Director of HBO’s “Father of the Bride,” Gaz Alazraki discusses Hispanic representation in the film industry and what Latino culture means to him.
Hispanics and Latinos are vastly underrepresented in films, TV, and the general media. How do you tackle this through your work? What does media representation mean to you?
When I would come to a summer camp in the United States, I would get questions from friends asking me if we had a car in Mexico. The question was so bizarre and showed how little they understood where I came from. That led me to really start resenting stereotypes that I saw in the media that would reinforce those questions. I could see those misrepresentations, like just showing two Mexicans wearing mariachi sombreros with mariachi music. You know, that’s not even what Mexico is like. Where is Mexico City in the media? Like, where is where is the place that I grew up? Why don’t people know about it? That lack of representation was a fundamental thing that started to inform a lot of what I did.
I want anybody who sees my work to see what it’s really like. “Father of the Bride” takes place in Miami. Most people don’t have a clear-cut understanding of what Cubans and Mexicans look like. I know this place. I had been to Miami almost every year growing up because my grandfather retired there. Almost every Mexican that I know has a second summer house in Cuba, where they go shop and spend time with other families. We’ve never seen affluent Latinos in the media.
Why do you think it’s important to conjoin different Hispanic cultures in “Father of the Bride”?
Well, because it allowed us to open up the Latinx box. It’s very bizarre to be called Latinx, because I’m Latin American. If Latinx is going to stand for Latin Americans and Latinos in the United States, it’s too big of a box. It’s not allowing anyone to really do the homework of learning geography and knowing the differences between nations. So, I felt like this movie could really drive that home, and people can see Cubans and Mexicans together. It’s good that you guys gave us a label, but we don’t get it. As the movie draws humor from it, you can see that it doesn’t mean we all speak the same codes, right? I mean, we see many things differently. And, of course, we share a lot of things in common, but there are things we don’t, and that’s what makes us cousin nations. But that’s as far as it goes, and this was such a good opportunity to break that monolith.
What’s the overall message that you’re trying to share with your audience as a director?
I don’t think I’m a messenger. I think that I really am dealing with my own traumas. I think that my ambition is to be in the conversation. My ambition is to create the conversation. I think I’m chasing social empathy, and in a bigger macro-economic sense, I think I’m championing a thick middle class on a global scale. I think that my work trends towards the idealistic in that sense. By showing it to you, then you can imagine it.
Overall, what does Hispanic empowerment mean to you?
Hispanic empowerment means being in the conversation, and being in the conversation means that you’re at the negotiating table. I like the color that I add to the mosaic.