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Jos� R. S�nchez
Edgar DeJesus
Israel Colon
Maria Rivera
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Hector Figueroa

Tanya K. Hernandez
 Angelo Falc�n


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Note: To commemorate the Republican War on Women, with the new film Babygirl we have perhaps the beginning of some poignant films on Latina single mothers' challenges sand relationships with their daughters coming of age. Following Babygirl, we await the release next month of Girl in Progress starring Cubana Eva Mendez and Tejana Cierra Ramirez. Babygirl is terrific, as is its soundtrack put together by our very own NiLP Network on Latino Issues contributor, Ed Morales. And, hey, the guy who plays the sleazy boyfriend Victor (Flaco Navaja), doesn't he look a lot like a young Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez? Just saying!

---Angelo Falc�n



Directed by Macdara Vallely

77 min | 2012


"For once, a movie that realistically portrays working-class Latinos who are proud, funny, flawed, and yet somehow heroic and no one gets killed in a hail of gunfire."

---Ed Morales



To view the entire movie, click here

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BabygirlFor as long as she can remember, Bronx teenager Lena has watched her young man-crazy single mom Lucy waste her time on a series of less-than-perfect boyfriends. And even though she should be paying attention to the neighborhood boys' flirtations herself, Lena has been spending most of her time being the mother Lucy forgets to be. But when Mom's latest boy toy Victor quickly proves to be her worst suitor yet, Lena sets up a trap to expose him for the creep she thinks he is.


Set in the uneasy but rhythmic streets of the Bronx, this unassuming story of a passionate Puerto Rican family comes to life with authenticity and just the right amount of restraint and naturalism. Irish-born director Macdara Vallely captures a vivid portrait of a young mother and her daughter both coming of age while crafting a likeable yet shifty character in Victor, the kind of guy who always keeps one guessing. Newcomer Yainis Ynoa gives a standout performance as the strong but clearly still innocent Lena in this finely tuned urban drama.



Latino/Irish closeup

in new movie 'Babygirl'

Filmed in the Bronx, part of Tribeca fest

By Lewis Beale |

New York Daily News (April 18, 2012)


So what's a 39-year-old Irishman doing shooting a film in the Bronx with an entirely Latino cast?


"I've been living in the Bronx for seven years," says Macdara Vallely, a native of Northern Ireland. His second feature film, "Babygirl," is screening at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, opening Thursday.


"I am married to a Puerto Rican girl, and I speak Spanish, so I engage more with the Latin culture than other people who don't speak Spanish," says Vallely.

That's evident from his film, about the conflict between a mother and her teen daughter, who are hit on by the same man.


The idea came from a real-life incident on the No. 2 train, when Vallely watched a twentysomething man flirt with a young girl and, when she seemed uninterested, turned his attention to her mother.


"It was an everyday thing we all see in New York," says the director, which he called an incident where you go, "Wow, that's interesting. I wonder what happened next? I was trying to find some sort of meaning. There was something interesting in the relationship between the mother and the daughter."


Vallely, who has a background in theater, shot the film in the Fordham Road area of the borough. The visuals in "Babygirl," combined with a hot Latin music score, give it a real sense of place.


"When you live in the Bronx, what stands out for me are the people, the crowds. It can be very intense, especially in the summer," he says. "But the Bronx is also a very beautiful place; the architecture is very beautiful, and it's got more parks than other boroughs, so you have a contrast between the natural and the manmade."


More than anything, though, "Babygirl" is a testament to the wealth of Latino acting talent in New York. And in Yainis Ynoa, a high school student who plays the teenage girl in the film, Vallely discovered a future star.


"Casting is the most important thing you can do with a film, and if you get it wrong you have a battle on your hands," he says.


"We spent two years on open calls to see what was out there, and with [the character] Lena, we wanted somebody who had the energy and the right look. Yainis was the second-to-last person we saw, at the last open call. It's an instinctive thing you feel when you see the right person."



