Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Director to attend opening

South Texas man will appear at 'El Padrino' showing

Damian Chapa, director and star of the new film "El Padrino," hopes his film, which is layered with gunfights, explosions and car chases, captures the reality of gangster life.

Chapa, who is from South Texas, will sign autographs at 7 p.m. tonight at Cinemark 12, 7806 Navarro St., in Victoria. The new gangster/action film opens here on Friday.

The R-rated movie, also starring Academy-Award winner Faye Dunaway, Jennifer Tilly and Robert Wagner, had its debut in El Paso on April 6. The independent film also features Gary Busey and Brad Dourif and showcases Latin actors Sal Lopez, Emilio Rivera, Ileanna Simancas and Ismael "East" Carlo.

The film, set in Los Angeles and Mexico, chronicles the life of a fictional gangster, Kilo Vasquez, played by Chapa. A young Kilo watches his father, a small-time gangster, and as he emulates him, becomes a powerful underworld figure. After Vasquez marries and has children, he questions his choices and finds that getting out of the business is more difficult than he had imagined.

"There are people like this who exist in my community and I express it because I've known people like this growing up," said Chapa of his gangster and drug-dealing characters. "I express it especially to young people so they understand what it's really like to be a gangster."

Chapa said he recognizes that being in gangs and dealing drugs can be profitable and appealing to youngsters at first, but that they may find unexpected and unpleasant consequences of their choices.

Chapa describes his film as a crossover movie that would appeal to those who liked "Scarface" or "Traffic."

Though he was born in Ohio, the 42-year-old Chapa moved to Robstown when he was young.

"I really love it down here," Chapa said. "It's where my whole family is from. I'm very proud of being part of the Tejano group."

Chapa dropped out of high school to do theatre in New York when he was about 20. Later, he moved to Los Angeles and film roles.

For one of his first parts, he captured the lead in Taylor Hackford's "Bound By Honor." The 1993 movie also featured Benjamin Bratt and Billy Bob Thornton. The film, also known as "Blood In Blood Out," became a cult classic.

Chapa also acted in movies such as "Under Siege," "Street Fighter," and "Money Talks." About four years ago, Chapa launched his own production company. "El Padrino" will be his first theatrical release as a director.

Chapa said it was difficult doing triple duty as actor, director and writer, but that it allowed him to better capture his vision.

"I think this is a violent film for intelligent people," Chapa said. "This is done to show the realistic life of a gangster. Sooner or later, the only place for gangsters is the pen or the morgue."

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