E.J. Bonilla and Joaquim de Almeida in MAMITAS, a film by Nicholas Ozeki. Picture courtesy Screen Media Films. All rights reserved.

Mamitas (2011/2012)

Opened: 04/27/2012 Limited

Theater Listing04/27/2012
Van Nuys, CA04/27/2012 - 05/03/20127 days
Los Angeles04/27/2012 - 05/03/20127 days
Ontario, CA04/27/2012 - 05/03/20127 days
Orange, CA04/27/2012 - 05/03/20127 days
Pasadena, CA04/27/2012 - 05/03/20127 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

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Genre: Drama

Rated: R for for some sexual references and teen partying.

Jordin Juarez, a cocky misguided youth forms an unlikely bond with an unpopular girl named Felipa. With her help, Jordin discovers the truth about his family, the meaning and value of true friendship, and what it really means to be a man.


Beautifully shot against Los Angeles' downtown skyline, "Mamitas" is a sensitive, coming-of-age story focusing on a young Latino "player," Jordin Juarez (EJ Bonilla),whose budding friendship with a straight-A tomboy propels him to find out who he really is.

Jordin has a cocky swagger, a know-it-all attitude and a big mouth. He impresses his friends, but not Miss Ruiz (Jennifer Esposito), the high school teacher trying to influence him to apply for college. After Jordin swears at her in front of the class, Miss Ruiz sends him to the principal's office. While waiting for Miss Ruiz, Jordin notices Felipa (Veronica Diaz-Carranza), a quiet bookworm in dumpy clothes and glasses. Felipa also notices Jordin.

When Miss Ruiz meets with Jordin, she tells him that behind his C average and "homeboy" persona is a student who scored 90 percent on his standardized tests. She doesn't understand why Jordin doesn't apply himself, and he shrugs it off. Miss Ruiz doesn't think she can reach Jordin, and because of his foul language earlier in the day, she suspends him from school for a week.

Later, Jordin and Felipa meet and spend some time talking. Jordin quickly realizes he doesn't need to put on his act with her - she can see right through it. The two also share a common emotional loss. Jordin tells Felipa his mother died in childbirth. He lives with his father and older brother (Jesse Garcia), a high school dropout, and takes care of his grandfather (Pedro Armendariz Jr.)

Felipa tells Jordin she is newly relocated from the East Coast after her mother couldn't take care of her. As a result, Felipa lives with her aunt, uncle and cousin, one of the high school's most attractive and popular girls with the boys. Jordin also can see Felipa has some unexplained self-image issues.

As their friendship develops and Jordin begins learning more about himself, he tells Felipa about a photo he found of his mother with an unknown man. The old photograph consumes Jordin's thoughts and tarnishes the perfect image he once held of his mother.

At the same time, tensions are rising at home between Jordin and his father, who is still consumed by his wife's death and reminded of it every time he looks at his son. With the discovery of the photo and increased tension with his father, Jordin wonders if the man in his photo is really his dad. Felipa tells Jordin to find the man in the photo and talk with him. The two eventually find the man, a Santa Barbara philosophy professor (Joaquim de Almeida). He answers some of Jordin's questions, but also poses new ones.

The visit with the professor launches Jordin on an emotional journey he never thought was possible.

Production Notes

Jordin Juarez's life-changing friendship with Felipa, a straight-A bookworm, takes him on a path of self-discovery in "Mamitas," a realistic coming-of-age story rooted in Los Angeles' MexiAmerican community.

Juarez's emotional journey is the film's focal point, but the movie also tells the story of complex family relationships. Jordin lives in a male-centric home - his mother died during his birth, so Jordin lives with his father and older brother and takes care of his grandfather. The dynamic causes enormous tension and strain for Jordin and his father, especially since Jordin's father is emotionally detached from him.

Shot on Super 16 film in 29 days during the summer of 2010, "Mamitas" is based on a 2007 short film from director-writer Nicholas Ozeki.

In "Mamitas," Ozeki portrays the lives of these Latino families from an inside perspective, not the typical outsider point of view with drugs and gangs. However, the L.A. Latino experience is woven into the film's fabric and used as a backdrop, not as a theme. At the same time, Ozeki tells the story of these Latino youths with incredible honesty and realism.

It's a refreshing tale and change of pace.