Tribeca Film Festival

'BabyGirl' Touches on

Latino Family Issues

By Alexandra Gratereaux | | Twitter: @GalexLatino

Fox News Latino (April 19, 2012)


The 11th annual Tribeca film festival will hit the ground running Thursday night in New York City, where a handful of Latino filmmakers and actors are leaving their mark at the esteemed festival.


One of these films is "BabyGirl," which tells the story of a Puerto Rican girl named Lena, played by Yainis Ynoa, and her struggle to reveal to her mother the truth about the mother's perverted boyfriend, played by fellow Latino Flaco Navaja.


Born and raised in the Bronx, Ynoa, 17, says being Puerto Rican and Dominican helped her relate to Lena's character. She added that she wants Latinos to see the message of family in the movie.


"These kinds of things they can happen to anyone in any type of community," Ynoa told Fox News Latino.


"Lena is raised by single mother and she gets caught in love triangle with her mother and her mother's boyfriend. She's going through the transition of girl to woman. [Certainly] a coming of age of a drama."


For Ynoa, it's the emotional moments between Lena and her mother that humanize the flick.


"This movie, it's so amazing because it has a heartfelt moment," Ynoa continued. "She's trying to grow up but having to take care of her mother. To Lena, family is the most important thing, and getting this guy away from her family. I'm pretty sure anyone can relate to that, how far you would go for your family."


Ynoa says getting the opportunity to have the lead role was a dream come true. It was a moment that resonates with her because her cousin is also in the film.

"My cousin plays my best friend in the movie," Ynoa said. "She called me up and told me about this movie she had just auditioned for and that they were still looking for roles. They liked me and told me to come back for call backs. They told me I had the part!"


After learning she had the role, Ynoa said she worked hard so Latinos seeing the film could learn "to appreciate that something like this has been brought to life."


"I just hope they can relate to the movie. There are parts of the movie with her family and her friends," Ynoa said. "[I want them to] appreciate that something like this has been brought to life instead of what people say about the Bronx and Hispanics," she added.


"They will see this film and see love instead of a lot of violence."


She said she was proud of the movie.


"I'm excited to see everyone's reaction to the film. I've never been to a film festival before, let alone one where my film is in it," Ynoa said.


Ynoa says working on bringing "BabyGirl" to life was challenging because she was still at students at Contemporary High School in the Bronx.


"I graduate now in June," Ynoa said excitedly. "I had tutors on set to make up the [school] work and would go to school in between scenes," she added. "It's hard work."


"I want to continue acting forever," Ynoa added. "It's my passion [so] I'm focusing on that now."



Tribeca Film Festival 2012

'Babygirl' Musical Director

Ed Morales on His Song Choices

Sounds of the Caribbean abound on Macdara Vallely's new urban drama, Babygirl, set in the Bronx.

By Angie Romero

Univision News (April 19, 2012)


Tribeca Film Festival officially starts today, and here to kick things off properly is our contributor Ed Morales, who served as musical director on Babygirl.


One of our top picks for films playing at the fest this year, Babygirl centers on a 15-year-old Nuyorican named Lena (Yainis Ynoa), who watches in agony as her single mother (Rosa Arredono) dates a series of losers until she falls head over heels for Victor (Flaco Navaja), seemingly her worst suitor yet. When Victor tries to make a move on Lena, she plots a scheme to expose him.

Ed knows a thing or two about Latin music, so expect a lot of interesting Caribbean-inspired song choices, including Aventura (this is set in the BX, after all) and Rita Indiana.


Was this your first gig as musical director?

This is the first time I was a musical director for a feature film. I coordinated the music for a documentary I co-directed in 2009 called Whose Barrio, but I used a much wider range of music here. I worked with the director, Macdara Vallely in getting the right music in general and for specific scenes, and it was a great experience.


Was this your first gig as musical director?

