Film divides neigh­bors

‘Lowrid­ers’ shoot­ing on East­side block draws crit­i­cism from some who call movie’s plot ex­ploita­tive

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Brit­tny Me­jia brit­tny.me­jia@la­times.com

So­corro Arre­dondo was thrilled when a film lo­ca­tion scout ap­proached him about two months ago ask­ing to shoot scenes for a new movie called “Lowrid­ers” in his El Sereno auto shop.

A film crew mem­ber de­scribed the movie as a tale about a man, his tra­di­tion­al­ist Latino fa­ther and his gang-banger brother. Arre­dondo said he ended up bond­ing with the film crew and was paid for the days they spent film­ing in his shop, 3 C’s Car Au­to­mo­tive. The shoot brought a slice of Hol­ly­wood to Arre­dondo’s East­side neigh­bor­hood, and he and his me­chan­ics got to snap pho­tos with the movie’s stars, in­clud­ing actress Eva Lon­go­ria.

Then, ear­lier this month, a sign went up at the East­side Cafe — a cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional space next door — blast­ing the film for per­pet­u­at­ing stereo­types and ex­ploit­ing the mostly Latino com­mu­nity.

“East­side Cafe does not sup­port Low Rider ex­ploita­tion film,” the sign read.

On Face­book, the cafe crit­i­cized the film pro­duc­tion for tak­ing up park­ing spa­ces and block­ing traf­fic and for paint­ing “over a me­mo­rial mu­ral that mourned the death of a young boy of our com­mu­nity.”

“We’re fight­ing on high moral ground for re­spect for the com­mu­nity,” said Roberto Flores, a co­or­di­na­tor with East­side Cafe. “They’re sell­ing our cul­ture and they never give any­thing back.”

But the con­flict un­der­scores how com­pli­cated la­bels like “com­mu­nity” can be in work­ing-class neigh­bor­hoods where as­pir­ing spokes­peo­ple are not al­ways in short sup­ply.

“Thiswas an op­por­tu­nity for El Sereno to be up there in Hol­ly­wood, that’s the way I looked at it,” Arre­dondo said. “I just hope we don’t get a bad im­pres­sion of El Sereno and hope­fully there’s a part two of ‘Lowrider’ and they won’t get scared away fromthis con­tro­versy.”

The me­mo­rial mu­ral that was painted over had been on a wall be­long­ing to his shop, he said, and the film crew gave him money to pay the artists who painted it and other mu­rals, and they will be­able to re­store the art.

Next door to the East­side Cafe, at Mundo’s Up­hol­stery Shop, owner Por­firio Can­tero said the film’s plot never crossed his mind. But the shoot did cost him busi­ness, he said, be­cause it cre­ated a park­ing crunch.

Can­tero said he was grate­ful when Flores told him he was ne­go­ti­at­ing with the film crew on com­pen­sat­ing busi­ness own­ers for the park­ing in­con­ve­nience.

“Roberto is a per­son who did this for the rights of the peo­ple,” Can­tero said. “I see him as a leader of the area.”

Flores said that the cafe was tak­ing “a stand against the dis­re­spect. Part of the de­mand was com­pen­sa­tion for all small busi­nesses.” But East­side Cafe ul­ti­mately de­cided to “refuse any com­pen­sa­tion to em­pha­size that our strug­gle was for re­spect and jus­tice.”

“Peo­ple thought we were try­ing to get money,” Flores said. “We de­cided as a group that we’re go­ing to fight this from a very firm, moral po­si­tion. Even if of­fered, we are not tak­ing any money.”

But at Aguil­era’s Bar­ber­shop around the cor­ner, the de­bate mir­rored what hap­pened last month when hiphop artist Pusha T spent a day shoot­ing a mu­sic video at the busi­ness and used a backyard.

The backyard is rarely used by busi­nesses, said Juan Lan­deros, manager of the bar­ber­shop, but East­side Cafe asked the crew for com­pen­sa­tion for the in­con­ve­nience. They, along with a few other busi­nesses, re­ceived money.

Early this month, he said, Flores came by the bar­ber­shop and asked if staff sup­ported ask­ing for $200 for ev­ery day of film­ing for busi­nesses on the block. Lan­deros said the movie’s plot didn’t comeup.

“I don’t be­lieve for a minute that they don’t want money,” Lan­deros said. “Ide­al­is­ti­cally I would have liked to be­lieve they­were go­ing for the so­cial move­ment, but the­way they went about it was not the right way.... For them to claim to be the voice for us is of­fen­sive.”

Shortly af­ter East­side Cafe went public with its griev­ances, some­one used the Twit­ter ac­count @film­crewLA to tweet: “The East­side Cafe ap­par­ently doesn’t like Eva Lon­go­ria and her film ‘Low Rider’ ... there greedy.” The ac­count has since been shut down.

The East­side Cafe and the pro­duc­tion have de­clined to go into de­tails about the con­flict.

On Thurs­day, the non­profit Film L.A. spoke with rep­re­sen­ta­tives for East­side Cafe and Here and Now, a neigh­bor­hood shop, dur­ing a meet­ing co­or­di­nated in con­junc­tion with Coun­cil­man Jose Huizar’s of­fice.

“Now we know who to reach out to when film­ing comes to the area,” said Philip Sokoloski, a spokesman for Film L.A, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that co­or­di­nates the on-lo­ca­tion film­ing per­mit process. “We al­ways try to make sure we connect with busi­ness own­ers in the area. The next time film­ing vis­its the area, we’ll know the right peo­ple to reach out to.”

But some busi­ness own­ers and res­i­dents said they won­der if film crews will think twice about com­ing.

“I don’t think they’ll come back,” said Elaine Fer­min, who lives near where the film­ing oc­curred. “Who wants to be around peo­ple who are so out­ra­geous? It’s ridicu­lous.”

SO­CORRO Arre­dondo al­lowed film­ing to take place at his re­pair shop.

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