By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on April 17, 2017
HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) — Ā GUS, DAWN of the GOLDEN MATADOR tells the true story of the amazing life of Legendary Civil Rights Attorney Gustavo “Gus” Garcia. His life and loves, his journey and triumphs, both good and bad. He battled segregation, racism and injustice everywhere he found it. Gustavo was the first Mexican American to argue a case, the landmark Hernandez v. the State of Texas, on the floor of the Supreme Court and win. From the hallowed halls of justice to being homeless on a park bench, his story is epic and deserves to be told and that is exactly what is about to happen in the great State of Texas.
Producer & actor, Jaime P. Gomez, CEO of Sandbar Films Inc., an independent Production company, is working hard to bring this story to the big screen. Gomez is best known for playing opposite Don Johnson in Nash Bridges on television, and for the films Crimson Tide, Clear and Present Danger, and Training Day. Ā Gomez has been meeting with many notable, influential members of the government and community during his travels through Texas and has gained the respect and support of many.
Gomez says, āIt has been a common belief that it is time to share this amazing story, along with just how important the Latin American community is to our Nation. MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, is poised to spread their message of equality for all and screen the film to raise awareness for their cause. LULAC, League of United Latin American Citizens President Brent Wilkes and its Texas Members were pleased to support the feature film. With upcoming supporting events planned in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.ā
The proposed film is based on a 300-page biography by Isidro Aguirre, based on the life of Gus C. Garcia, Latino civil rights attorney from San Antonio, who changed the way America would see people of color. The biography is a multilayered account of domestic affairs in the U.S. from the height of the Great Depression through Post War America, into the Kennedy administration.
The Hernandez vs. Texas Supreme Court case that granted minorities all over the country the right to sit on juries not only caused a shift in civil rights judicial activism by the US Supreme Court; the case literally broke the barriers when it came to fair and equitable representation for women as well.
Gus was not a stranger to the common man; he made sure the less fortunate members of the social ladder were the recipients of a fair shake when it came to equal representation before the law.
Herald de Paris Consulting Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez spoke with Gus, Dawn of the Golden Matador star and Producer Jamie Gomez, who is a friend of Herald de Paris:
AC: How did you come across this story?
JG: I was introduced to the project through a staged reading where I met the author, Isidro Aguirre, of the unpublished manuscript, āDawn of the Golden Matador, The Life and Times of Gustavo C. Garciaā. I was immediately taken by Isidroās depth of knowledge and I knew Iād found a kindred spirit, heād been working on the book for 25 years, accumulating interviews of those who knew Gus best, from his lawyer associates, to judges, his priest and ex-wives. He interviewed them all, painting an incredibly complex portrait of this amazing man.
AC: If you were to summarize the story in one paragraph?
JC: Gus Garcia fought racism, segregation, police brutality and was the first Mexican American to argue a case on the floor of the Supreme Court and Win! Injustice was his bull and the courtroom was his bullring. He was a man who lived his life to help others but in the end, could not help himself. His life reads like a Greek tragedy.
AC: What do you think the Historical and Educational benefit of this story is?
JG: During Gusās time in Texas, a Mexican could be lynched for being out after sunset. Gus was a man that fought fearlessly against the power structure. During this time, the 40ās ā 50ās, Mexican American citizens were being deported in the infamous āOperation Wetbackā fiasco. Texas Rangers were killing folks, operating above the law. These were troubled times not only for our Black brothers and sisters but also for our Mexican ancestors.
In my journey, I am finding that both young and old have no idea of what took place and they need to know. They are aware of the Civil Rights movement but are unaware of the landmark battles that Gus Garcia and his group of San Antonio attorneys accomplished.
They fought and won the landmark case, Delgado v Bastrop ISD, to end segregation of Texas Schools. This brought Thurgood Marshall and Gus together, to discuss the famous Brown v the Board of Education case.
With the case of Hernandez v the State of Texas, Gus, along with Carlos Cadena, JJ Herrera, Dr. Sanchez, and James Adande, were together able to literally change the face of the American Justice system by fighting for and winning the right of women and minorities to sit on juries.