It's even more impressive when Ozeki says he didn't have much experience with the Latino community except what he observed while living in Anaheim, Calif., which has a large Latino population. Ozeki resided in city for three years (2004-2007) while attending film school at nearby Chapman University.

"Part of being a director is being observant to your surroundings," Ozeki says. "Coming from Chapman University, I didn't see a lot of ethnic diversity in the stories being made there. Coming from a multiracial background (Ozeki is half white and half Japanese), I thought it would be positive to explore some universal themes.

"Los Angeles is a city of minorities built by minorities. The movie is not solely for or about Latinos," Ozeki says. "It's flavored with the Mexican-American culture of East Los Angeles."

Producer Adam Renehan, who attended Chapman University and worked with Ozeki on his 2007 short film, agrees with Ozeki.

"We had to do this film well or it would be a cheesy after-school special," Renehan says. "This isn't a movie about gang violence or immigration, or in other words, the seemingly usual cliched Latino storylines. Instead, we focused on the more important, but perhaps less show-y, positive aspects of life. We thought it would be more true to talk about your everyday Latino.

"We also thought it would be more interesting to tell the story from a Latino perspective," Renehan says. "Usually you don't see a story like this, but in the end, we really wanted to tell an American story. These events could happen in any family, Latino, white, black."

Ozeki decided to make a coming-of-age film because he feels comfortable with the genre. "I've had a few years go by since my adolescence, and I can reflect on them," says the 31-year-old writer-director. "I could draw on my emotions and felt my script would be genuine."

The emotional strength of the script and film also leads Ozeki to explain the meaning behind the film's title. "Because the title of the movie is 'Mamitas,' people assume it's just about women or a hot girl and Jordin, but the word is a term of endearment," Ozeki says. "The film is really about his relationship to all the women in the story, his late mother, his teacher and his peers. Not having a mother makes it difficult for Jordin to relate to his teacher, Miss Ruiz."

But then along comes Felipa, and everything changes for Jordin.

"Every man, when he's exploring the opposite sex, meets that one person where it's less about a physical connection and more about an emotional connection," Ozeki says. "Felipa is the catalyst for him accessing a part of his life he has avoided."

Veronica Diaz-Carranza, who plays Felipa, brings honesty and realism to the character. Apart from Ozeki's script, the Latino actors tweaked some of the lines to maintain authenticity. The cast, a combination of veteran character actors and young up and comers, work together flawlessly.

"Young actors surrounded by more professional actors, who upped the game, made a great cast," Renehan says. "We were ambitious. We went after the best actors we could get for the money we had, which wasn't a lot. But we were casting against type and had success getting people. We offered Pedro Armendariz Jr., who plays a lot of bad guys, a grandfather character. He flew out from Mexico City to do it."

Jennifer Esposito and Joaquim de Almeida were at a point in their careers where they wanted to do meatier roles and were not typecast. Esposito plays teacher Miss Ruiz and de Almeida portrays Professor Alexander Viera, who motivates Juarez to explore unchartered territory in his life.

Nevertheless, Ozeki says the film's appeal is rooted in its universal themes and unexpected point of view. "'Mamitas' is a very charming slice-of-life film anyone can enjoy. It works on a couple of levels," he says. "It's a positive story that doesn't exploit social issues with a refreshing narrative - an American experience from a Latino point of view. It's also interesting to see similarities with people despite socio-economic differences. It doesn't matter who you are. You can relate to these themes."


  • 2012 Independent Spirit Awards - Someone To Watch Award, Nicholas Ozeki, Nominee
  • 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival - Premiere
  • 2011 Urbanworld Film Festival - Best Narrative Feature Film
  • 2011 Napa Valley Film Festival - Jury Prize and Audience Award
  • 2011 New York Latino International Film Festival - Best Narrative Feature Film, Nominee
  • 2012 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival - Official Selection
  • 2012 San Diego Latino Film Festival - Official Selection
  • April 2012 Ashland International Film Festival - Official Selection
  • April 2012 Florida Film Festival - Official Selection

About the Cast

EJ Bonilla (Jordin Juarez)

EJ Bonilla began his professional acting career at the age of 16. His big break came on "Guiding Light" with the role of Rafe Rivera, which earned him a 2009 Daytime Emmy Award Nomination for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series. That same year, Bonilla starred in his first feature film, the 2009 Sundance Film Festival favorite, "Don't Let Me Drown." The independent film was nominated for The Grand Jury award at Sundance and won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival, the Woodstock Film Festival as well as the Florida Film Festival.

