Chris Weitz Interview: It Would Be A Tragedy If Latinos Don't Support A BETTER LIFE

Chris Weitz directs Demian Bichir, Jose Julian in A BETTER LIFE

A BETTER LIFE is not your typical summer blockbuster but director Chris Weitz hopes his passion project will bring in the masses specifically Hispanic Americans.

Best known for the American Pie franchise, Chris Weitz has plenty of experience making Hollywood-style films such as Twilight: New Moon and The Golden Compass.  He also ventured into smaller fare with About A Boy starring Hugh Grant. A BETTER LIFE is a departure for director Chris Weitz and it's a film that hits closer to home.

Jose Julian and Demian Beshir in A BETTER LIFEIn A BETTER LIFE, acclaimed Mexican actor Demian Bichir (Che, Sexo, Pudor, y Lagrimas) is a gardener in East L.A. struggling to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents as he searches for his stolen gardeners truck, his livelihood. A BETTER LIFE is a multi-generational story about a love between a father and son.

In order to work with the bilingual script, Chris told CineMovie he took Spanish lessons, something he wished he had done long ago. The Weitz family can trace their roots back to Mexico. Chris Weitz is the grandson of the famous Mexican silent film star Lupita Tovar who came to Hollywood during the golden age of cinema. Lupita Tovar is best known for the Spanish-language version of 1930's The Cat Creeps (La Voluntad del Muerto, 1930) and appeared in Universal's Spanish Dracula (1931). She later married Hollywood agent and producer Paul Kohner in 1932. Weitz's mother also spoke fluent Spanish as does his wife who is of Cuban and Mexican descent. He thought it was time to learn the language he's heard all his life.

When he read the script by Eric Eason (Manito), he was moved by the story which had taken twenty-years to bring to the big screen. The Twilight New Moon director said he made the movie in "tribute to the hard working Hispanic families, especially immigrants." In addition, the film touched upon how children of immigrants don't understand their parents "sacrifice" to make a better life for them.

A BETTER LIFE may come across as a story about immigration but Weitz sees it as a relationship between a father and a son.

"For me, it's not about immigration. It's about a father and son learning to be able to talk to one another. Of course it touches upon immigration and people are bound to see that in that light [but] first it was a family story for me."

According to Chris Weitz, the film doesn't have a political agenda but it does humanize the subject matter and portrays the plight of immigrants honestly.  

"Maybe this could be one small step in being more honest about it. As much as it portrays the lives and the predicaments of people in this situation. It talks honestly about their struggles; what they are afraid of; the feeling of constant fear; the hard work they do."

Chris Weitz has a lot of hopes for A BETTER LIFE. Weitz feels the film has a universal message that everyone can relate to.  He urged Hispanic Americans to come out in droves to support the film. The Hollywood studios "underestimate" the Latino audience, he told us. Latinos make up for the highest per capita in ticket sales than any other group for popcorn flicks like Transformers and Fast Five. However, they don't think that market will care to come out for a Latino film. He calls it a "tragedy" if the Latino community doesn't support A BETTER LIFE. If the film proves a success, the studios will be more inclined to make films about the Latino experience.  For his part, Weitz is leading the grassroots outreach, traveling to Arizona and Texas to get the word out.

Demian Beshir in A BETTER LIFE

Weitz also urges the conservatives to see A BETTER LIFE, to learn about the people they are against and not just see them as "numbers."  The film's star Demian Beshir also sees the movie as a vehicle for change.

"I believe in the power of cinema to change the perception and hearts of people.   And I'm sure this film will hopefully have the importance and change a lot of the things that affect this country in terms of the immigration problem that is also in the film. It's a theme that's present every day in their lives."

A lot of people have a lot riding on A BETTER LIFE and hopefully the film can overcome the onslaught of summer popcorn flicks. A BETTER LIFE is the Latino version of Boyz n' The Hood and deserves to become a sleeper hit.

A BETTER LIFE is in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles June 24, 2011, and expanding to other cities in July.

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