Representation at the Academy Awards is drawing more attention from minority groups keen to see role models of their own descent on the big screen, Ana Valdez, executive director of the Latino Donor Collaborative (LDC) claims Hollywood has a lot to learn from the marketing industry which has grown to learn the growing importance of the “Latin Wallet”.
Hot on the heels of a two year #OscarsSoWhite protest campaign which threatened the Academy’s very existence if it could not start identify top work from black actors in particular, the LDC has applauded the inclusion of movies such as Best Picture winner Moonlight, Lion and Hidden Figures, but warns the Latino community is still being ignored.
Valdez said: “Hollywood has a lot to learn from the marketing community. Most major consumer good companies understand the power of the Latino wallet. They know they need Latinos to remain profitable.
“During the Super Bowl, we saw ads like those from 84Lumber and Coca-Cola that included diverse representations of Americans and Latinos. Bud Light even developed a Spanish-language ad that ran exclusively on Fox Deportes. Major brands like McDonald’s and Walmart regularly include Latinos alongside other American families in their marketing campaigns. They know where the money is and they’re not shy about courting us.”
A study commissioned by the body found that Latinos boast $1.3 trillion in spending power and poverty among this group is falling faster on average than any other demographic. In addition to being the US’ fastest growing demographic, of particular interest to the movie industry, Latinos filled 25% of all movie theater seats and represent 20% of the nation’s media consumers.
This year, Rodrigo Prieto, ‘Silence’ cinematographer and Lin-Manuel Miranda, were the only Latinos nominated for an Academy Award. Furthermore, a Latina has never won a Best Actress Oscar, a failing on the industry’s part, especially as “movies and television play such an important and significant role in how communities in the US are viewed,” argues Valdez. “There are many people whose only understanding of different races and cultures is through entertainment. If all they see are Latino stereotypes – or no Latinos at all – their perception of what we mean and contribute to American society will be seriously flawed.”
She plaudited the inclusion of Diego Luna in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, where he pinned down a lead role and “even spoke in his own accent - it was a powerful statement for many Latinos to see a hero in a major blockbuster sound like them or like their family members”.
"Divisive political rhetoric and stereotyping within the halls of government certainly do not aid our cause, but it makes it even more important for Americans to see Latinos as we truly are.
"This is a problem that has to be addressed from the top. I would love to see heads of studios, talent agencies, and other organizations in the industry make clear commitments and set meaningful targets for inclusion of Latinos.
"We know they agree diversity is important, but it’s time for Hollywood executives to invest their values financially. It’s not just in front of the camera. We also think it’s important to make sure Latinos are included behind the scenes - in scriptwriting, production, within the talent and PR agencies. That’s where the conversations around these issues begin.
She concluded: "We have an important role to play in every facet of the industry. If Hollywood doesn’t recognize our worth, they’re missing out on a major opportunity."