Don't Sleep on Sleeping With the Fishes

Confession time: I'm not a rich woman. I'm not a vampire. I am not an undercover cop. However, I am often willing to watch movies, television shows and web series that feature all of the above. Why? Well, because I'm a multifaceted human being with interests outside of my sex, race and community. Crazy, I know!

So why is it that so many people still believe that English-language movies, television shows and other media platforms produced by and starring Latinos are for Latinos only?

Last week, I told a friend that I was going to an advance screening of the new indie film Sleeping With the Fishes, written and directed by Nicole Gomez Fisher and starring Filly Brown's Gina Rodriguez. Though I was going to the advance screening on my own, I encouraged my friend to attend the screening of the film being held in Brooklyn on Sunday, June 10. My friend responded, "No, that's fine. It's a Latin film. I'm sure it'll just go over my head."

Disclaimer: I love my friend. I really do. However, my friend's response made me want to scream, in part, because this is no novel sentiment.

My friend's dismissal of Sleeping With the Fishes was ignorant and indicated an assumption that American Latinos live wholly different lives than the rest of the American population. However, as Sleeping With the Fishes demonstrates, American Latinos -- especially American Latino millennials and Gen-Y-ers -- live very American, mainstream and universally relatable lives.

Written and directed by comedienne Nicole Gomez Fisher, Sleeping with the Fishes is a coming of age story about Alexis Fish. Alexis is struggling with her weight, her career as a "party planner" is floundering and she's constantly butting heads with her overbearing mother. Alexis, in many ways, is an every girl; she just happens to be Latina.

In her interview with me, Sleeping with the Fishes' director, Nicole Gomez Fisher, said of the premise:

It's a film about self-discovery, mothers and daughters, finding love again -- it's universal. The fact that the family happens to be biracial just adds to the humor and the uniqueness of the film. It's the same old story told from a totally new point of view. Sprinkle a little Adobo on top of gefilte fish and it's still gefilte fish, just with a bit more spice.

And that extra "spice," combined with the universal coming of age theme, is what attracted actress Gina Rodriguez to the project. Gina, who plays Alexis Fish, shared with me that she is often drawn to characters who are "three dimensional and full of complexities" -- traits that allow characters to rise above stereotypes and resonate with broader audiences. As it turns out, Alexis Fish's story of love lost resonated with the actress, compelling Gina to take on the role in an effort to provide all women with a multifaceted, complex and relatable character. Of the role, Gina says:

When I was offered the role, I had my heart broken for the very first time. I mean, I was 27 and I had never felt that pain before. At the time, it felt like a curse but... art is therapeutic and Alexis and I went through a journey that we both needed. I brought honesty and vulnerability to a role that terrified me. Watching it for the first time, in Brooklyn last week, made me realize that as an artist -- as a vessel for storytelling -- I truly have the opportunity to relate to our audience. Hopefully I was able to do just that.

At the heart of it, Sleeping With the Fishes is a story about a young woman, her dysfunctional family, and her journey to self-realization. What is there not to relate to? The fact that Mrs. Fish chastises her daughters in Spanglish should not deter non-Spanglish speakers from watching it. My friend missed out on watching a great movie because of prejudiced bias. I encourage you not to do the same.

Remember: If you don't have to be a superhero to watch Superman, you don't have to be Latino to watch and enjoy the funny, heartening, thrilling and poignant content produced by and starring Latinos.

On Sunday, June 10, 2013 Sleeping With the Fishes' director, Nicole Gomez Fisher, won Best New Director at the 2013 Brooklyn Film Festival.