The Ballad Of Gregorio Cortez


1h 44m 1983

Brief Synopsis

A translation error causes tragedy for a Mexican-American family.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, La balada de Gregorio Cortez, balada de Gregorio Cortez, A
MPAA Rating
Genre
Western
Historical
Release Date
1983
Production Company
Corporation For Public Broadcasting; National Endowment For The Arts
Distribution Company
Embassy Pictures; Mainline Entertainment
Location
Texas, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m

Synopsis

Based on a popular "corrido" depicting the actual events of June 1901. Cortez, a Mexican cowhand working the ranges around San Antonio, kills a sheriff in self defense as he's about to be arrested in a case of mistaken identity. Thus begins an 11-day manhunt as Cortez flees on horseback from Gonzales to the Mexcian border.

Crew

Everett Aison

Titles

David Anderle

Music Director

Nick Athas

Production Assistant

John Bertucci

Editor

Kevin Bubriski

Stills

Mark Burner

Stunt Man (Edward James Olmos)

Mark Burner

Chief Wrangler

Reynaldo Cantu

Production Assistant

David Carrico

Wrangler

Richard Casey

Sound Editor

Richard Chew

Editor Consultant

Arthur Coburn

Editor

Fred Collins

Wrangler

Carl Copeland

Art Direction

Dan Delk

Wrangler

H Frank Dominguez

Executive Producer

Moctesuma Esparza

Producer

Ken Figueroa

Wrangler

Linda Folk

Assistant Editor

Michael Scott Goldbaum

Sound Recording

Susan Grammie

Costumes

Patricia Griffin

Production Assistant

Carlos Hagen

Music Consultant

Michael Hausman

Assistant Director

Michael Hausman

Producer

Rod Hudson

Wrangler

Gunnar Keel

Assistant Director

Karen Koch

Production Coordinator

Webster Michael Lewis

Music Arranger

Webster Michael Lewis

Music; Music Adaptation

Cyrena Lombs

Casting (Additional)

Ross Maehl

Lighting Consultant

Don Markel

Makeup

Don Markel

Hairstyles

Hearth Martinez

Guitarist

Lee Mayes

Location Manager

David Ochoa

Executive Producer

Kaaren F Ochoa

Post-Production Executive

Kaaren F Ochoa

Script Supervisor

Edward James Olmos

Music; Music Adaptation; Music Director

Edward James Olmos

Associate Producer

Americo Paredes

Song Performer ("El Corrido De Gregorio Cortez")

Americo Paredes

Source Material (From Novel)

Victoria Plata

Production Assistant

Zach Porter

Wrangler

Pablo Poveda

Song Performer ("El Corrido De Gregorio Cortez")

Robert Romero

Production Assistant

Ruben Romero

Teatro Version Arranger

Hilary Rosenfeld

Costume Designer

Peggy Schinhofen

Production Assistant

Peggy Schinhofen

Sound Recording 2nd Unit (2nd Unit)

Javier Silva

Sound Editor

Vance Sorrells

Wrangler

Richard Soto

Editor Supervisor

Richard Soto

Associate Producer

Lawrence Steib

Wrangler

Chuck Stewart

Special Effects

Tony Szulc

Sound Editor

Candy Carey Tuttle

Other

Candy Carey Tuttle

Stunts

Reynaldo Villalobos

Visual Consultant

Reynaldo Villalobos

Director Of Photography

Victor Villasenor

Screenwriter

Mike Watson

Wrangler

Timothy Wawrezeniak

Camera Consultant

Judith Weiner

Casting

David Wisnievitz

Associate Producer

David Wisnievitz

Production Manager

Stuart Wurtzel

Production Designer

Robert M Young

Screenplay Adaptation

Film Details

Also Known As
Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, La balada de Gregorio Cortez, balada de Gregorio Cortez, A
MPAA Rating
Genre
Western
Historical
Release Date
1983
Production Company
Corporation For Public Broadcasting; National Endowment For The Arts
Distribution Company
Embassy Pictures; Mainline Entertainment
Location
Texas, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m

Articles

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez


Just who was Gregorio Cortez and what did he do to warrant his 10-day pursuit by posses, sheriffs and rangers across the state of Texas in June of 1901? That is a much contested point in history, in myth and in the film that explores the nexus of the two, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982).

Initially known for his documentaries, director Robert M. Young continues themes prominent in his first feature Alambrista! (1977) in The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, which stars Edward James Olmos in the title role. At root, Young explores the nature of foreignness and stereotype as well as the disintegration of fact that is a natural part of the storytelling process. But as Young presents it, there are no real white hats or dark ones; everyone suffers when communication breaks down. None of the characters in Gregorio Cortez seems larger than life - as a hero or a villain. And Cortez's role in the story changes throughout the film, depending on who's doing the talking.