This is the first time I was a musical director for a feature film. I coordinated the music for a documentary I co-directed in 2009 called Whose Barrio, but I used a much wider range of music here. I worked with the director, Macdara Vallely in getting the right music in general and for specific scenes, and it was a great experience.


What drew you to Babygirl?

Macdara was a friend of some personal friends of mine. One of them suggested we get together and we talked and showed him the documentary I had worked on. He liked the way I used music in that film to create a mood, so he asked me to work with him on Babygirl.


Do you have a favorite scene?

I think the scene where Lena goes to dinner with Victor is my favorite because Flaco Navaja does a great job fusing the sleazy and sincere aspects of his character, while Yainis [Inoa] as Lena captures that moment of adolescence when a child turns the corner towards becoming an adult. The fascinating thing about Lena is how she seems to have no previous experience in making "adult" decisions, but acts on them with a sudden confidence. It shows how we at first "play at" or "perform" adulthood and suddenly we've become that.


You seem to use some of the artists more than once, like Monxo Lopez, Rebio Diaz, and Jose Cond�, any particular reason why?

Monxo and Rebio are local New York musicians who created original music for the film, specifically for the mood of certain scenes. Jos� is also a New York-based musician and his already-recorded songs fit well with the atmosphere we were trying to create. In general we had a philosophy about the soundtrack music - we were trying to get local artists that would fit the spirit of the film, which is independent, grassroots, street-level, and hopefully a real glimpse of New York that the big studios don't quite get.


Was it just obligatory to include an Aventura song, in this case "Dile Al Amor"?

Although Aventura is a major commercial success, they are emblematic of a certain urban aesthetic with a very loyal fan base that reflected a big part of the audience we wanted to attract with this film. I went to one of their sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden a year or so ago and the crowd seemed to be the kind of audience that would like this film. I think because they update a traditional genre like bachata, Aventura are a rare example of a massive pop group that strikes a chord of authenticity with Latino youth.


You included Rita Indiana, too - what do you find cool about her image and music?

First of all, Macdara is a huge fan of Rita's, so he was so excited when I got her on board. Rita is an extraordinary talent, not just as a musician, she started as a novelist. Again, by using traditional genres like merengue and perico ripiao and mixing them with electro and house, she makes music that attracts a wide popular base while still being avant-garde. The crowds at Central Park Summerstage convinced me she was not just for arty types, and the fact that she is a Dominican living in Puerto Rico makes her a cutting edge, transnational phenomenon.


Did you find yourself balancing old school vs new music? Why was that important?

I think it's important because it kind of establishes what is essential about Latino identity. Mainstream America has separate youth and old school music and culture, but Latino youth, even though they strongly desire young and hip music, feel a need to connect with their ancestral traditions, what makes them feel at home with their family. If you go to a Calle 13 show, for instance, you'll see older parents with their kids and it doesn't seem out of the ordinary, and you'll always see young people at an old school salsa show. There's a scene where I suggested Flaco sing "La Vida es un Sue�o" in the park, and I thought, here's a young New York dude, into old school salsa, singing an even older-school song by Arsenio Rodriguez, whose title hints at one of the most venerated plays in the Spanish language, "La Vida es Sue�o" by Calder�n de la Barca, written in Spain in the 17th century. So he's keeping that spirit alive in a New York City park.


Did you travel to many different countries, musically speaking, on this film?

Sure, we have music from Nuyoricans, Puerto Ricans living in New York, Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico, Dominicans living in Puerto Rico, Dominicans living in New York, Cubans living in New York. There was music from other nationalities and nations that we considered that didn't make the cut. If you want to make a soundtrack that reflects Latino life in New York, you have to draw from all the different Latino cultures in New York. But since the characters were Puerto Rican, we kept to Caribbean music.


Do you need to be a music scholar to appreciate the music in this film?

