Our long lost opera documentary won 3 more awards!

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Just wanted to give you a quick update on my project where we resurrected a long lost opera and made a funny documentary film about the adventure.

In the last two months we screened the film in five festivals from coast to coast (that’s a lot of Fs!). Here’s some photos from our recent adventures:

Along the way the film won three new awards:

  • Audience Choice Award – Nederland Music Film Festival
  • Best Documentary Feature – Georgia Latino Film Festival
  • Committee Choice Award – Tulipanes Film Festival
  • By the way, I’m doing a project where I take a photo every day this year and post it to my Instagram if you have any interest in following along.

    One of the most meaningful experiences I had on the road with the film was when an audience member approached me after a screening and told me “You know, I really wasn’t sure about this whole opera music thing when my friend dragged me to this screening…”

    I laughed and assured her that I completely understood where she was coming from and that I was pretty skeptical of “the whole opera music thing” when I started this project way back in 2013. She replied “But you know what? When I saw the end of the film when they were performing it, I was really getting into it!” We took a goofy selfie on her phone and said goodbye.

    In other news…

    My fellow documentary filmmaker Tristan Hanson and I also did 2 more screenings of our other new documentary Blueprint for Bronzeville about affordable homeownership in a historic African American neighborhood. We ended up winning the Best Feature Award at The Collected Voices Film Festival!

    The activist group we filmed in the movie is also starting to use the documentary as an organizing tool at church screenings in their community which is very exciting. I think this particular film has a great destiny in academia too so we’re starting to talk with professors about using the film in their classrooms.

    Signing off until next time,
    Arlen

    P.S. – If you have other ideas about where to screen either film, just contact me and we’ll make it happen. We’ve already gotten some good referrals and connections from this PS that I include at the bottom of every update.

    Our little documentary that could hits the road

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    Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

    Thanks for the support you’ve given my weird project where we resurrected a long lost opera and made a funny documentary film about the adventure.

    In the next few weeks our little documentary that could will be shown at 5 film festivals from coast to coast. (This is kind of a big deal for me and I’m a little nervous about it.)

    Here’s the full list of September screenings:

    San Francisco Latino Film Festival – Saturday, Sept 16
    Nederland Film Festival, Colorado – Saturday, Sept 16
    Tulipanes Latino Art & Film Festival, Michigan – Thursday, Sept 21
    Georgia Latino Film Festival, Atlanta – Sunday, Sept 24
    Boston Latino Film Festival – Friday, Sept 29

    I’ll be at the San Francisco, Boston and Michigan screenings in person to do Q&As after the film, the first time I’ve hit the road with a film. Please consider forwarding info about these screenings to anybody that you know in these cities who you think might be interested! Just send them to andinalives.com/screenings where they can watch a trailer video and buy tickets.

    What else is going on?

    Matching up some Qs with some As on a post-screening panel

    I also want to thank everybody who came out to see Tristan Hanson and I’s other new documentary film Blueprint for Bronzeville at its world premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Black Harvest Film Center in Chicago. (Wow, that was a long sentence!) We had a ton of fun and we’re already looking forward to future screenings of this important film about affordable housing in segregated neighborhoods.

    Until next time,
    Arlen

    P.S. – If you have other ideas about where to screen either film, just contact us and we’ll try to make it happen 😉

    A new song and a new film

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    I hope your summer is going well! I’m keeping busy and my documentary about resurrecting a long lost opera will play at another slate of film festivals this fall. More specifics on that next month, but for now I wanted to share a quick update with you on two other fronts:

    First, we discovered and performed a new song by Eustasio Rosales!

    The song, handwritten on a scrap of sheet music in the early 20th century, is set for piano to the words of William Blake’s classic poem “The Tyger.” You can watch a video of a terrific performance of that piece on YouTube below:

    Second, I have a new documentary premiering in Chicago next week!

    There’s no opera singing in this film. Not even a little bit. Watch the trailer video above.

    Blueprint for Bronzeville follows a group of ordinary people who are demanding a voice in the future of their historic African American neighborhood, which is marked by thousands of empty lots. This 40 minute documentary film explores personal stories, struggles, and work of the citizen-activist group Housing Bronzeville, as it fights to create opportunities for affordable homeownership and revitalize their community on the South Side of Chicago.

    It’s screening as part of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Black Harvest Film Festival on Monday, August 28 and Wednesday August 30th. I’ll be there along with my co-director Tristan Hanson and participants from the film will do a Q&A session afterward. (It’s part of a double feature so you’ll get to see another Chicago related documentary too.)

    Anyway, I wanted to invite everyone out to come watch this important film. You can get tickets here.

    We won the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary!