This fact has been lost to history and I strongly believe itās time the story was brought to the attention of the American and International population. This is important especially now, with an administration that denigrates immigrants, I believe it is vitally important to show not only the Hispanic and Latino youth, but all Americans that we are an integral part of the fabric of this great country of ours. Many of us never crossed the border, the border crossed us!
AC: Tell us about your character, what is interesting and compelling about him?
JG: The character of Gus is so complex, a man who had it all but suffered from a disease that afflicts almost 20 million Americans today. He tried shock therapy, he tried religion and despite his best efforts he couldnāt conquer the bottle. I see the bombardment of Liquor ads and I see the problem of today clearly we see the tie in of sports and booze, Vegas and booze, cars and booze, women and boozeā¦ Itās pervasive and compels me to act; to question.
Gus was the first Mexican American Valedictorian in Texas, he was the youngest to pass the bar and had to wait a year before he was allowed to actually practice law. What is so compelling in my eyes, is that for someone so intelligent, so composed and accomplished, so apparently brimming with confidence on the outside, he did so while battling the overwhelming fear, doubt and the various demons he was challenged by within himself. A boy maybe? A man in a never ending search for his fatherās approval? A man who loved and admired his mother, a mother who saw in his wives a challenger, an obstacle to her sonās destiny of greatness.
AC: Tell us about Texas in the 50s?
JG: “No Mexicans, No Blacks, No Dogs,” was a sign distributed by the Texas Restaurant Association. That kind of says it all.
AC: Did the court see this as a racial issue, did his ethnicity make the case a harder sell?
JG: The real root of the issue was that in Texas, as per the Texas Constitution. Texans of Mexican American descent were āconsideredā white therefore they deserved no special protection or rights under the law. The case that was made, that was/is absolutely brilliant, is that Mexican Americans were not separated by race, but by class. Once that become the focus of the agreement, separation by class was ruled to be a violation of the 14th Amendment of Constitution of the United States of America.
AC: Is he still around? What do you think his legacy is? How did he view himself?
JG: Gus died penniless and alone on a bench in Milam park in San Antonio, Texas in 1964. There is no statue, no plaque and no remembrance in the city he called home. We aim to change that. As I mentioned before, we have interviews of his Parish Priest and he was kind of enough to share Gusā doubts and fears that were shared with him. Gus had regrets, fears, and failures that he felt terrible about, this is the point of view of the film. Itās a confession of a life lived and the mark missed. He had the highest of highs and the lowest of lowās, and even in death he wanted to share his misfortune to help others.
AC: As an artist what do you bring to the story as the lead, that gives you advantage over other actors?
JG: As an artist I believe the goal is to always be a mirror of what is happening in this moment. Even though this story occurred in the past, the problems, the injustice, the beatings, the hate are with us loud and clear today. As an artist, I try every day to battle and embrace the human condition, both good and bad, and to look straight into the belly of the beast by challenging myself emotionally and honestly in my writing, in my work, in my acting and it can be difficult. Itās difficult to stay engaged when some days I just donāt want to confront the emotional roller coaster of this story.
Iāve been eating, breathing, sleeping with this story for the past year. Writing, producing, researching. The biggest advantage as an actor is always preparation. I see the story is my life in a sense, projecting calm when terrified is an actorsā life. It is all about love, the search for love is the key to every actors life. Acceptance, truth, passion all things that Gus Stood for, searched for. My family is from McAllen Texas and lived through these times as well.
AC: In what ways does the project seem to be like a Shakespearean Tragedy.
JG: He had it all and lost it all by his own hand. He was the first Mexican American to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, he started the Viva Kennedy campaign, and rumor has it he danced with Jackie at the Inauguration Ball and was offered his dream job, a place in the JFK administration. Yet he couldnāt stop drinking. He try to quit, did shock treatments, and still couldnāt stop. With all his accomplishments, against the biggest foes of all, that he summarily defeated in the courtroom, it was the beast within that became his downfall.
AC: As a Producer tell us about the team that has been assembled to make this happen?
