Latino Art Beat Presents: ‘Visiting the Museum’ Movie Premiere

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsWhat do you get when you put together a talented writer, an enthusiastic actor, and a prominent advocate for youth in the arts? A night of mummified mischief, of course.

Latino Art Beat, a national non-for-profit arts organization, has produced its first-ever independent film titled, “Visting the Museum.” This short film, already winning praise in L.A., is about two teenage boys who become intrigued by Boris Karloff’s classic film, “The Mummy,” and experience a string of mysteries events while visiting The Oriental Museum. “I believe the Chicago audience will love this film,” said Don Rossi, founder of Latino Art Beat. “This is our very first film that is written by a Latino and has a Latino as the main character. This is something youth need to see more of in films, television, and in plays.”

For screenwriter and Little Village native, Manny Reyes III, the opportunity to have his story come to life is a sweet one. “I wrote this story when I was 16 years-old, never thinking it would turn into a short film,” states Reyes. “I wrote this story because at the age of 16, I wasn’t seeing positive role models in mainstream shows or in books. My ideas and stories became my outlet.” As for Cicero native, Diego Irizarry the experience of participating in his first film role serves as confirmation that it pays to be different. “When everyone is focusing on receiving a higher education, we all lose sight on just how important the arts are for students,” said Irizarry. “I was fortunate enough to be given this chance to be a part of something so special that everyone will enjoy.”

Come October 25th, The Oriental Institute, in collaboration with Latino Art Beat, will play host to the Chicago premiere of “Visiting the Museum,” followed by Boris Karloff’s, “The Mummy.”

“It will be a night of mummies and fun,” said Rossi. Recently, Irizarry, Reyes, and Rossi visited Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper’s office to talk more about “Visiting the Museum,” the importance of having an organization, like Latino Art Beat for Youth, and why the arts should be a part of a child’s daily life.

Lawndale Bilingual News: As the author and screenwriter for “Visiting the Museum,” can you describe to me the inspiration behind the story and how it feels to have it come to fruition?
Manny Reyes III:
It truly is an exciting time for all of us involved because we all worked so hard on this short film. Don and I had been talking for quite some time about making a short film out of one of my short stories, so to see it come to life in this way is truly wonderful. I wrote the story at the age of 16 because I was really influenced by the R.L. Stine books and Stephen King novels, so I wanted to create a world that was similar to that. Especially because I didn’t see too many stories with Latino leads in them.
Don Rossi: I think in Manny’s case he is very lucky because he has been affiliated with Latino Art Beat. So he almost had a built in resource, here. And when I started reading some of his stories, I think he has written about 300 stories by now, I was impressed with his level of intensity and the fact that he was writing for a younger audience, which I think is always really cool. The problem with authors and young writers is that there are tens and thousands of them, so unless their story has a hook, they don’t go anywhere. And that’s the sad part for people who do have a tremendous amount of talent. In Manny’s case he wrote very simply, very pure from the heart. We modeled the movie after The Hardy Boys series which came out in the 1970s. We knew we had something special so Latino Art Beat actually financed the whole production. So this gave Manny an opportunity to see his story become real.

LN: How important is it for you to create a platform that allows Latinos to express themselves artistically and portray themselves in a way that they identify with?
We need to go back in history, probably back in the 50s and the movement out in California with the upcoming Chicanos and the racism that we saw in America. If you were Latino and you were in high school, you couldn’t be excused to go to the bathroom and in many cases, and this is in California, you couldn’t be excused to do anything. There was a great movie that Edward James Olmos made, “Stand and Deliver,” that showed a lot of the repression that our Latino youth had to go through and sometimes the general public doesn’t understand the history of our struggle. They understand the struggle and history of the African-American community and that’s a very valid one and I wouldn’t underplay it, but equally there were tremendous struggles in the Latino community. So from the 50s and the 60s, with the various movements fighting fore more recognition and more freedom, etc., that by the time Latino Art Beat was born in 1998, we were very unique. We targeted Latino history and I just thought this was going to be redundant. I thought everybody is doing this. I was shocked to find out that no one was focusing on heritage and culture and the youth in our community, so we struggled for the first couple of years to get together a movement that would recognize Latinos in the arts. And to answer your question, it is very important to empower our youth today. In particular, my interest is the Latino youth, but certainly all youth, and by organizations like Latino Art Beat having a production company and making a film with young Latinos participating empowers them and gives them the opportunity to take the next step.

LN: This question is for Manny and Diego, talk to me about how Latino Art Beat influenced you?
I grew up in Little Village where gang violence was a daily occurrence. I grew up in a neighborhood where you would have other kids tell you that you weren’t good enough, an environment that discouraged other kids to follow their dreams. It was definitely a rough crowd and I tried to keep away from that and stay positive. When Don came along he gave me the opportunity to join Latino Art Beat and I thought this was a perfect opportunity for me to tap into my creative side.
Irizarry: I believe the arts in general are worth paying more attention to. Programs like Latino Art Beat or even art courses in high schools provide a really great outlet for students who need another way to express themselves. I am Latino and I go to a school with many Latinos and even in a place where everyone is essentially from the same background, there is always a group that still maintains the bullying process of picking on people who are different. In many ways, the arts have saved me from breaking down. A program like Latino Art Beat gives young kids an opportunity to explore their talents and honor who they really are as individuals, as Latinos.

LN: What would you like people to enjoy most from the film, “Visiting the Museum.”
That it’s a lot of fun and it allows for the viewer’s imagination to fly.
Rossi: That this film is relatable and appeals to everyone. You don’t need foul language or violence to make an interesting movie. You just need a great script and unique characters.
Irizarry: Just to be prepared to be scared. [Laughs]

The short feature film, “Visiting the Museum,” will premiere at The Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 58th St., on Thursday, Oct. 25th at 7p.m. All are invited to attend and encouraged to dress in mummy costume. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

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