Yvette Monreal, known for her work in the MTV series Faking It and Robert Rodriguez’s TV drama Matador, has been cast as the romantic lead in the upcoming feature project entitled Low Riders. The film is a teen drama set in the East Los Angeles slums, chronicling the struggles of a Latino youth while he pursues his passion for lowrider cars.
East Los High star Gabriel Chavarria has already been cast as the lead, with Demian Bichir (A Better Life, The Heat) and Theo Rossi (TV’s Sons of Anarchy) signed onto the project as well. This is Monreal’s first major motion picture, having focused her career on edgy television roles such as the lesbian DJ Reagan in Faking It and rambunctious youth Senna in the El Rey network’s hit show Matador.
Universal has not yet announced a release date for Low Riders, but the project is arriving at a time in film history where Latino culture is believed to be either under-appreciated or misrepresented in American media. According to a report by the Motion Picture Association of America, 32% of moviegoers in 2013 were Hispanic, compared to 12% African-American and 7% Asian and other minorities. Reportedly since 2009, Hispanic audiences have increased by 20% each year, making Spanish-speaking populations the most lucrative demographic for film distributors.
Yet despite the rising box office presence, Latino films are only marginally represented in mainstream filmmaking. History also shows Latino characters in both television and film being most often portrayed as illegal immigrants or criminals; according to the New York Times, the role of the “Hispanic criminal” has quadrupled in network television storytelling from 1995 – 2013, over the span of nearly two decades.
So what does this mean for Low Riders? Bichir’s opinion regarding the lack of Latino exposure in Hollywood is a strong summary:
We have an equal amount of talent but we have to claim our own place within the industry. The only real way to break through [the stereotypes] is to write new projects, new stories about success, stories that can inspire the Latino community.”
The project’s director, Ricardo de Montreuil, is best recognized for his two feature films La Mujer de Mi Hermano and Mancora, the latter grabbing the attention of the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. With its predominantly Hispanic cast, the exception being lead actress Nicola Peltz, only time will tell if Low Riders avoids racial clichés and offers a more evolved Hispanic representation.