Milagros still lives at home, works a crappy retail job and walks around with a massive chip on her shoulder. It’s that chip that gets her jumped by a pair of local thugs. They leave her bleeding on the street only to be found by Mateo, a teacher and revolutionary, who changes her life forever. Millie and the Lords is PR-born and Rochester-raised Jennica Carmona’s first film, made on a slim budget, with friends and family and a lot of heart.
In the 60s and 70s, the Young Lords was an organization that, galvanized by the civil rights movement, fought for justice for the Latino community. They were advocates for issues from housing to queer rights to self-determination for Puerto Rico. Inspired by the work of the Young Lords and roused by how little people speak or know about them today, Carmona set out to tell this story in the hopes that this very important part of Latino history does not recede to cult fiction.
Here’s five reasons you should check this one out…
Through Millie’s eyes we get a sense of the Young Lords’ past, their impact and immense contribution to the Latino community. The film weaves in archival footage and stills, reminding us throughout that though this is a work of fiction, real people, places and events, inspired it. The film was shot in and around the neighborhood where it all happened, El Barrio, and includes some scenes in one of NYC’s most lauded bookstores, La Casa Azul.
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There are performances from surviving members of the Young Lords like Felipe Luciano, who plays himself and acts as a the head of an community center in El Barrio that is under threat of losing its funding. There are also snippets of interviews with members like Jose Cha Cha Jimenez, who founded the Lords, and Luis Garden Acosta, who now runs a leadership center called El Puente in Williamsburg.
The production boasts an incredibly diverse cast and crew; the movie looks just like New York looks to us pedestrians. Funding for the film was raised via various crowd-sourcing campaigns. In short, it’s a true example of small-budget indie filmmaking. And of course, being reminded of the ways people put themselves in jeopardy for the sake of our civil rights, will move you off your butt and onto the pavement.
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The soundtrack features some great tracks by Rebel Diaz, that bump and gleam with defiance. There is also a beautiful rendition of Cucurrucucu Paloma by Perla Batalla, that will get you all reflective and teary-eyed.
Now, put yourself in context
By blending of the past and the present, Millie and the Lords is a great expression of how these battles for justice don’t end; they continue past presidencies and amendments. We should be grateful for the work of those who came before but also recognize that they left a big legacy for us to live up to.
Millie and the Lords premieres at the Viva! Latino Film Festival on Monday, February 23 in New York.