LatinaLista — This week, PBS aired a program about the legendary Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente. The show was part of the PBS series American Experience.
Baseball player Roberto Clemente
I was planning on blogging about the film but a visit to the web site dedicated to the show can inform you better. And if you happened to miss the broadcast, the web site also promises to show the entire program in a few days in Spanish or English, depending on your preference.
Instead, I would like to focus on what the program's filmmaker, Bernardo Ruiz, wrote in an open letter to his fellow Latino filmmakers of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP).
Though Ruiz was speaking to his peers in the film industry, his points are valid and deserve to be heard, as well as, supported by the entire Latino community.
(The following open letter appeared in the NALIP newsletter.)
Our film, Roberto Clemente premiered Monday on PBS, after which a Spanish-language version will be available for free viewing online at pbs.org/americanexperience
However, I am not writing in my capacity as filmmaker, but in the capacity of advocate. The fact is there are too few programs by and or about Latinos on PBS at the national level and NALIP could and should be doing more to pressure PBS for greater inclusion.
I don't have to trot out examples of Ken Burns' "The War" to illustrate this problem. This has been happening for quite some time...Back in 1994, Ken Burns did the same thing with "Baseball."
Daily News columnist and author Juan Gonzalez (who is interviewed in our film) explained "perhaps the greatest Burns revision of history occurred with his 1994 film Baseball. In 18 hours of gripping drama, guess how much time Burns devoted to Latino ballplayers? Six minutes: four to Roberto Clemente, and two to all the other Latinos." That was a spectacular omission, given that modern-day rosters are more than a third Latino.
I am glad that our film does some of the work of correcting these mistakes, but lets be honest, there needs to be a greater chunk of the public media pie devoted to Latino producers --and not just small amounts of set aside money-so that these kinds of mistakes do not habitually re-occur. As a NALIP Board member I want to see our organization put intelligent pressure PBS to hire Latino leadership at the programming and executive levels so that PBS producer rosters - like Major League Baseball's rosters in the early 1970s - begin to reflect something closer to reality.
At this moment many Latino producers have to both make films and be their own advocates within the system...There will always be some of this, but we're at a moment, when we should be able to see better results with a little bit of pressure. I'd like to make this part of our local and national dialogues.
NALIP Board of Directors