(Los Angeles, CA) –Filmmaker John J. Valadez has been fascinated by the legend of Joaquin Murrieta for decades. The subject of popular dime novels and several films, Murrieta was a Mexican-American Robin Hood who, as a young man in 1853, was hunted and killed by bounty hunters and decapitated; his head was displayed throughout the West in saloons, hotels and brothels. A man in California told John that he had the head but the lead never panned out — until ten years later when a strange box arrived at John’s doorstep. Deeply personal, often irreverent and always surprising, the new 30-minute film The Head of Joaquin Murrieta premieres on PBS stations nationwide during Hispanic Heritage Month 2017 (September 15-October 15); check local listings.
One hundred and sixty-two years after Murrieta purportedly blazed across the West, exacting revenge for the rape of his wife and the theft of his gold claim, Valadez and his gruesome parcel embark on a quixotic, cross-country road trip through history, myth and memory to bury the fabled head of Murrieta in California, where his legend began. Along the way, John discovers chilling news about his own family story and uncovers the widespread murder and lynching of Mexican Americans from the mid-19th century until well into the 20th century. Using clips from old Hollywood films along with groundbreaking new historical scholarship, The Head of Joaquin Murrieta is an experimental poem; a modern folktale articulating an alternative view of American history from a decidedly Chicano perspective.
For further information, visit www.lpbp.org.
About the Filmmakers
Peabody Award winning filmmaker John J. Valadez (Writer/Director) has been writing, directing and producing nationally broadcast documentary films for American television — mostly for PBS and CNN — for nearly two decades. He grew up amid the rain-drenched hills of Seattle, taught photography in rural India, and studied filmmaking at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is a Professor of Practice in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University. John’s work has tackled diverse subjects related to equality, race, artistic expression, and power in America: the false imprisonment of a leader of the Black Panther Party, gang kids in Chicago, the history of affirmative action, Latino poets in New York City, the re-segregation of America’s schools, Latinos in World War II, the evolution of Chicano music, the birth of Latino civil rights, the Chicano movement, and the genocide of Native Americans in the Southwest. Some of his major works include two episodes of the 2013 PBS series The Latino Americans (Prejudice and Pride, War and Peace), The Longoria Affair (2010, PBS/ITVS/Independent Lens), The Chicano Wave (2009, Latin Music USA/PBS), The Last Conquistador (2008, PBS/ITVS/POV), Arise (2006), High Stakes Testing (2005, CNN), Beyond Brown (2004, PBS), Visiones: Latino Arts and Culture (2004, PBS), The Divide (2003, Matters of Race/PBS), Soul Survivors (1997, Making Peace/ITVS/PBS) and Passin’ It On (1994, PBS/ITVS/POV). John’s films have been broadcast across Europe, and have been featured at major museums and cultural institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Berlin Film Festival, and the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris. Over the years they have garnered top awards at film festivals from San Francisco to Dallas to Mumbai as well as two national Emmy nominations. John has been a Rockefeller Fellow, a PBS/CPB Producers Academy Fellow, and has twice been a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow. He served as Artist-in-Residence at Texas State University, as Distinguished Filmmaker-in-Residence at The University of Texas, Arlington, as a trustee of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, and was Regents Lecturer at The University of California at Berkeley. He regularly speaks and screens his work at colleges and universities across the country.
Carleen L. Hsu (Editor/Producer) has been producing and co-producing non-fiction films for HBO, PBS, the Learning Channel, BBC, and Channel 4 (UK) for over 15 years. The films cover topics as diverse in content as in geography ranging from
the obesity epidemic in America to gender identity in Thailand, from faith healing in Africa to the pro-democracy movement inside Iran. They have been recognized for their exceptional storytelling and original content with a Royal Television Society Award, a Genesis Award, a Foreign Press Association Award for Best Documentary, a nomination for a national News and Documentary Emmy, and two prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards. Hsu is currently a Professor of Practice in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
About Latino Public Broadcasting
Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) is the leader in the development, production, acquisition and distribution of non-commercial educational and cultural media that is representative of Latino people, or addresses issues of particular interest to Latino Americans. These programs are produced for dissemination to public broadcasting stations and other public telecommunication entities. Latino Public Broadcasting provides a voice to the diverse Latino community throughout the United States and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Latino Public Broadcasting produces the series VOCES, PBS’s signature Latino arts and culture documentary showcase and the only ongoing national television series devoted to exploring and celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino cultural experience. Between 2009 and 2016, LPB programs won over 85 awards, including the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award as well as two Emmys, two Imagen Awards and the Sundance Film Festival Award for Best Director, Documentary. In addition, LPB has been the recipient of the Norman Lear Legacy Award and the NCLR Alma Award for Special Achievement – Year in Documentaries.