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A Poetic Tribute to Garcia Lorca

September 12, 1997|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Compassion and tolerance were the message repeatedly shared by the filmmakers, stars and 800 guests at Wednesday night's premiere of "The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca" at the Directors Guild of America.

The film explores the unsolved murder, in 1936, of famed Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. Known for his liberal ideals, Lorca's work was resented by conservatives who branded him an enemy of traditional Spanish moral values. Arrested by fascist rebels and murdered, his killers remained anonymous and his body was never found.

"He represents one of the great tragedies of intolerance," said Andy Garcia who portrays Lorca. "We should never seek vengeance upon anyone because of their alternative beliefs, state of mind or appearance."

Esai Morales, who plays a young writer obsessed by Lorca's death, said the film's experience has changed his life.

"The lesson I have learned from Lorca is that if you are going to bother to live your life, live it well and stand by your convictions. It's better to die on your feet than live on your knees," said Morales who attended the event with TV actress Hilary Shepard.

Garcia, Morales and director Marcos Zurinaga also paid tribute to the late Raul Julia, who had dreamed of playing the poet. Almost $15,000 raised at the premiere will be shared between the Raul Julia Ending Hunger Fund and the East Los Angeles Classic Theatre.

Before the movie was screened, Zurinaga told the audience about a conversation with Julia in 1989.

"What do you think about doing a film on Garcia Lorca?" Zurinaga asked Julia.

Julia: "Wonderful! Wonderful! When do we start? I have to play that role."

Zurinaga: "There are some details, like Garcia Lorca was rather short."

Julia: "Details! What is a few inches?"

Zurinaga: "Well, it's like a foot we're talking."

The audience burst into laughter, and within seconds there was silence at the remembrance of Julia and anticipation for the movie, which took Zurinaga eight years from idea to screening.

In the audience were Lorca producers Moctesuma Esparza and Carolyn Caldera; Julia's widow, Merel Julia; Fritz Friedman, vice president of worldwide publicity for Columbia TriStar; actors Jimmy Smits, Jennifer Lopez, Lupe Ontiveros, Efrain Figueroa, Tony Plana, Jacob Vargas, Naim Thomas; writer Rick Najera; and director Gregory Nava, who will be feted with a tribute of his own tonight by the Latino Entertainment Media Institute and Henry G. Cisneros, former Housing and Urban Development secretary and now Univision president.

Said Cisneros about the premiere, one of his first Hollywood events:

"This has all the glitter and spectacle of a Washington event for sure. But I would say in contrast, it's a little bit less uptight here. Everybody in Washington would be in their diplomatic pinstripes; here, folks are relaxing. I'm one of the exceptions in a tie."

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