Director Christopher Templeton’s upcoming feature debut, The Art of Living, is much more than an international legal thriller. Starring Edward James Olmos, Jimmy Smits, and Efren Ramírez (Napoleon Dynamite), The Art of Living dramatizes the fictional saga of Michael Alvarez, a Chicano ex-gang member wrongly accused of killing a Chicago police officer and sentenced to death at the age of 17. While the film’s publicity materials employ the much-abused “based on a true story” marketing hook, we can be sure that, to a greater or lesser degree, the story of Michael Alvarez is the story of hundreds of innocent individuals caught up in the gears of a deeply flawed legal system.
The plot picks up 12 years after Alvarez’s incarceration, as an international campaign showcases the inmate’s preternatural artistic abilities in order to create awareness around his case — a maneuver that goes as far as the British House of Parliament. Meantime, in Chicago, Alvarez’s lawyers must contend with pushback from a corrupt element within the local police department as they prepare for a hearing that culminates in a stirring courtroom setpiece.
The Art of Living currently finds itself in pre-production, which means cameras haven’t started rolling quite yet. But considering that Templeton has written, directed and produced his debut feature with little more than a couple of TV movies under his belt, he has managed to enlist an impressive array of Latino star power for this project — testament, no doubt, to the film’s compelling screenplay and urgent social message about race and (in)justice in American society. Stay tuned, as we’ll certainly be keeping our eye on this one as it makes its way from script to big screens across the country.
You can keep up with the production team on Facebook and follow their progress as they start filming in Colombia later this year.