Mel Gibson‘s Apocalypto (Touchstone, 12.8) needs to make it with a much broader demographic than just Latinos and Native Americans to get any kind of decent traction, much less lift off the runway. A near-ecstatic thumbs-up comment from Edward James Olmos in a Robert Welkos L.A. Times article is insufficient persuasion. Olmos is responding to an ethnic heritage issue (Apocalypto is about ancient Mayans) as well as cinematic chops, and therefore can’t be trusted.
Gibson, Icon chief Bruce Davey, Rogers & Cowan publicist Alan Neirob and Disney publicist Dennis Rice need to get WASP and Jewish journos to speak up for this film on its own cinematic merits. The Latino sell is an astute way to get things going, but only that. It’s just a launch mechanism.
Has there ever been any proof that Latino audiences support serious art films? I don’t have the comprehensive data right before me, but I have an impression that they’ll always leave you at the altar if you’re selling any kind of quality-level movie about Latino culture. Did U.S.-residing Latinos respond to Maria Full of Grace or Girlfight or Y Tu Mama Tambien in any kind of sizable way? Will they support Babel or Pan’s Labyrinth or Children of Men — three extremely well-made films by a trio of Mexican directors working at the summit of their powers — to any great degree? You tell me.
Gibson and his homies are in denial at this stage, but they need pasty-faced white guys to step up and run with the ball and spread the word among non-Hispanic moviegoers. If they don’t, Apocalypto is dead.
Here’s NPR’s Kim Masters on the Latino sell and the hurdles Gibson and his top quarterbacks are facing.
Olmos said to Welkos that Apocalypto is “arguably the best movie I’ve seen in years. I was blown away…[the story is] just breathtaking.” I’m paying attention to this only because an Ain’t It Cool guy said the same thing after the Austin screen- ing a few weeks back. Besides, Olmos used the word “arguably,” which always means a lack of certainty.