It was the first time I remember seeing an audience that looked just like people in the film. Coming out of the Laemmles theater that had just shown Quinceanera on Sunday there was a line at the inside door to the theater: people waiting for seats. It was teenage Latino couples, gay couples of various races, Latino grandmothers with their children and grandchildren, hipsters of various races, parents. Le tout Echo Park. They all came to Pasadena to see the movie. And it wasn’t even hot weather this Sunday.
Quiceanera was sentimental but moving nonetheless. And, as billed, Echo Park plays one of the starring roles. (Even though some of the locations were easily recognizable as Silver Lake: Micheltorena School, Sun Lake Drugs….) Lots of vanity “close-ups” of the neighborhood – shots of shops on Sunset Boulevard, a well-known view spot of Downtown from Elysian Park.
LA Alternative Press has a very good feature story on the film and its creators (much about whom has been written recently). But the New York Times's Stephen Holden, who praises the film, made me sigh with the following:
“Quinceañera,” a portrait of a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles, is as smart and warmhearted an exploration of an upwardly mobile immigrant culture as American independent cinema has produced. Set in Echo Park, a working-class Latino neighborhood in the early throes of gentrification, it has a wonderfully organic feel for the fluid interaction of cultures and generations in the Southern California melting pot.
I’m glad Holden liked the film, but I don’t know where he gets “the early throes of gentrification” from. As far as gentrification goes there truly is no before-and-after in Echo Park. The neighborhood is far more complex than that. In fact, it started out in the 1890s as an expensive place. And there have been artists and other improvers here for decades. Even the most recent wave of gentrification is well over a decade old. Argument could be made that the commies of old (i.e., the 1950s) were gentrifiers.