I saw Run, Tecato, Run some 30 years ago. It was unheard of for a Chicano film to be booked in an English-language cineplex. But Chicano filmmaker Efraín Gutiérrez whetted our cinematic appetite with his earlier and successful feature films, Please, Don’t Bury Me Alive and Amor chicano es para siempre, so the theater was packed with Chicanos/Tejanos eager to watch our true stories, our unique Tex-Mex flavor, unfold on the big screen.
Watching Tecato (junkie) now, I have mixed emotions. Yes, the acting is stodgy and amateurish, but so were Andy Warhol’s early druggie films like Trash. The camera work in Tecato is off-kilter and often zooms to cockroaches on the wall, ditto Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song about a black male prostitute “running” from the man. The dialog in Tecato is often preachy and Brechtian — just like Jean-Luc Godard’s didactic Maoist films.
Everything is cinema. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Gutiérrez starts en los barrios de San Anto. Tecato addresses issues that still plague our community: child support, dropouts, drug addiction, prostitution, urban blight, unemployment, alcoholism, etcetera.
His characters are the real deal — he turns the camera on brown, indio faces, letting us see ourselves for better or worse a toda madre.
Run, Tecato, Run is a devastating portrait of young Vietnam vet Gilbert Sánchez (Gutiérrez) who succumbs to drug addiction and trafficking. Against all odds, he seeks a way out from a dead-end existence.
At one point Sánchez bemoans how the system puts junkies on methadone, which is addictive, yet doesn’t provide the high that chiva (heroin) does (shades of William Burroughs in his novel Junkie and in the film Drugstore Cowboy).
Is it any wonder that Gutiérrez, with great love for the least of nuestra gente, dedicates his film to all drug addicts?
7pm Friday, Feb 4
The film (which hasn’t been seen in more than 30 years and has recently been restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, along with two other Gutiérrez features) will be preceded by another Gutiérrez flick, El Juanio (1979, 21 minutes).
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