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    Thank you for all the support you’ve given our project of resurrecting a long lost opera and making a funny documentary film about the adventure. We had a terrific series of hometown screenings at both the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival and also at the Chicago Latino Film Festival. Local audiences laughed, cried, and tapped their feet to the music.

    Oh, and by the way, we won the Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the Chicago Latino Film Festival! Woohoo. Or as the film’s Associate Producer Mario Contreras would say, Orale!

    So, what’s next?

    Our next screening will be at the Chicago Caribbean Film Festival:

    This Monday, June 12, 7PM
    Oak Park Main Public Library, just off the Green Line (map)
    834 Lake St, Oak Park, IL 60301
    Veteran’s Room (2nd floor)
    Free and open to the public

    Watch our brand new trailer here below:

    I’d love to see you at this Monday’s screening if you can make it! I’ll be doing a Q&A after the documentary. We’re in the process of submitting to more film festivals, yadda yadda yadda. Of course the movie will eventually be able to download as well, though not for a little while still.

    Onward!
    Arlen

    Sometimes fortune cookies come true

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    About three years ago I got a fortune cookie that promised “an interesting musical opportunity is in your near future.” For some reason I kept it instead of my usual ritual of balling it up and throwing it away with the rest of the Chinese takeout trash.

    A few days later I found myself in a graveyard staring at the headstone belonging to my great grandfather, Eustasio Rosales, a man believed to be Chicago’s first Hispanic composer. An hour beforehand I had just laid eyes on an unperformed opera this ancestor of mine wrote decades ago. I decided to take a giant leap of faith and declared that I would put the opera on for a world premiere almost a century after it was written. Once and for all.

    I had no experience with producing operas. That’s putting it mildly– I didn’t even know if I *liked* opera music to begin with. And there were probably a million other reasons NOT to try and do this Very Difficult Thing. But it wasn’t long before I found brilliant musical accomplices like Pablo Santiago Chin and Chris Ramaekers and the Chicago Composers Orchestra who decided to roll the dice with me on the hopes that this music that nobody had ever heard before might be good.

    On that fall day in 2013 I left the fortune cookie prediction on the gravestone of my great grandfather as a kind of offering. Three years and one opera production later, we’ve answered the question that people in my family have been asking for generations: what does this music sound like? And because we made a documentary about this musical adventure, you can answer that question with us. I poured my heart and soul into this damn thing and I can’t wait for you to see the film. Watch the trailer below:

    “A Mother to her Son” by Eustasio Rosales

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    Three years ago I learned that my great grandfather wrote a long lost opera that’s never been performed. His name was Eustasio Rosales, and we believe he was Chicago’s first Hispanic composer. He came to the United States as an immigrant in the early 20th century, having been born in Bogota, Colombia. Despite not knowing anything about opera, I decided to try and put on his long lost work called Andina for a world premiere. Implausibly, the project was quite a success and we made an opera documentary film about the adventure and released the music.

    A few months after we performed Eustasio Rosales’ long lost opera “Andina”, a group of Colombian musicians here in Chicago got in touch with me. They wanted to know if my great grandfather had written any other music that might be performable. I was curious about the musical archives too, so we returned to my aunt’s basement and dug out the two boxes of Rosales’ music.

    Among the memorabilia was a tattered piece of handwritten piano sheet music titled “A Mother to Her Son.” Here’s what it looked like when we found it:

    The group of Colombian musicians, Mulati ensemble worked with Crossing Borders Music to perform this piece as part of a showcase of Colombian composers in spring 2016 at the Chicago Cultural Center. It was a terrific event and I was excited to hear this vintage song by Eustasio Rosales (my great grandfather), in English no less!

    Up next: The Chicago Latino Film Festival!

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    Our team had a great time at CIMMFest this past weekend showing our long lost opera film “The Way to Andina.” Nobody expects a documentary like this to be funny. People are surprised at just how much they laugh when they see it. And I think you’ll like it too.

    Recently I’ve been hitting the local talk show circuit to promote our upcoming screenings at the Chicago Latino Film Festival this Saturday afternoon and Monday evening. Over the last several days our project has been featured on WGN and WCIU’s morning shows where viewers got a taste of what the documentary and the music is like. Doing these is fun but getting up super early for a live appearance is a little bit tough.

    Upcoming screening information:

    Saturday, April 29, 3:30PM – Chicago Latino Film Festival
    Buy Tickets – AMC River East

    Monday, May 1, 5:30PM – Chicago Latino Film Festival
    Buy Tickets – AMC River East

    These events will include our 70 minute music documentary, a Q&A session afterwards, plus 3 great docu-shorts directed by another local filmmaker, Esau Melendez.

    See you soon!
    Arlen

    P.S. – If you have other ideas about where to screen the film, send me an email and we’ll make it happen 😉