Foto-Novelas 2: Junkyard Saints and Broken Sky

Two New Original Half-Hour Dramas Explore Latino Experience through a Prism of Dreams, Memories and Reality


For Immediate Release 

Mary Lugo, 770/623-8190,
Cara White, 843/881-1480,
Randall Cole, 415/356-8383, 

Program companion website: 

(San Francisco, CA)— In October 1997, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) first presented Executive Producer Carlos Avila's FOTO-NOVELAS, four original dramas inspired by the fantastic elements of the Mexican and Latin American pulp novel tradition, where everyday reality is woven with otherworld surrealism. This innovative and entertaining quartet of half-hour dramas produced, directed, written and performed by established and emerging talents from across the spectrum of the Chicano and Latino artistic community continues with this season's Independent Lens presentation of FOTO-NOVELAS 2, two new half-hour episodes directed by Carlos Avila – "JUNKYARD SAINTS,” written by Avila, and "BROKEN SKY,” written by Bennett Cohen and Edit Villarreal. FOTO-NOVELAS 2 will air on Independent Lens, the acclaimed new showcase series hosted by Don Cheadle, on Tuesday, October 21, at 10pm (check local listings). 

"JUNKYARD SAINTS” is a spiritual thriller set in the tough, gritty world of an auto dismantling yard somewhere in rural South Texas. The story centers on Lalo Flores (Jeremy Ray Valdez), a Latino teenager recently released from a youth detention facility, and his growing acceptance of the son he has fathered. He works for Clemente (Leon Singer), who has the unusual habit of collecting the plastic dashboard saints that are extracted from the wrecked cars brought into the junkyard. Clemente believes these saints have failed to protect the drivers of these vehicles and need to be "retired” to a shed he's been filling with faulty saints for the last 30 years. When Lalo encounters Ray, a local drug dealer, he finds a different sort of refuge and salvation among Clemente's saints. 

"BROKEN SKY,” inspired by the haunting folk ballad "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” by Woody Guthrie, blends both past with present and fact with fiction as it dramatizes the deep, lasting impact of a real-life 1948 plane crash in which 28 Mexican nationals were killed near Fresno, California. The film tells the story of Rodrigo Cortinas (Victor Campos), a former migrant worker who was supposed to be on the plane and lost his wife in the crash. Now, 50 years later, as he approaches death, Rodrigo is visited by the spirit of Rosario (Diane Uribe), the wife he lost long ago. 

Meanwhile, his grown son Mario (Robert Beltran) feels it is time to move him into a nursing home. In a journey which is both funny and sad, the irascible old man sets out to catch the plane he missed years ago—a journey that, spiritually at least, finally heals him. With unique visual style and dream-like power, FOTO-NOVELAS 2, filmed in and around San Antonio, Texas, offers a hauntingly original exploration of the Latino-American experience; they will air in conjunction with Latino Heritage Month. FOTO-NOVELAS 2 is a co-presentation of the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB). 

The program's interactive companion website at features detailed information about the films, including interviews with the filmmakers, cast and crew bios, as well as links and resources pertaining to the films' subject matter. The site also features a "talkback” section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the films, and more. 

Executive Produced by Carlos Avila
Produced by Debra J. Olchick
Written and Directed by Carlos Avila 

Executive Produced by Carlos Avila
Produced by Debra J. Olchick
Story by Carlos Avila & Bennett Cohen & Edit Villareal
Teleplay by Bennett Cohen & Edit Villareal
Written and Directed by Carlos Avila 

About the Filmmakers 
CARLOS AVILA (Executive Producer/Writer/Director) made his feature film directorial debut with New Line Cinema's Price of Glory, for which he was awarded the 2001 ALMA (American Latino Media Arts) award for Best Director. Avila caught the attention of the film community in 1991 with his short Distant Water, a coming-of-age story set in Los Angeles in 1943. The film won the Gran Prix at the inaugural Film Festival of International Cinema Students in Tokyo and went on to be shown at several festivals including Sundance. In 1997, Avila created the original ITVS program FOTO-NOVELAS, four half-hour dramas inspired by the Mexican and Latin-American pulp novel and comic book tradition. Avila wrote, directed and produced the highly-acclaimed series which was recently added to the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Television and Radio. Avila also co-wrote, produced and directed the American Playhouse drama, La Carpa (1993). He participated as a Directing Fellow at the 1995 Sundance Directors Laboratory and also received an Intercultural Media Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. A graduate of the UCLA's School of Film and Television, Avila grew up in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park. 

BENNETT COHEN (Writer) has written extensively for television, working with networks, cable outlets, and PBS. As a writer-producer, he created the successful franchise-movie series, Chameleon, for UPN. His 1997 FOTO-NOVELAS teleplay, The Fix, written with Edit Villarreal, was the first PBS half-hour show ever to be nominated for a Humanitas Award. He has also written for networks including UPN, USA, Showtime and Tribune Entertainment. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, he has continued his involvement in theater and is currently writing an original dramatic play commissioned by the Berkeley Repertory Theater. 

