A Theater Near You: Stand and Deliver’s 25th Anniversary

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Remezcla readers love to take in culture, but don’t always have the cash for tickets. That’s where we come in. A Theater Near You is Remezcla’s guide to awesome Latin movies for the lazy and broke; you can watch these all at home (because sabemos que son flojos).

The Movie:

Stand and Deliver
Director: Ramón Menéndez
Starring: Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Rosanna DeSoto, Andy Garcia
Release Date: March 11, 1988

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25 years ago a small, independently made Latino film was released in theaters. Starring the legendary Edward James Olmos and a young Lou Diamond Phillips, Stand and Deliver went on to make close to $14 million at the box office. That is a huge feat for a Latino film, even today. Last year’s most successful Latino movie was Casa de mi Padre, which got a boost from its big name star, Will Ferrell. It made a little under $6 million.

For his portrayal of Jaime Escalante, a high school math teacher, Edward James Olmos was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Based on actual events the movie tells the story of a Bolivian immigrant who teaches math at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles to mostly Latino students. The school is facing losing its accreditation and the students are failing miserably. Mr. Escalante, or Kimo as his students call him, decides to teach Calculus against the advice of the school administration. The chair of the math department says, “You can’t teach logarithms to illiterates.” Kimo responds, “Students will rise to the level of expectation.”

[My favorite part of the movie – “His body is decomposing in my lock-er.”]

Mr. Escalante makes learning fun. He also prepares his students for the challenges they will face in the real world, telling them that people will think they know less because of their last names and their skin color. But says that, “Math is the great equalizer.” In one of the funniest and poignant moments of the movie, Kimo explains to his students that neither the Greeks nor the Romans came up with the mathematical concept of zero but it was their ancestors, the Mayans, who first contemplated the absence of value. He tells them, “You burros have math in your blood.”

Mr. Escalante makes fun of Lou Diamond Phillips’ character, a hairnet-wearing cholo named Angel. When Kimo calls on him in class he refers to him as tough guy and nethead. But, when Angel decides that he wants to study and do well in the class Kimo gives him an extra copy of the textbook to keep at home so his homies don’t see him carrying his math book around.

Stand and Deliver is a classic Latino film that is just as relevant today as it was twenty-five years ago. And it’s one of the few that have made into the mainstream. (In 2011, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.) The jokes are hilarious and insightful. It is entertaining but raises important social issues and has an all-star Latino cast (including Rosanna DeSoto, who played Ritchie Valens’ mom in La Bamba. “Not my Ritchie!”) Do yourself a favor. Even if you’ve seen it a million times before, go watch this film, like now.

Where To Watch It Now: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU, Google Play, Netflix (DVD only)