My Family/Mi Familia, the most recent film by director Gregory Nava, presents an intense, poignant story: The major events in the lives of three generations of a Los Angeles Mexican-American family are crammed into a little more than two hours of screen time.
Nava, himself a member of a Mexican-American family from San Diego, is best known for El Norte, a 1984 Academy Award nominee for best original screenplay. This film told the devastating story of two Guatemalan immigrants, a brother and sister, who decide to risk the arduous journey north through Mexico and across the border into the United States.
Despite the critical success of El Norte, Nava had trouble securing Hollywood financial support for My Family. Most major studios were unwilling to back a project that had not hired a bankable movie star. For five years, Nava, his wife Anna Thomas (who co-wrote the script with Nava), and producer Nancy De Los Santos worked to find their own resources and to make the movie that they wanted to make.
Luckily, acclaimed filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola stepped into the role of executive producer. Funding for My Family was no longer a difficulty.
Nava's film shares some striking similarities to Coppola's masterpiece The Godfather: A young boy leaves his homeland, journeys alone to the United States without any knowledge of English or any idea of what he might find; he marries a young woman from his own background and they live simply, work hard, and have several children. He even gardens in the back yard. The children grow up-he gives his daughter an elaborate wedding-and face an America where they are torn between the culture that their parents know and taught to them, and the culture of American movies, television, and ideals.