JG: The team is Brandon Olmos and I. Together we have been crisscrossing Texas, spreading the word of āGUSā the Movie. We have screened our black and white teaser for the state LULAC convention in Laredo and received a standing ovation. We were able to meet with Gusā niece, and with tears in her eyes she thanked us and said, āGod Bless you mijo, and yes, Gus, was better looking than you!ā
AC: Isn’t it difficult and expensive to do a period piece?
JG: Yes, it is, and that is our challenge. We are doing a period picture on an independent film budget however we believe this is an important story which must be told.
AC: How much shooting have you done?
JG: We shot a teaser/trailer in San Antonio at Jefferson High School where Gus was the valedictorian. Jefferson is a beautiful school built in 1931, they have an amazing stage where we shot the speech that Gus gave at the University of Texas, Austin in 1951. It was an important moment, a screen test for me to truly see, on film, if I could capture the essence of who Gus was as he gave this amazing speech about how āby the year 2000, Mexican Americans will be the majority minority in not only the state of Texas, but across this great land of ours, so if you want change, we need to vote!ā
The power of his words was only surpassed by his oratory skills and I believe we pulled it off. The speech is so powerful, and so moving, and those that have seen it are blown away.
AC: How difficult is it to get the major studios to look at a project such as this, what has been the response so far?
JG: Itās been rough. Hollywood is remaking Scarface, there is an El Chapo series in the works, and we have Lowriders coming out this summer. Iāve met a lot of closed doors to be honest. I guess a film about an educated Mexican American who changed America is not high on the list, but I have found one major player, a big time producer, who will fund the movie with the right Actors attached.
To get the A list Actors, I have to have a portion of the budget in escrow; to get a portion of the budget in escrow, I have to have the actors. Itās the chicken and the egg syndrome that Hollywood loves! So Iāve been reaching out to Latino captains of industry to help us produce our film because literally, if we donāt do for ourselves no one is going to do it for us.
AC: Who are the Latino Captains of industry?
JG: I am still working to get a Letter of Intent to Produce, NON-binding letters to help us attach Actors, so Iām not able to discuss names at this time. The Letter is a NO-RISK, NON BINDING document that would allow us to attach the actors and secure the needed funding. Youād think itād be easy, right? It isn’t. Latinos are 50 million strong in the US and growing, $10 trillion in annual buying power, with over $2 Billion in the annual US Box Office.
We have the numbers to support āGUSā the film, not even including pre-sales and tax rebates. But I have to say, and I am sorry to say this, that the apathy and lack of interest in taking the needed action to help make it possible to share our proud history with the world has been hard to swallow. Iāve met millionaires and billionaires who have interest until itās time to issue a letter or write a check, a check that would only be written if the appropriate attachments were made and the investor wished to proceed.
No money down! Runs like new! Sometimes, I feel like a Ferrari dealer in world of VWās. We are not asking for a handout, or a donation, there are risks involved with the entertainment business, however we are presenting an opportunity with an amazing upside and the ability to tap into an under-served market, a goldmine.
AC: How can Latino community and Industry leaders help get this project made?
JG: We need pre-production funding. We need to travel across the country to screen our teaser for captains of industry, for big time producers, for individuals who want to see inspirational art that inspires us to learn our history and to strive for something more. If we donāt know a lawyer or a doctor in our family we should be able to see one in Film and TV, one that looks like US! Film is powerful, itās the novel of the 21st century, and has captured the minds of young people.
We need to find that investor(s) who will help give us the tools needed to attach actors and secure funding and get into production!
If you want to be involved you can contact me on Facebook at Jaime Gomez or on twitter @ActorJaimeGomez.
We have a chance to start something big here, a chance to move away from the negative portrayals of Hispanics in the media. āGUSā will be the beginning of that wave.
AC: You state that The Gus Garcia film is the beginning of a 10-picture slate?
JG: We are putting together a slate of like-minded films about Mexican American Heroes. When Hollywood studios make films they do exactly that, knowing that one hit will cover the cost of the 10 by a far margin. āGUSā the movie is first.
AC: How can people know more about the project?
JG: Please follow us at Jaime P. Gomez on FB for updates! And as Gus was fond of saying, āVamos Adelante! This we can do!ā