-1880, as the first Spanish explorers enter North America, the U.S. expands into territories in the Southwest that had been home to Native Americans and English and Spanish colonies, and as the Mexican-American War strips Mexico of half its territories by 1848.
2. “The Pull and the Push” (w.t.) documents how the American population begins to be reshaped by the influx of people that began in 1880 and continues into the 1940s, as Cubans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans begin arriving in the U.S. and start to build strong Latino-American communities in South Florida, Los Angeles and New York.
3. “War and Peace” (w.t.) moves into the World War II years and those that follow, as Latino Americans serve their new country by the hundreds of thousands — but still face discrimination and a fight for civil rights.
4. “The New Latinos” (w.t.) highlights the swelling immigration from Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic that stretches from the post-World War II years into the early 1960s as the new arrivals seek economic opportunities.
5. “Pride and Prejudice” (w.t.) details the creation of the proud “Chicano” identity, as labor leaders organize farm workers in California, and as activists push for better education opportunities for Latinos, the inclusion of Latino studies and empowerment in the political process.
6. “Peril and Promise” (w.t.) takes viewers through the past 30 years, with a second wave of Cubans arriving in Miami during the Mariel exodus and with hundreds of thousands Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and Guatemalans fleeing civil wars, death squads and unrest to go north into a new land — transforming the United States along the way. The debate over undocumented immigrants flares up, with a backlash that eventually includes calls for tightened borders, English-only laws and efforts to brand undocumented immigrants as felons. Simultaneously, the Latino influence is booming in music, sports, media, politics and entertainment. The largest and youngest growing sector of the American population, Latino Americans will determine the success of the United States in the 21st century.
Beyond the Broadcast
LATINO AMERICANS will be supported by a major bilingual public education campaign, a bilingual website with user-generated digital content, social media platforms and the development of a school-based curriculum. The production team will work with local public broadcasting stations and other groups and organizations to engage the public in the themes and history featured in the series.
LATINO AMERICANS will also include a companion book by Ray Suarez, Senior Correspondent for PBS NEWSHOUR. The book will be published by Celebra, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), and will be released in conjunction with the broadcast premiere.
LATINO AMERICANS is a production of WETA Washington, DC; Bosch and Co., Inc.; and Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB). The series executive producers are Jeff Bieber and Dalton Delan for WETA, and Sandie Viquez Pedlow for LPB. The series producer is Adriana Bosch. The supervising producer is Salme Lopez. The producers are Nina Alvarez, Dan McCabe, Ray Telles and John Valadez. The associate producers are Sabrina Avilés, Yvan Iturriaga and Monika Navarro. For the re-enactment sequences, the producer is Cathleen O’Connell and the directors are David Belton and Sonia Fritz.
Major funding for LATINO AMERICANS is provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) and The Summerlee Foundation.
WETA Washington, DC, is the third-largest producing station for public television and the flagship public broadcaster in the nation’s capital. WETA productions and co-productions include the news and public affairs series PBS NEWSHOUR and WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL and documentary series such as THE JEWISH AMERICANS, AMERICA AT A CROSSROADS and the films of Ken Burns. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is President and CEO of WETA. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org.
About Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB)
Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) is a non-profit organization funded by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. LPB’s mission is to support the development, production, post-production, acquisition and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural television that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to the public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. LPB provides a voice to the diverse Latino community throughout the United States. More information on LPB and its programs and services is available at www.lpbp.org.
About Bosch and Company, Inc.
A production company based in Miami and Boston, Bosch and Company, Inc., established in 2005, has specialized in documentaries with a strong commitment to making films by Latinos about Latinos for Latino and non-Latino viewers. Its first production, THE GREAT FEVER for the PBS series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, featured Cuban scientist Carlos Finlay and his contribution to the eradication of yellow fever. Other credits include producing, for WGBH, the fourth hour of the PBS series LATIN MUSIC U.S.A. and the film VOICES FROM MARIEL with NFocus in Tampa. Bosch and Company, Inc. was founded by Adriana Bosch, an award-winning producer, writer and director with more than 20 years of experience.
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