“Alina of Cuba” is based on the real-life story of Alina Fernandez, who is one of Castro’s nine known children. Fernandez is known for being critical of the Cuban government and her father’s rule. Actress Ana Villafane will star in the film as Alina.
John Leguizamo is correct that casting James Franco as her father, an aging Fidel Castro, is a cultural appropriation mistake for any movie producer to be making in our current day an age, especially when there are plenty of Latino/Latinx actors capable of giving a far more authentic performance in the role. Leguizamo is wrong on one other aspect though, more on that later.
The producer, John Martinez O’Felan, gave a response which actually makes all aspects of this worse.
For example, he defends the casting by saying Leguizamo, one of the more successful Latino actors working doesn’t understand what being Latino in modern America actually means. Despite the fact that the character being portrayed isn’t a modern American Latino, but a historical figure who was the President of a Latino country.
“For one, let’s take a historical look at true Latinism in today’s mass culture of Hispanics, because a territory does not define a person’s blood trail. What I mean when I say that is that to be ‘Latin’ means of Hispanic, Portuguese, Italian or Latin American heritage and roots, all of the branches of the root of being ‘Latin.’ So to me his statements can create a great talking point for our people, because his comments represent the confusion and identity crisis in Hollywood right now within the Hispanic community in America who claim to only identify as Latin.”
But his response is made worse yet, by falsely claiming that Leguizamo’s public complaint is an attempt to cancel him and his movie by being an attack on feminism as a whole because the film is focused on a female character (Castro’s estranged daughter).
“Moreover, I’ve also spent 16 years developing this around and with the support of Ms. Fernandez, and took the time to find a female as the lead with Cuban roots, so he’s also attacking the feminine focus on this title unfairly. This is a film based on a Latin female immigrant living in America who is of historical importance, led by a Latin woman, and I’m just an underdog who is making it, so it’s kind of disappointing to see our work getting attacked by someone we thought would celebrate it. If he hates it and wants to ban it, oh well, I’ll still probably watch his movies because he’s been one of my favorite actors for the last 30 years.”
This despite the fact that Leguizamo clearly stated:
“I don’t got a prob with Franco but he ain’t Latino!”
He should though.
Franco has in recent years been so credibly accused of sexual harassment/assault by five different women that his presence on set of any female centric film is, in and of itself, an attack on modern feminism. Those accusations have been so credible that several of Franco’s long-time friends, costars, and filmmakers have refused to work with him on future projects.
Finally, O’Felan states that he isn’t a “Hollywood producer”:
“Moreover, I’ve never met Leguizamo but felt the calling to address the fact that he’s attacking me and my work based on false information because I’m actually not Hollywood as he’s insisted: I was born as a 4th generation Hispanic from Texas from an Iberian/ Indigenous Mexican, and have been the visionary behind this project since its beginning.”
John Martinez O’Felan is the CEO of Mankind Entertainment, the lead producer and manager of the film, which is being directed by Miguel Bardem from Mankind Entertainment, and produced in association with Maven Pictures and Redbud Studios.
Movie makers can do better, if they want to.
We are right to demand better in all aspects of our culture.
If you think that entertainment news, such as this, isn’t important, consider two things.
First, any society’s entertainment choices directly reflect that society’s interests and tolerances, as well as offers a chance to push the boundaries of both and create shifts in the #Culturalinertia.
Second, attempt to go any single calendar month without allowing any professional arts/entertainment in your life. No books, no audiobooks, no TV that isn’t true news broadcast (no opinion shows), No streaming shows or movies, no music, no professionally made paintings or portraits.
Then evaluate the impact that eliminating the arts and entertainment had on your emotional well-being.