Benjamin Bratt to Narrate LATINO AMERICANS on PBS
Today at the Television Critics Association meeting, PBS announced actor Benjamin Bratt will narrate LATINO AMERICANS, a landmark three-part, six-hour documentary series that is set to air nationally on PBS in the fall of 2013. It is the first major documentary series for television to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos, who have helped shape the United States over the last 500-plus years and have become, with more than 50 million people, the largest minority group in the U.S.
Bratt, the son of a Peruvian mother and a German-English father, and a multi-award winner for his work on television's "Law & Order" and in such films as Pinero and Traffic, will narrate LATINO AMERICANS, which is led by Emmy Award-winning series producer Adriana Bosch. A team of filmmakers will document the evolution of a new "Latino American" identity from the 1500s to the present day, with interviews with close to 100 Latinos from the worlds of politics, business and pop culture, as well as deeply personal portraits of Latinos who lived through key chapters in American history.
"It is time the Latino American history be told," said Bosch, a Cuban-born filmmaker whose previous PBS projects include LATIN MUSIC U.S.A. and documentaries for the series American Experience on Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. "Latinos are an integral part of the U.S., and this series shares the stories of a rich collection of people coming from so many different countries and backgrounds. It is the story of Latinos, and it is the story of America."
LATINO AMERICANS features interviews with an array of individuals, including entertainer Rita Moreno, the Puerto Rican star of West Side Story and a winner of Academy, Tony, Grammy and Emmy Awards; labor leader and 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dolores Huerta, who in the 1960s co-founded with César Chávez the National Farm Workers Association, which later became United Farm Workers of America; Mexican-American author and commentator Linda Chávez, who became the highest-ranking woman in the Reagan White House; and Cuban singer and entrepreneur Gloria Estefan, who has sold more than 100 million solo and Miami Sound Machine albums globally.
Interview subjects also include journalist María Elena Salinas, co-anchor of "Noticiero Univision," the nightly newscast most watched by American Latinos; columnist Juan Gonzalez, author of Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America and co-founder of the Young Lords Organization, a Puerto Rican nationalist movement; Rep. Charles Gonzalez, a retired Texas congressman who from 1999-2012 served in the House of Representatives for the district that his father, Henry B. Gonzalez, represented for nearly four decades; and Herman Badillo, the Bronx politician who, in 1970, became the first Puerto Rican elected to the House of Representatives and ran six times for Mayor of New York.
The diversity of the Latino American Experience is reflected in both the on-camera interview subjects and the filmmaking staff. The production team, most of who are Latino Americans, includes individuals who are of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran and Dominicans heritage, among others. In addition to Bratt as the narrator, award-winning composer and classical guitarist Joseph Julián González will compose the musical score for LATINO AMERICANS, and the acclaimed singer-songwriter Lila Downs will serve as the featured artist for the series, performing the closing song in LATINO AMERICANS.
González has scored films and television programs for more than 20 years. Of Mexican farm laborer origins in California's Central Valley, González has worked with symphonies around the world and artists as varied as Quentin Tarantino, Britney Spears and Slash, and conducted orchestras at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. "I'm excited to create the score for this series," González said. "It's an important project to be a part of, and it allows me to draw on the multi-faceted musical heritages of many cultures, much like the history told in LATINO AMERICANS."
Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico, began performing traditional Mexican rancheras as a girl, and singing with mariachis. She has toured the world and released seven studio albums with songs in Spanish, English and several native Mexican languages, and is the winner of two Latin Grammy Awards and other industry recognition. "The importance of music as a form of cultural expression to Latinos cannot be understated," Downs said. "It's a privilege to have our music be a part of this series, building on that rich tradition."
LATINO AMERICANS relies on historical accounts and personal experiences to vividly tell the stories of early settlement, conquest and immigration; of tradition and reinvention; of anguish and celebration; and of the creation of this new American identity with an influx of arrivals from Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and countries in Central and South America.
The series is broken into The Following six chronological segments that cover the 1500s to the present day:
1. "Strangers in Their Own Land" (w.t.) spans the period from 1500-1880, as the first Spanish explorers enter North America, the U.S. expands into territories in the Southwest that had been home to Native Americans and English and Spanish colonies, and as the Mexican-American War strips Mexico of half its territories by 1848.
2. "The Pull and the Push" (w.t.) documents how the American population begins to be reshaped by the influx of people that began in 1880 and continues into the 1940s, as Cubans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans begin arriving in the U.S. and start to build strong Latino-American communities in South Florida, Los Angeles and New York.
3. "War and Peace" (w.t.) moves into the World War II years and those that follow, as Latino Americans serve their new country by the hundreds of thousands - but still face discrimination and a fight for civil rights.
4. "The New Latinos" (w.t.) highlights the swelling immigration from Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic that stretches from the post-World War II years into the early 1960s as the new arrivals seek economic opportunities.
5. "Pride and Prejudice" (w.t.) details the creation of the proud "Chicano" identity, as labor leaders organize farm workers in California, and as activists push for better education opportunities for Latinos, the inclusion of Latino studies and empowerment in the political process.
6. "Peril and Promise" (w.t.) takes viewers through the past 30 years, with a second wave of Cubans arriving in Miami during the Mariel exodus and with hundreds of thousands Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and Guatemalans fleeing civil wars, death squads and unrest to go north into a new land - transforming the United States along the way. The debate over undocumented immigrants flares up, with a backlash that eventually includes calls for tightened borders, English-only laws and efforts to brand undocumented immigrants as felons. Simultaneously, the Latino influence is booming in music, sports, media, politics and entertainment. The largest and youngest growing sector of the American population, Latino Americans will determine the success of the United States in the 21st century.
More On: PBS, Benjamin Bratt, American Experience, Ronald Reagan, Rita Moreno, Gloria Estefan, Quentin Tarantino.