Si se puede! It can be done!
Eugenio Derbez’ “No se aceptan devoluciones” or “Instructions Not Included,” proves it.
Hispanics living a life which straddles two countries, have longed for a compelling film that represents them in a current and relevant way and not in the stereotypical situations of yesteryear: maids, gardeners, field workers, undocumented aliens, etc.
“No se aceptan devoluciones” is a funny and touching film about a Mexican gigolo later living the good life in Hollywood with his family. In this case his family consists of a single daughter, conceived during a romp in Acapulco with an American tourist, who was abandoned as a newborn by her North American mother. A few years later, the high-powered blond attorney decides to show up to reclaim her parenting card and an emotional cross-border roller coaster ensues.
The Lionsgate production was written and directed by Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez, and has turned into an unexpected box office success. The film was made for $7 million — a paltry budget by industry standards. To date, this movie has taken in close $42 million at the box office since its debut August 30th, 2013.
Among Derbez’ other notable roles are “Under the Same Moon,” (La misma luna), and as the irreverent voice of Burro (Donkey) in the Spanish version of the family film “Shrek.”
Also important to note about “Instructions” is that both Hispanics and non-Hispanics will get a good idea about the issues today’s bilingual and bi-cultural community encounters while raising a first-generation child. “Instructions Not Included” is a funny, stirring, and visually stunning film that touches on current issues of the Hispanic population like: immigration, race, discrimination, and language.
The film is representative of Hispanic parents trying to educate, assimilate, and enfranchise their families while maintaining a foot in two countries and holding a productive job in the United States.
Immigrants and first-generation Hispanics will relate to the story the Mexican director, writer, and actor weaves with incredible agility switching between English and Spanish. “Instructions not Included” is not entirely subtitled and only uses subtitles when conversations take place in Spanish.
Most of the cast in this film is fully bi-lingual, and though some characters don’t appear to be able to speak Spanish at first (because they look gringo), they break out their best ¡Qué te pasa! (What’s wrong with you!) in the middle of an eloquent dialogue in English.
One of this film’s attributes is that it also illustrates mainstream Americans mastering their bi-cultural and bi-lingual competency, a rather a-typical American point of view.
The timing of the limited release of the film couldn’t be better as well.
“Instructions” coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15, and box office results indicate that the Hispanic community is ready to see Hollywood evolve and start painting a more vivid picture about what the largest minority in this country has been up to for the last several decades.
Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 53 million Hispanics across the United States can celebrate this cultural group’s many accomplishments and contributions to American society for a whole 30 days.
Incisive, touching, and representative of the bicultural aspect of many living in the United States with significant ties to their native Mexico, “Devoluciones” also highlights the successful integration of productive bi-nationals into the unique multi-cultural environment of the United States.
With only a few days left in National Hispanic Heritage Month, there’s still time to take in films that will broaden anyone’s’ view of this unique blend of cultures.
To commemorate Hispanic contributions to film, here are a few suggestions of critically acclaimed films worth watching this month, ó cualquier dia del año!
- Como agua para chocolate (“Like Water for Chocolate”) — They say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Watch this one on a full stomach after los niños have gone to sleep.
- El Mariachi — This film proved that an acclaimed film can be made on a reasonable budget. The $7,000 cost of this Sundance Film Festival winner earn it a spot in the National Film Preservation Board at the Library of Congress.
Con la Familia
- “The Perfect Game” — Based on the true story of the 1958 Little League World Series’ unlikely winners from Monterrey, Mexico.
- No! — This poignant film documents the grass roots public relations and marketing campaign that brought on the final vote to rid Chile of Colonel Pinochet’s ruthless reign.
- “Motorcycle Diaries” — Chronicles the life of the Argentine Marxist Che Guevara.
- La misma luna (“Under the Same Moon”) — Immigration has long been a sensitive issue, and the sacrifices families make to attain the dream of a better life are well represented in this film.
- Frida — Salma Hayek portrays Frida Kahlo in this biopic film about the tormented Mexican painter and her relationship with prominent painter Diego Rivera.