Lawmakers Push for ‘Selena’ to Be Added to National Film Registry

Lawmakers Push for ‘Selena’ to Be Added to National Film Registry

First there was Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the pathbreaking Latina singer who inspired a generation of artists and was killed at the cusp of national fame. Then there was “Selena,” the film that burnished her legend and propelled another Latina artist to stardom.

Tribute albums, a Netflix series and podcasts followed, and now, more than two decades after the movie’s 1997 release, a group of lawmakers are pushing for “Selena” to be added to the National Film Registry, saying its inclusion could put pressure on Hollywood to increase Latino representation in the industry’s ranks. The lawmakers’ effort was welcomed by film and Latino studies experts, who called it long overdue.

“It’s a recognition of Chicana and Latina talent in acting and representation,” said Theresa Delgadillo, a Chicana and Latina studies professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “and a woman innovator in music at the center of it.”

Selena burst into the male-dominated Tejano music industry in Texas, winning critical adoration, a huge following and then a Grammy in 1994. She was shot and killed a year later, only 23, by the founder of her fan club. Her English-language debut, “Dreaming of You,” was posthumously released.

He said the National Film Registry could “help dismantle that exclusion by preserving important cultural and artistic examples of America’s Latino heritage.”

Mr. Castro said he was still collecting input on other films to submit but “Selena,” as a particularly beloved film, is at the center of the effort. Frederick Luis Aldama, a Latino film and television professor at Ohio State University, said the film “shows the complexity, the dignity, the humanity and the richness of a Latino dad and his daughter, really showing us that we’re not just the ‘bad hombres’ as the Twitter feeds have been telling the world the past few years.”

Whether or not the film registry accepts it, a recent wave of appreciation for Selena’s work has swept through the entertainment industry.

“You have these kinds of artists that we lost when they were blossoming,” said Daniel Chavez, a Latin American studies professor at the University of New Hampshire. “These young figures become mythical in a way.”

In addition to the coming Grammy, Selena was recognized last year in the National Recording Registry for her 1990 album, “Ven Conmigo.” A Netflix show, “Selena: The Series,” premiered last year and will return in May. And a podcast about her legacy, named “Anything for Selena,” released its first episodes last week.

The podcast’s host, Maria Elena Garcia, said that as a young girl struggling with her identity, she was inspired by how Selena unapologetically embraced her Mexican and American heritage.

“She was whole in both places,” Ms. Garcia said in an interview. “Even though she didn’t sound like people born in Mexico, she told them, it’s my heritage, and I can claim it too. That was incredibly profound for me, even though I was a little girl.”

Seeing her success, Ms. Garcia added in the podcast, felt like “she brought us with her.”

It was that feeling of representation for young Latinas that moved the filmmaker Gregory Nava to direct “Selena,” he said. While weighing whether to make the movie in the mid-1990s, Mr. Nava recalled taking a walk in Los Angeles and seeing two young Mexican girls wearing Selena T-shirts. “Why do you love Selena?” he asked them.

In newspaper advertisements, he asked the community to come dressed as if they were going to Selena’s concert for the opening scene. Mr. Nava said more than 35,000 people showed up.

And droves came out for other scenes, including an extra who was later elected to Congress, Mr. Castro.


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