EPCC Spring Arts Festival features first Chicano actor and filmmaker

March 1, 2016

Michelle Rosado/ tejano tribune

Chicano filmmaker, Efrain Gutierrez, describes his movie to EPCC students.


El Paso Community College welcomed Chicano filmmaker Efrain Gutierrez on Wednesday Feb. 24 to discuss his film “Please Don’t Bury Me Alive!” which recently was inducted into the National Film Registry. 


Gutierrez is recognized as the first Chicano actor, filmmaker, producer, and distributer. 


Giving the world a taste of Chicano culture with his display of Chicanos in real life issues he witnessed growing up in the barrios of San Antonio.  


Gutierrez started his film career with “Please Don’t Bury Me Alive!” in 1976, with the success and growth of support from the Chicano community.


He ended up doing two more movies based on his own personal life experiences with the movies “Amor Chicano es Para Siempre/Chicano Love is Forever” and
“Run, Tecato, Run.”


All three films are based off life events from being at the wrong place, wrong time on a drug trafficking run with his brother, which inspired “Run, Tecato, Run.”


Shortly after dealing with mislead distribution company, Gutierrez decided on a hiatus from the filmmaking industry altogether by going into hiding and becoming a teacher.


It wasn’t until a dedicated professor at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) tracked him down and brought him out of hiding.


While in town promoting his film, Gutierrez discussed the different obstacles he faced in life. At two different EPCC campuses and cinemas he hosted two Q&A events.


This week Gutierrez had some time off from promoting the 40th anniversary of his film “Please Don’t Bury Me Alive!”  to have a chat on the recent success of a film that had been thought to be a lost treasure.


Efrain Gutierrez talked about breaking the barrier on Chicanos being in the film industry and description of the culture he portrayed. 


“It feels nice being able to do that, I never felt like I was an artist, because of my story just because I never fit the mold.


The story the way we did it compared to thinking outside the box seeing it from another perspective it’s awesome.


We weren’t looking to be the first; it wasn’t a quest we wanted it to be done.”


Gutierrez faced critics from his own people at the initial premiere of his film.


Chicanos felt he should have put a Chicano in a more professional setting such as a doctor, lawyer or of someone being a graduate.

Instead he faced criticism for his character’s portal of dealing with hood politics in the barrio.


While on the subject of young filmmakers and the world of filmmaking Efrain shared advice and what he wished he could have achieved. 


“That was one of the disappointments; we never made it to that level financially that was always one of the goals to give young filmmakers an opportunity who get stuck inside their little vision of creativity.”


In the process of creating a film 40 years ago, Gutierrez realized that he achieved something much greater than he originally created in retrospect of the film getting inducted to the National Film Registry.


“No that’s why I said, after I approved it, after I made my three movies I really didn’t care.


I knew we had done something but it was just a regional thing and it would just die out.


It certainly didn’t reach out to Mexico and they shelved it, it was like a shooting star we saw it but it burnt out. That’s what I thought happen to me my 15 minutes had passed out. 


So I really didn’t see the impact until people like Chon [Noriega/UCLA] said ‘no man look what you have done.’” Gutierrez continues about the recognition,


“It wasn’t until people started reading and started writing making me see.


I started appreciating it more back when we started.  We didn’t set out to do that it was unexpected, now I feel kind of sad in my regards to my partner Sabino Garza and a lot of people that came into working on the film and crossed over.


I would say you know everyone that worked on it would get a copy of the story or at least something that we made it in the national film registry you know the recognition that were getting, that’s the sad part about it pero not knowing at the time it took a while for people to start explain to me.


Make me understand you know hey Efrain this is incredible.”


On how he feels about the film being inducted into the National Film Registry, “I still have a hard time; I’m very appreciative of everything.


I respect everything that has happened. But I just can’t seem too really.


I guess you can say my life and everything that has happened; the doubting and the envy of whatever you know because I see it.


Just because they didn’t expect me to be the first one to do it, so you know when you have thoughts ‘was I really, was it just a fluke, why did it happened or how come not somebody else.’ When people tell me, I see it all play out in my head all over again ‘wow that did happen.’ I forget about it because that’s something we never expected. 


It’s an honor that I carry now and its mindboggling. That’s the way I see it, mindboggling in my mind.


I’ve never been able to be too comfortable with all the negatives.


Over all I feel proud, honored but it’s still mind blogging because it feels like it should belong to somebody else.”

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