Bonilla also starred in "The Mortician" with Method Man, "Musical Chairs" directed by Susan Seidelman and the film adaptation of "Four." Bonilla's television credits include "Blue Bloods," "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "Bored to Death," "See Kate Run" and the final episode of "Cold Case." Bonilla also appeared opposite Matthew Perry in the TNT telefilm "The Ron Clark Story." Bonilla is a proficient dancer and studied ballroom dancing, hip-hop, African dance, ballet and jazz dance at the Young Dance Makers Company in New York City.

Veronica Diaz-Carranza (Felipa)

Veronica Diaz-Carranza grew up with a passion for telling stories. She pursued an education in anatomy and physiology, but soon after, followed her dream and headed West to Los Angeles - pursuing acting and directing.

Diaz-Carranza's years of hard work and perseverance paid off. In 2006, she was cast in Edward James Olmos' HBO movie "Walkout." Diaz-Carranza's newest project is the comedy "Taco Shop," costarring opposite Tyler Posey.

Jennifer Esposito (Miss Ruiz)

Jennifer Esposito's talent spans from comedic to dramatic, with an impressive body of work encompassing film, television and theater. Esposito stars on the hit police drama "Blue Bloods" as Detective Jackie Curatola. Previously, Esposito starred opposite Christina Applegate on the comedy "Samantha Who?," which won a People's Choice Award for Best New Comedy.

Esposito's most acclaimed film role was "Crash," the drama featuring an all-star ensemble including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard. "Crash" won the Oscar for Best Picture. Esposito's other film credits include her notable breakthrough performance in Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam," "Don't Say A Word" with Michael Douglas, "Welcome to Collinwood," alongside Sam Rockwell and George Clooney, "Taxi" with Queen Latifah and "Breaking All the Rules" with Ja

Esposito also starred in the films "Made," "Kiss Me Guido," "No Looking Back," "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer," "Side Streets," "The Bachelor" and "Wes Craven's Dracula 2000." The Brooklyn native launched her TV career on "Spin City." Other credits include a recurring role on FX's "Rescue Me" opposite Dennis Leary, a starring role on "Related" and multiple guest-appearances on "Law & Order."

Esposito studied for three years at New York's Lee Strasberg Institute.

Jesse Garcia (Hector Juarez)

Jesse Garcia is widely recognized for his role in the highly acclaimed "Quinceanera," winner of the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and Official Selection for the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. The following year, Garcia won the prestigious ALMA Award (American Latino Media Arts) as Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture in 2007.

Garcia also starred in the films "La Misma Luna" ("The Same Moon") with Kate del Castillo and "Good Dick" with Jason Ritter, as well as Alejandro Chomski's "A Beautiful Life" and "Days of Wrath" with Laurence Fishburne.

Born in Rawlins, Wyoming, Garcia spent most of his childhood in Hanna, Wyoming, a town with a population of just over 500. In 2003, Garcia moved to Los Angeles and garnered steady work in commercials. Two years later, he was featured in nine national campaigns including those for McDonalds, Toyota, Avis, and Miller beer. His episodic television and film work included Edward James Olmos' HBO telemovie "Walkout" and guest spots on "ER," "The Shield," "The Closer," "Unfabulous," "Justice," "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" and the FOX series, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles."

In 2006, Garcia added his first producing credit to his resume, co-producing and starring in "American Identity," which opened the Short Film Competition at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. It was directed by Stephen Rollins.

Joaquim de Almeida (Professor Alexander Viera)

Joaquim de Almeida has worked in more than 90 films and television shows. His costars include Harrison Ford ("Clear and Present Danger"), Gene Hackman, Kim Basinger, Antonio Banderas and Keifer Sutherland ("24"). He landed his first film role in 1981 in "The Soldier." The following year, de Almeida acted in "Honorary Consul" with Richard Gere, Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins. But his third film, "Good Morning Babylon," which opened the Cannes Film Festival in 1987 and was directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, propelled him to an international career.