DEBRA J. OLCHICK (Producer) Recent feature credits as line producer/unit production manager include the independent projects Durango Kids and False River, and the documentary Rodeo Girl funded by Polo Ralph Lauren. Television credits include a documentary on renowned screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. for Wind Dancer Productions and Celebrating Across Atlanta: Fourth of July from Lenox Square for WGCL in Atlanta. Debra returned to the East Coast from California where she began her industry career and established rewarding relationships with numerous studios and production companies. She gratefully acknowledges her association with New Line Cinema, having worked on several of their projects including Price of Glory with Jimmy Smits and directed by Carlos Avila. Prior to her involvement in film and television production, Debra distinguished herself as a theatrical producer and managing director with several performing arts organizations in San Francisco, New York and Miami. 

EDIT VILLARREAL's (Writer) latest play, Ice, was commissioned in 2001 by The Latino Theatre Initiative at The Mark Taper Forum. Other plays include Marriage is Forever, produced in 1999 by The San Diego Repertory Theatre; The Language of Flowers, produced by A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle; Chicago Milagro, commissioned by South Coast Repertory Theater, and My Visits with MGM (My Grandmother Marta), which has been produced across the country. She has worked as a consultant with such prestigious theater institutions as TCG (Theatre Communications Group) in New York City; the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC, as well as such prominent theatres as Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, The Mark Taper Forum, San Jose Repertory Theatre and South Coast Repertory Theatre. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, she is head of the M.F.A. Playwriting Program as well as vice-chair of graduate programs at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. 

About the Cast 
"JUNKYARD SAINTS” JEREMY RAY VALDEZ (Lalo) moved to Los Angeles from Phoenix in 1998 to pursue a career in acting. A native of New Mexico, Valdez has starred in feature films including Tayler's Wall and Fool's Moon. He has also guest starred on Family Law, The Brothers Garcia and many other popular television shows. Valdez was also a recurring cast member on the PBS series American Family and the sitcom Raven. Most recently, he completed the pilot Home of the Brave, produced by Aaron Spelling. 

RAMON FRANCO (Ray) was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the South Bronx. Franco began acting during his teenage years with performances that included work at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre. At age 14, Franco played opposite the legendary Lee Strasberg in the film Boardwalk. By age 22, he was already a veteran stage performer with considerable television experience including series such as Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice and Tour of Duty. His feature film work includes Kiss Me a Killer, Chains of Gold with John Travolta and Extreme Justice with Scott Glenn. He is best known to audiences for his co-starring role in Clint Eastwood's Heartbreak Ridge. 

LEON SINGER (Clemente) was born in Mexico City into a Jewish-Mexican family and being an actor was the farthest thing from Singer's mind when growing up. As a young man he spent two years in Israel on a kibbutz at the Gaza border working as a mechanic and doing guard shifts. Upon his return to Mexico, he slowly began taking an interest in acting and eventually studied under the guidance of Seki Sano, an aide to the legendary Russian acting teacher Stanislavski. His interest in acting flourished and soon he began performing not only on the stage but on radio, television and film. His feature film credits include Selena, My Family, Amistad, and Out to Sea. On television he has been on a variety of shows including Resurrection Blvd., Columbo and the classic mini-series Lonesome Dove.

"BROKEN SKY” VICTOR CAMPOS (Rodrigo Cortinas) is a veteran actor whose career has spanned several decades. He was born in New York City of Puerto Rican and Dominican parents. Growing up, Campos traversed the challenges of New York's mean streets, first in what is now known as Fort Apache, the Bronx and then in the Lower East Side. He found his way through these early years through his love of sports, especially boxing. He eventually turned professional under the tutelage of the famous trainer, Cus D'Amato, and began acting at the age of 25 in the boxing classic Requiem for a Heavyweight starring Anthony Quinn. Equally at home in theater, film, and television, Campos appeared off-Broadway in Short Eyes and on Broadway in Neil Simon's Plaza Suite. His film work includes Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz, John Frankenheimer's Black Sunday, and Brian De Palma's Scarface. His television appearances include such classic series as Columbo, Cagney and Lacey, Kojak, and Hill Street Blues. Most recently Victor appeared on Roswell, Dharma and Greg, and ER. 

ROBERT BELTRAN (Mario Cortinas) is a second generation Mexican-American born in Bakersfield, California. He graduated from Fresno State with a degree in Theater Arts and, after moving to Los Angeles, Beltran landed his first film role, a small part in Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit. His next job was the title role in Paul Bartel's Eating Raoul, a cult classic. Since then, he has worked continuously in films, television, and theater. His current filmography includes 25 titles, among them the critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated Gaby, A True Story, Scenes From The Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (another Paul Bartel film), and Oliver Stone's Nixon. He has numerous television appearances, most notably as a series regular on Star Trek: Voyager, a part that has brought him a huge fan base. The role earned him a 1997 Nosotros Golden Eagle award, annually presented to artists whose work presents positive Hispanic images to the world, for best actor in a television series. On stage, he has appeared in productions for Luis Valdez's El Teatro Campesino, the LA Theater Center, the California Shakespeare Festival and others. 

About Independent Lens 
Independent Lens is a weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. The acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history, which prompted Nancy Franklin in The New Yorker to write "Watching Independent Lens ... is like going into an independent bookstore—you don't always find what you were looking for but you often find something you didn't even know you wanted.” Presented by ITVS, the series is supported by interactive companion websites, and national publicity and community outreach campaigns. Further information about the series is available at lens. Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS. 

About ITVS 
Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American People. 


Posted on July 2, 2003