Miguel Arteta, director of Star Maps, attended film programs at Harvard, Wesleyan and the American Film Institute. But how did he make the leap into the movie business?
"I gave a tape of my film to Jim, my car mechanic," says Arteta. "God bless him, he introduced me to Jonathan Demme. His ex-wife is married to Jonathan's cousin." Demme gave him a job on the crew of his 1991 documentary Cousin Bobby, and the rest is recent cinema history, whose most recent twist is Arteta's new tawdry domestic melodrama about the collapse of a Latino family in Los Angeles.
Now Arteta says he would love to do something in a lighter vein, perhaps a musical, or a comedy in the style of his hero, the great Mexican star Cantinflas--who figures prominently in Star Maps. The young director is weary of the prevailing notion that Latino films ought to be serious dramas.
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Arteta pays tribute to Cantinflas in Star Maps by making the late actor's "ghost" a character in the film. Those familiar with Cantinflas may be astounded to learn that, despite the likeness, these visions are not clips from his movies. The role was played by actor Herbert Siguenza, a member of a Chicano improv group called Culture Clash who is researching a one-man show on Cantinflas, says Arteta. "I'm thrilled if I can do anything to introduce Cantinflas to a wider audience.
"Actually," he adds, "a lot of people who see the film think it's me. I've always been told I look like Cantinflas.