Echo Park LA - interview
Selina Robertson meets pioneers of queer cinema Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (The Fluffer) and takes a walk in Echo Park, LA.
‘Todd [Haynes] really champions touching domestic dramas. It’s something that he did in Far From Heaven and in a different way it’s something that we’re trying to do with this film.’ Wash Westmoreland, Echo Park LA’s English co-director is clearly still excited that Haynes agreed to exec produce his second film feature. ‘He’s our cinema godfather’ adds New Yorker Richard Glatzer, the other half in this very creative partnership.
Their new film’s universality seems to have genuinely touched both critics and audiences alike and is perhaps the reason why UK distributor Metrodome have seen stronger legs in this niche-market drama - so you might catch it in a few more cinemas than usual. Queer filmmakers Westmoreland and Glatzer have brazenly positioned the film as a gay Latino re-working of the kitchen sink drama A Taste of Honey. So how did they come up with the film’s idea? ‘In 2004 we were invited to be the official photographers for our next-door neighbour's Quinceañera [a girl’s 15 years coming-of-age birthday celebration] and things developed from there.’ They both smile and in doing so became witness to a cultural event far beyond their imagination but right on their doorstep. To write a script about teenage pregnancy, coming out and gay gentrification in LA on a budget of £225,000 - these boys certainly had their work cut out. ‘We felt very welcomed in the neighbourhood. The irony was that we made a film about emotional tension but after the film’s release there was an article in the LA Times that used the film to focus in on the more lurid aspects of the Echo Park area of the city.’ Says Glatzer wryly.
Finding stars Emily Rios (Magdalena) and Jesse Garcia (Carlos) was clearly serendipitous. Both Jehovah’s Witnesses in real life, their intimate bond is evidently realised on screen. When veteran actor Chalo Gonzalez (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) sent them his head shot for the role of Tio Tomas, they were overjoyed. He had never worked on a low-budget film but was very happy to muck in. ‘He was our veteran’, says Westmoreland, ‘He brought with a sense of film history to the set.’
Glatzer and Westmoreland see their film as ‘post Brokeback Mountain’ and given the pair’s large eclectic filmography (Aids dramas, porn, a documentary about Gay Republicans), it seems they’ve been waiting for this moment. ‘Brokeback Mountain was a kind of watershed in terms of getting universal gay love stories on screen,’ states Westmoreland, ‘There is a tremendous need for positive images of gay people in cinema, but there is also room to explore other issues. As gay cinema moves forward it has to keep taking on new challenges or it will become stale’ So what’s next for this daring duo? ‘Projects about Collette and Errol Flynn.’ They reply in tandem. Looks like these fairies no longer need their godmother.
Cineworld Renfrew Street, Glasgow and Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 29 Sep.