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, de Almeida attended Lisbon Conservatory for two years before leaving Portugal in 1974 following the democratic revolution. In 1976, he moved to New York City and studied with Lee Strasberg, Nicholas Ray and Stella Adler. He has received many awards: Best Actor at the Cairo Film Festival in 1991; Golden Globe Best Actor Portugal 1995, 1997, 2001; Portuguese Foreign Press-Personality of the year 1995; Career Award in Festival Cinema de Badajoz 2004; Career Award Festival Iberoamericano de Huelva 2009; Career Award Festival de Cine de Punta del Este 2003; Gold Medal City of Sintra 2008; Gold Medal City of Setubal 2006 and the Order of Infante by President of Portugal.

Pedro Armendariz Jr. (Tata)

Pedro Armendariz Jr. was born in Mexico City, the son of actors Carmelita (nee Pardo) and Pedro Armendariz. He was married to actress Ofelia Medina.

Armendariz Jr. appeared in over 100 movies, including "The Magnificent Seven Ride," "El Crimen del Padre Amaro," "Matando Cabos," "La ley de Herodes," "Earthquake, " "License to Kill," "Tombstone" and "Amistad." He also played Don Pedro in "The Mask of Zorro" and "The Legend of Zorro." Armendariz Jr. also portrayed Pancho Villa in "Old Gringo" opposite Gregory Peck and Jimmy Smits and Pancho Villa's enemy Luis Terrazas in the film "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself" opposite Antonio Banderas.

Armendariz Jr. died Dec. 26, 2011 from cancer. He was 71.

Jose Yenque (Julio)

Jose Yenque has over a decade of experience as a professional actor and devoted humanitarian, which, in 2011, earned him an honorary doctorate of fine arts from California State University San Marcos. When he was 14 years old, Yenque experienced the transformative power of art when his mother, actress Teresa Yenque ("30 Rock", "Law & Order") enrolled him in a drama workshop. It helped turn him from a shy, 230-pound young man who stuttered, to a confident and gifted actor, at home on the stage and comfortable with himself.

His film credits include Steven Soderbergh's Academy Award winning "Traffic", HBO's "The Blue Diner," (opposite his mother) and the Academy Award winning short film "Wednesday Afternoon." Yenque also starred in "Miss Bala." The film was produced by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. It was Mexico's official selection in the 2012 Oscars for Best Foreign Film.

His television credits include "CSI: Miami," "Nip/Tuck," "Law & Order -- SVU," "Heroes" and "Lost," among others. In 2007, he earned the Imagen Award for his stand-out performance in Lifetime Network's thriller "Between," which premiered at The Sundance Film Festival.

About the Filmmakers

Nicholas Ozeki (Writer/Director)

Nicholas Ozeki was born in Washington DC, and lived in Tokyo, Japan, before returning to the United States. He attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he played football and earned his Bachelor's degree in English with an emphasis in film studies. Ozeki came to California and earned his M.F.A. in film production under the emphasis of directing at Chapman University in the city of Orange.

In 2012, Ozeki was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his first feature, "Mamitas." He teaches film production in Los Angeles. Ozeki and producer Adam Renehan founded the production company Right Brain Films.

Adam Renehan (Producer)

Adam Renehan graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.F.A. in film studies. While completing his bachelor's degree, Renehan worked as a producer's assistant at Warren Miller Entertainment and a production assistant for the Telluride Film Festival. He completed his M.F.A in film and television producing at Chapman University in Orange, California. Renehan teaches film production and film producing in Los Angeles. Renehan and writer-director Nicholas Ozeki formed the production company Right Brain Films.

Andrew M. Davis (Director of Photography)

Andrew M. Davis spent his childhood exploring the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, but eventually made his way to California, and the city of Orange. He graduated from Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television. Davis has thrived as a cinematographer amassing an extraordinary body of work that has screened in the world's top film festivals, including the Tribeca International Film Festival, Cannes, the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Cinequest. His work as cinematographer has been honored with numerous awards including the prestigious A.S.C. Heritage Award. Davis has filmed unique stories around the world, from the war torn streets of Iraq to the dense jungles of Honduras. He also worked on the "Mamitas" short film.

Melissa Brown (Editor)

Melissa Brown studied editing at Chapman University's Graduate Conservatory of Film & Media Arts. She edited seven short films, including Nicolas Ozeki's "Mamitas." In 2007, Brown interned with the American Cinema Editors. Upon completion of the program, she assisted on a varieof TV series, including "CSI." Her opportunity to edit a feature film came when Ozeki expanded his short film "Mamitas" into a feature. Brown was recently recognized in MovieMaker Magazine as one of "5 Editors To Watch" for her work on "Mamitas."