"Bound by Honor," Taylor Hackford's new film about the coming of age of three cousins who find friendship and a sense of family in an East Los Angeles gang, is drawing mixed reviews from Latinos.
While some East L.A. residents applaud, saying the film depicts Latinos and their culture truthfully, others decry its violence and charge that its portrayals are racist.
"Our L.A. children are going through a healing from gang warfare," said Gus Frias of the National Coalition to End Barrio Warfare, which on Friday called for a boycott of the movie. "We don't need to open up the wounds."
But others disagreed.
"This movie brought out the real culture of the Mexican-American people in East L.A. Taylor really showed that East L.A. is a beautiful city to live in," said George Chavez, a liaison between Hollywood and the East L.A. community for 20 years. "He showed that there are three avenues in life you can take: the good, the bad and the ugly."
But there is too much of the ugly, said Andy Padilla, a counselor at the Salesian Boys and Girls Club in City Terrace, where some scenes were shot.
"My concern with movies like this is that they come into our community and they portray our people in a very negative light and don't give our kids any hope. . . . The people who made the movie have no idea how it affects us."
Still, Chavez, Padilla and friend Billy Cardenas saw parts of their own lives in "Bound." "I was a young gang member and the judge was tired of seeing me and my friends in court," Cardenas said. "He said, 'All 10 of you are going to jail for five years, or you're going in the Army.' " Like Paco in the film, Cardenas chose the military.
Cardenas recruited gang members for "Bound" because he said casting companies are afraid to do it. "The young men I recruited all hope to get out (of gangs) one day. But how do you show them? This was one vehicle we were able to show them."
The filmmakers and its producer, Hollywood Pictures, a unit of Walt Disney Co., have relied heavily on comment from Latinos. Several East Los Angeles residents were script consultants, extras or behind-the-scenes technical or craft workers. After a gang fight broke out following a preview in Las Vegas, the film's original title, "Blood In, Blood Out," was dropped.
Hackford, who also produced "La Bamba" and directed "An Officer and a Gentleman," said "Bound" will have served a positive purpose if young people can learn from the film. He noted that there isn't "one moment on the screen that you don't see the results of the violence."
"Bound by Honor," which opened last month elsewhere but was delayed here by concerns over the potential for violence, will help bridge understanding between cultures, said Consuelo Norte, who was consulted by Hackford and writer Jimmy Santiago Baca for her expertise on the Day of the Dead rites.
People have to want to understand the Mexican-American culture before they can appreciate it, she said, adding that she is tired of looking at films, TV and commercials and never seeing a Latino face. "It's demeaning," she said. "Here we are a huge group, yet we are still not taken seriously."