I hope not. Maybe somebody will write a paper on it and publish it in an academic journal and make us feel accomplished. I just hope the music will act as a cue that helps people remember scenes in a movie that they enjoyed, as part of the whole experience, how when Lena and Victor are on their date, their emotions heightened, and there was a bolero playing.


What would you say is your quirkiest/riskiest/most unusual song choice and why?

I think Rita's stuff is the edgiest because she challenges people's ideas about gender aggressively. I don't think that it was out of place because part of Lena's growing up is to understand how to channel her aggression, and at the core of Rita I think is a sweet adolescent curiosity.


Were you inspired by the work of anyone in particular in the industry, in terms of music supervisors?

By complete coincidence one of the producers of this film, Paul Miller, worked on John Sayles's Lone Star, which had a soundtrack that I really admired. It had southern blues and old rancheras and cheesy cumbias like Fito Olivares's "Juana La Cubana." I liked the soundtrack to Y Tu Mam� Tambi�n a lot, and what semi-urban films of the '90s did for hip-hop, like Nothing to Lose. But all the great directors, from Hitchcock to Godard to Spike Lee and Soderbergh have always inspired me with placing great importance on sound and music.


If you had to tell people one good reason to see this movie, what would it be?

For once, a movie that realistically portrays working-class Latinos who are proud, funny, flawed, and yet somehow heroic and no one gets killed in a hail of gunfire.


What's an interesting backstory or fact about one of the artists featured


Viento de Agua, whose song "Ciudadano del Mundo" appears in the birthday sequence in the park, is a Puerto Rican plena group led by Tito Matos, who spent many years living in New York before he moved back to the island. That song is a more ambitious attempt by his group to use a bigger orchestra, but Matos and VDA are some of Puerto Rico's best known street pleneros, much like the Yerba Buena group that Flaco Navaja was in. Tito is part of a scene of Puerto Rican musicians and artists whose paths have crossed with Rita Indiana and some of the other musicians used in the film. That song, about being "ni de aqu� ni de all�" is emblematic of the transnational urban feel of the soundtrack.


What was the biggest lesson you learned from working on this?

There was a point where I was frustrated because there were some difficulties getting the right music for various bureaucratic reasons and I said to Macdara "it doesn't matter all that much because it's just a snippet of music and this is such a great script and the acting performances are excellent," and he said "bullshit," and refused to diminish the importance of striving for the right music, and of course he was totally right. I'd always thought of myself as someone who strived for perfection, but I came to reflect on how that's something you always need to keep working on.


How long did it take you?

I had already begun to think of music when Macdara showed me the script in late 2009, and we didn't finalize the soundtrack until late last year.


Any plans to do music supervision for future movies?

I would very much like to. I think I do my best work with a great script and good people to work with.


If your house was burning down (God forbid), which 3 records would you take with you?

Siembra by Willie Col�n and Rub�n Blades, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Stevie Wonder's Talking Book.

Ed Moralesis the author of two books (Living in Spanglish and The Latin Beat) and a journalist whose work has appeared in the Village Voice, The New York Times, and the Nation. He is currently a lecturer at Columbia University's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.



Tambi�n at Tribeca

The Tribeca Film Festival runs from Thursday through April 29. Here are a few other films with a Latin theme:


"As Luck Would Have It" This Spanish film from director Alex de la Iglesia stars Salma Hayek in a wild tale about a small accident that turns into a media frenzy.


"All In" Oscar-winning songwriter Jorge Drexler makes his acting debut in this Argentine film, playing a professional gambler who, on the verge of getting a vasectomy, runs into an old flame.


"Una Noche" From Cuba comes this story of two teens, bored with their rundown country, who plan to flee to Miami.


"Unit 7" A group of cops have to rid Seville of drug traffickers before the opening of the 1992 World Exhibition. Their mission turns one into a rogue, while another's character changes when he meets an interesting woman.


"Xingu" Three brothers take on the lifelong project of protecting the Xingu Indians, a tribe living in the Amazon. Based on a real story.


For theaters and showtimes, go to