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Epic PBS documentary Latino Americans to be screened

by Mark Burger

The Hispanic League and the Arts Council of Winston- Salem & Forsyth County have joined forces to present an exclusive screening of the acclaimed PBS documentary miniseries Latino Americans beginning Jan. 8 at the Hanesbrands Theatre in Winston- Salem.

Directed by David Belton and Sonia Fritz, Latino Americans is a comprehensive exploration of the rich and varied historical experiences of Latinos, and their impact in shaping the United States for the last 500 years. With more than 50 million people, Latinos are the largest minority in the United States. The documentary encompasses expansion across the North American continent, Manifest Destiny, the Old West, numerous wars (including Mexican-American, Spanish-American and World War II), the rise of organized labor, the Great Depression and subsequent post- World War II economic boom, the Cold War, the civil rights movement and globalization, leading up to the present day.

The documentary is narrated by actor Benjamin Bratt, an Emmy Award nominee (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1999) for his lengthy stint as New York detective Rey Curtis on NBC’s “Law & Order” and a four-time ALMA Award winner, which honors Latin American contributions to the arts. His film credits include Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning Traffic (2000), the box-office hit Miss Congeniality (2000), The Great Raid (2005), and the 2001 biographical drama Piñero, in which he played the title role of noted playwright and actor Miguel Piñero and for which he won the ALMA Award as Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture.

Among those luminaries interviewed in the documentary are Rita Moreno, one of the very few performers to win an Oscar, a Tony, a Grammy and an Emmy; labor leader and 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Dolores Huerta; Mexican-American author and commentator Linda Chavez; and popular entertainer and entrepreneur Gloria Estefan.

The screenings will begin Jan. 8 with “Episode #1” (Foreigners in Their Own Land, 1565-1880) and “Episode #2” (Empire of Dreams, 1880-1942). Each episode runs approximately one hour. There will be a public reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by the screening at 7:30 p.m.

“Episode #3” (War & Peace, 1942-1954) and “Episode #4” (The New Latinos, 1946- 1965) will be screened beginning at 2 p.m. on Jan. 11.

“Episode #5” (Prejudice & Pride, 1965- 1980) and “Episode #6” (Peril & Promise, 1980-2000) will be screened beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, followed by a postscreening panel discussion.

Critic JM Suarez of the website PopMatters wrote: “This six-part PBS documentary series has the daunting task of covering 500 years of history in only six hours. The fact that the documentary is able to touch on so many topics is a testament to how interconnected the histories and identities of so many Latino Americans are with other Americans. Attempts to not only offer historical context, but also cultural tone and setting, is one of the larger reasons why Latino Americans is so successful. Although it’s impossible to run through the entire history of Latino Americans in only six hours, this documentary does a nice job of hitting a lot of the larger themes and offering entry points into further study. Latino Americans is well paced and always engaging. The documentary stands as an important glimpse into the struggles and contributions of Latino Americans, all while offering historical context and personal connections to the people it highlights.”

The Latino Americans screenings will run concurrently with the Hispanic Arts Initiative’s exhibition Punta de Vista: Latino Perspectives — A Cultural Journey Through Art, which will be on display at the Womble Carlyle Gallery from Jan. 10 through Feb. 8. There will be an opening reception for the exhibit beginning at 6 p.m. on Jan. 10.)

Admission to the screenings is free.

However, audiences are strongly advised to arrive early as seating is limited and on a “first-come, first-serve” basis. !

WANNA go?

The Hanesbrands Theatre is located at 209 N. Spruce St. in Winston-Salem. For more information, call 336.747.1414 or visit hanesbrandstheatre.

org. The Womble Carlyle Gallery is located in the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts at 251 N. Spruce St. The official PBS Latino Americans website is pbs.org/latino-americans/en/.

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