The effect of Cheech Marin's "Born in East L.A." apparently is particularly strong on the Los Angeles Latino community, judging from interviews with two dozen moviegoers outside East Los Angeles' Pacific Commerce theater, where a Spanish-subtitled version has been showing.
The film's third-generation Mexican-American, who is deported to Mexico, struck a familiar chord of empathy with both East Los Angeles natives and foreign nationals interviewed.
While youngsters related more to the film's madcap humor and East Los Angeles setting, most adults felt it addressed the more important issue of immigration. In addition, Mexican nationals found the depiction of undocumented workers both on target and educational. A few felt Paul Rodriguez's country cousin character misfired.
Of those interviewed, the majority were U.S. citizens or resident aliens. Most were bilingual and spoke in English; only four preferred to be interviewed entirely in Spanish. A handful without residency status declined to be photographed or give their names.
Coincidentally, an amnesty center is situated across from the theater showing Marin's film. The lines however were in front of the theater and not at the center.
Henry Casares--19; East Los Angeles resident; high school senior: "It was fun. It wasn't what I expected. I thought it was going to be funnier. I enjoyed it, though. And since I've seen it three times already, it's getting to me. It showed me people who are trying to get from over there to over here. I know people like that. Now I know what that experience is like and what they have to go through, etc. So I guess that kind of situation isn't something we should laugh about but a little humor helps to make it easier to understand what's happening."
Evangelina Diaz-Moreno--52; Montebello resident: "I want to talk about both 'Born in East L.A.,' which is very good, and 'La Bamba,' which is about Richard Valenzuela. I liked both equally well. I wish they would put them together on one bill so that all our people can fill the theaters with pride. These films are what our people want to see."
Anna Rivera--East Los Angeles native; housewife and mother of three: "This is my third time seeing this movie. From the beginning to the end, everything that Cheech does is funny. It's a funny movie--that's why we're here again. I loved the scene where he puts himself in the refrigerator to pass across. I don't know how they did it, but it cracks you up."
George Villarreal--13; East Los Angeles resident; parochial school student: "It was one of the best movies that I've ever seen. I like it because it's about the place where I live--East L.A. The funniest part for me was when those two gay guys were chasing Cheech in the jail cell. I've seen it once already and I probably will see it again before the video comes out."
Gus Ceja--31; Boyle Heights resident; truck driver: "It was funny. Interesting. I liked the way Rudy turned into a strong leader at the end with all those people following him. How they ran across that hill was moving. I think Cheech's character was due for a change--if that's what he wanted. Actually, he didn't have to change. But like anyone else, he did what he wanted to, what he felt comfortable with. That's cool."
Linda Ramos--28; East Los Angeles resident; housewife: "There was nothing about drugs in it, so that's real good; now I can take the kids to it. It was a pretty funny movie. I've already seen it twice--once here last week and once at a drive-in. And of course it's got East L.A. in it."
Julio Vega--21; Mexican citizen; Los Angeles college student: "I really liked the last scene where Cheech is coming down the mountain with all the people. I thought that was great. The movie had a few things that really didn't have to be there. For example, his Mexican cousin (Paul Rodriguez) doesn't have a real role in the film. You don't believe that character even if it is comedy. Overall, however, I thought the film was good."
Martin Gomez--27; East Los Angeles resident; sound engineer: "I thought the film was a little bit poor. He's got a lot of good actors working in the film with him but he didn't use them properly. I think the whole film was focused on him just to prove that Cheech Marin is a good actor. He could have used the other actors better. For instance, Paul Rodriguez is a good actor and comedian, yet Marin has him sitting in that house just doing nothing--just pretending to be a dumb guy. He could have been used him better."
Frank Esparza--18; East Los Angeles native; county employee: "What I like about the film is that it deals with East L.A. and then the situation in Tijuana, Mexico--that's the best part of it. And it was very funny. I also liked the part when he was chasing the girl and all this stuff--the movie is just great! I've already seen it four times and I'm going to see it again in a little while. I recommend that everyone go see it. I was born and raised here . . . East L.A. is my life."
Felipe Gomez--23; Mexican National/East Los Angeles resident; painter: "It's real good. It reminds us of the problems we had coming over here. I liked the scene where he's walking on the border by himself and the migra is taking his picture. Then suddenly he yells to all these other people, ' Vamonos --let's go,' and they all cross the border. He tells them: 'Let's see if they can stop us now.' It was a real emotional scene for me and the one I liked best."