As Hispanic Heritage Month continues, we highlight two more Hispanics with disabilities: Edward James Olmos and Luis Buñuel.
Born almost with cinema itself, Luis Buñuel was a singular figure in world cinema. His work ranges from surrealist experimentation in the 1920s, to commercial comedies and melodrama in the 1950s, to postmodernist cine d’art in the 1960s and 1970s. He is claimed by three countries: France, where he made his early and late films; Spain, where his was born and had his deepest cultural roots; and Mexico, where he made 20 films, became a citizen, and where he was more recently seen as a figure in permanent exile, who, in his films, problematizes the idea of the national. Born on February 22, 1900 in Calanda, Spain, Buñuel was the first born of a rich, landowning family. He studied with the Jesuits in Zaragoza and, at the age of 17, moved to Madrid where he lived at the Residencia de Estudiantes until 1925. He made the most of his stay in the Residencia, reading poetry, writing, boxing, acting in plays, and founding the “Order of Toledo”. It was at the Residencia where he met and became friends with Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí. Buñuel’s friendships with these men would end badly, but they would also mark his life and work. During his stay at the Residencia, he began to admire the silent comics Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton.
In 1925, Buñuel headed to Paris after his father died. It was not until this time that he put his energies into directing films. In 1929 he directed his first film, Un Chien Andalou, which was financed by his mother. Buñuel would continue to make films in France until the early 1930s. He would return to Spain in 1934, where he would work in Spain’s Filmófono until 1936 as an “executive director” for four films. The Spanish Civil War would catch Buñuel in Hollywood, California where he would stay as a reluctant exile. Buñuel was invited to adapt La casa de Bernarda Alba in 1946 and which was to be filmed in Mexico. Although the project never materialized, Buñuel stayed in Mexico and brought his family there. He was still in exile; however, he was surrounded by a language and culture that was similar to his own. His first few films were flops, but they helped him with his discipline and technique. Los olvidados, his first film of the 1950s, helped his return to the international stage and the movie became a turning point in Mexican cinema. He continued to work in Mexico until 1964 during which time he made 20 films. He returned to Spain at this time, where he continued to work. By the late 1960’s, Buñuel was nearly deaf. However, his understanding of sound remained intact. He avoided using music in his movies and, instead, using noise as a technique to establish a plane of reality. Buñuel did not work during his last years, living in Mexico until his death in 1983.
Edward James Olmos
Born on February 24th, 1947 in Los Angeles, California, Edward James Olmos spent his childhood training to be a professional baseball player. As a young teenager, Mr. Olmos trained as a dancer and singer as a way to get out of his East L.A. neighborhood. While in college, he took a drama course, which put him on the path to a career in acting.
Mr. Olmos got his big break in the stage production of Zoot Suit after several call backs. Due to his dyslexia, it took him a little longer to learn the lines for the audition, but the casting directors were so impressed with his performance that they asked him to be one of the leads. In this video, Mr. Olmos speaks about his audition, his career, and dyslexia. Throughout his 40+ year career, Mr. Olmos has appeared in such TV shows as Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice. He is better well known for such movies as Stand and Deliver (where he portrays real-life teacher Jaime Escalante), American Me (which he directed, produced, and starred in), and Walkout (directed). He also starred in Victor Villaseñor’s The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez.* He returned to television in 2009 playing Admiral William Adama in Battlestar Galactica and as a professor in the Showtime series Dexter.
Outside of his work in film and television, Mr. Olmos spends a lot of his time working as an activist, supporting different causes. He is also an advocate for Latino culture – organizing film festivals, along with other projects and events.