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‘Ruta Madre’ Tells Story Of San Diegan In Search Of His Roots

An undated photo from the film, "Ruta Madre" starring from left, David Castro, William Miller and Carmen Salinas. The film is screening at the 24th Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival on March 16.
Courtesy Photo
An undated photo from the film, "Ruta Madre" starring from left, David Castro, William Miller and Carmen Salinas. The film is screening at the 24th Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival on March 16.
"Ruta Madre" Tells Story Of San Diegan In Search Of His Roots
"Ruta Madre" Tells Story Of San Diegan In Search Of His Roots GUESTS: Joey Molina, writer, "Ruta Madre" Agustin Castañeda, director, "Ruta Madre"

This is KPBS Midday Edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh one of the featured movies at this year's Latino film Festival is a comedy written by Chula Vista native Joey Molina. He's taken some advice his grandmother had given him about finding his Mexican roots and turned it into a comedy. The cast includes Paul Rodriguez. Joining me now is Joey Molina screenwriter of Ruta Madre. Welcome to the program. Good to be here. And the director Agustin Castaneda. Welcome. You so much for inviting us. Why did your grandmother give you that advice? I think of the time in my life I was young and impressionable and was just going through life going through the motions and I have no direction so she probably thought that it would be good for me to go find my roots sort of help you become a man. And it would help me figure out how the world is. How familiar with Mexico and Baja were you. I grew up on the revolution when I was a little kid. I have a lot of fond memories running around the stores and going and having her chart that and going to the Mexican restaurants but as I got older I spent all my time in the US. So I have that -- those memories of Mexico but it was not until like until later on that there was a rebirth of ideas when I was meeting Augustine that he was really kind of the catalyst of introducing the Mexican culture because we have been working together for years and we have this great chemistry and we discovered that we could write and that's how we blended all of this together. Say spent a lot of time of their youth in Tijuana how is your Spanish now It is horrible Can you give me a really brief synopsis of the film. It is a coming-of-age story about a young singer who is heartbroken and his grandmother since his uncle to taken from the United States to Mexico to go to the family farm to talk about family and discover your roots. This is Daniel and his uncle having a conversation in the car traveling through Baja Could you tell me about my grandpa. I don't remember much That's where you got a music passion from he is to bring out his guitar and make me and your mother sing to him she had the most beautiful voice. That is a clip from Ruta Madre. I have the screenwriter and director with me and it is going to be shown tonight at the San Diego Latino film Festival. Agustin what appeal to you about the comic potential of this film ? We wanted to see the film through the perspective of this character. You know in Mexico for the first time actually it was based on Joey's story. With thoughts you know it is a mix because there is comedy but also drama intertwined. We thought it was perfect because a lot of the things that were happening to him as he kept telling us at parties and all that that he had lived cities stories. So with that okay let's write this. I telling him let's put this into a movie. He said no just a story. And then finally -- He is really the catalyst. He had the vision. The spirit of the desert paid him a visit. We were driving to Los Angeles and I saw in his eyes. And he said I got it. He started going on the levels and the layers and a comedy and it was born. There are also a number of big-name Mexican and American actors in Ruta Madre. How did they become a part of the project ? While our producer -- had a good relationship with her family. So that was how we made the connection and Paul Rodriguez was through the theater company that we both belong to that we have been performing at her locally. He had a relationship. They had worked together in the past so they were able to contact him he went to the script and joined us. Also we had Mary Joe help us a lot in finding the uncle -- the two main characters the uncle and the nephew. We found them through Christian Slater's mom. What role does language play in the film? It is both in English and Spanish. It is huge. It is unbelievably important component because what it is -- it is unique to our region. This is a regional story. This is really the language -- was particularly interesting because we kept all of the comedy that is Spanish and Spanish. You can't translate it. You can't translate Mexican humor. What we did was incorporated the English language and the Spanish language just like you have here. You have people who don't speak Spanish some people who speak Spanglish. And some people who don't speak Spanish at all if you're ever in a room full of these people anywhere here you have this language that people speak to each other. Half English have Spanish somebody is translating so it is unique and it's also tricky. And that is the feel of the film. The will film is like it would be if you are in an environment like that we have people who speak both languages and just intertwined them really. That happens right here a lot because we are at the border so a lot of people don't speak Spanish really well and many were kind of talking both in which is at the same time and if there's American person you try to English was for them but that's how it plays. This is not a message movie but I'm sure there's something that you hope the audience takes away from the stone. There is a message. It's about connecting and about you have nothing if you do not connect with your roots and a culture. I've been speaking with Joey the screenwriter for Ruta Madre. Agustin Castaneda is director of the film. The film is going tonight at 7:30 at the San Diego Latino film Festival and has repeat screenings on Saturday and Monday. Congratulations to you both I hope it goes well. Is thank you for speaking with me. Thank you it is great to be here.

The 24th Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival kicks off Thursday and one of the films screening on opening night is the comedy, "Ruta Madre."

The film is a coming-of-age story based on the life of San Diego singer and actor Joey Molina.

“This film isn’t just my story, it’s our story, it’s everybody’s story. It’s about love and family and it transcends borders," Molina said. “It’s anchored in so much truth, but we wanted to embellish things and introduce magic realism and wanted to throw lots of humor in it and create bigger-than-life characters."


"Ruta Madre" follows a young musician who goes on a road trip to Mexico with his uncle to reconnect with his roots.

Related: San Diego Latino Film Festival Celebrates Diversity Through Latin Cinema

Mexican actresses Carmen Salinas and Angelica Maria star in the film along with Paulina Gaitan from the Netflix series, "Narcos" and comedian Paul Rodriguez.

The festival features more than 170 films from two dozen countries.

Molina, who wrote the screenplay for "Ruta Madre," and the film's director Agustin Castañeda talk about filmmaking and what it means to present the film at the San Diego Latino Film Festival Thursday on Midday Edition.

Ruta Madre Trailer