The actors' faces and performances, like the terrain of the film's setting, feel unadorned and decidedly untheatrical, which is no surprise from a seasoned documentarian. In fact, Gregorio Cortez is striking in its epic ordinariness, and it is out of a clear blue sky that the entire misadventure begins.

Cortez's unhappy tale is thanks to the shortcomings of a translator who didn't understand the distinction in Spanish between "horse" (caballo) and "mare" (yegua). The sheriff, investigating accusations of horse theft, is instantly convinced of Cortez's guilt and comes after him with a gun, shooting Cortez's brother in the process. Cortez shoots and kills the sheriff and the hunt begins.

Gregorio Cortez as a film, is as rooted in history as its subject matter. It was produced by activist/producer Moctesuma Esparza, with funding from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and based on With His Pistol in His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero by Américo Paredes. David Rosen writes in Chicanos and Film: Representation and Resistance (edited by Chon A. Noriega): "Like the film's wrongly accused hero, Esparza had been wrongly indicted by a Los Angeles grand jury during the 1960s because of his political activities. Esparza was committed to making a film that could speak to a broad, multiethnic, multilanguage audience about cultural misunderstanding. He saw the film as 'a project of the Chicano community, not for it.'"

Gregorio Cortez was slated to have its initial debut on PBS' American Playhouse, but its producers insisted it be shot as a theatrical release, not a made-for-TV movie. So the film was shot in super 16mm and framed for an eventual 35mm blowup for the big screen. Another unconventional aspect to the production was the decision to do the film in English and Spanish without subtitles, replicating, for many viewers, the confusion the film's characters experienced.

The film's producers, of which Olmos was one, had negotiated a contract requiring a theatrical premiere before the PBS premiere, but they didn't have much time. Just three weeks before the PBS airing, Olmos organized an unusual screening in San Antonio, Texas. With funding from La Raza and Esparza, he "four-walled" a theater-renting it out for free showings to encourage people to see it. According to David Rosen, "At the first screening...only two paying customers attended. By week's end, however, favorable word of mouth was drawing 250 people per screening."

Once The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez had aired on PBS, it lost its status as "virgin property" and the prestige of its first window, so to find distribution, the producers had to prove there was a larger audience who wanted to see it. Another four-walled series of screenings took place in Los Angeles and caused such a stir that Embassy Pictures soon agreed to a distribution deal and a radical marketing approach. They hired the films' producers as well as community activists to employ a revolutionary grass-roots approach in developing a potential fan base for the film.

Unfortunately, Embassy rushed the campaign and pulled the $1.3 million film after three months, disappointed with the returns. The producers managed to negotiate another distribution deal with Embassy and earned an additional $100,000 from the film. Though it wasn't a blockbuster by any means Gregorio Cortez received a wealth of critical acclaim, including the Los Angeles Times's review by Kevin Thomas:

"A cordial welcome to Robert M. Young's Gregorio Cortez, which proves a relieving shot in the arm of a palsied, disfavored genre, drawing its narrative thrust from a popular Mexican corrido or folk-ballad woven around one of the most famous man-hunts in Texas history."

Producers: Moctesuma Esparza, Michael Hausman
Director: Robert M. Young
Screenplay: Victor Villasenor; Robert M. Young (adaptation); Americo Paredes (book "With His Pistol in His Hands")
Cinematography: Reynaldo Villalobos
Art Direction: John Bertucci, Arthur Coburn, Richard Soto
Music: W. Michael Lewis, Edward James Olmos
Cast: Edward James Olmos (Gregorio Cortez), James Gammon (Sheriff Frank Fly), Tom Bower (Boone Choate), Bruce McGill (Reporter Blakely), Brion James (Captain Rogers), Alan Vint (Mike Trimmell), Timothy Scott (Sheriff Morris), Pepe Serna (Romaldo Cortez), Michael McGuire (Sheriff Glover), William Sanderson (Cowboy), Barry Corbin (Abernathy), Jack Kehoe (Prosecutor Pferson), Rosanna DeSoto (Carlota Munoz), Buddy Vigil (Skin), Zach Porter (Fly's Posse).
C-104m.

by Emily Soares
The Ballad Of Gregorio Cortez

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez

Just who was Gregorio Cortez and what did he do to warrant his 10-day pursuit by posses, sheriffs and rangers across the state of Texas in June of 1901? That is a much contested point in history, in myth and in the film that explores the nexus of the two, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982). Initially known for his documentaries, director Robert M. Young continues themes prominent in his first feature Alambrista! (1977) in The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, which stars Edward James Olmos in the title role. At root, Young explores the nature of foreignness and stereotype as well as the disintegration of fact that is a natural part of the storytelling process. But as Young presents it, there are no real white hats or dark ones; everyone suffers when communication breaks down. None of the characters in Gregorio Cortez seems larger than life - as a hero or a villain. And Cortez's role in the story changes throughout the film, depending on who's doing the talking. The actors' faces and performances, like the terrain of the film's setting, feel unadorned and decidedly untheatrical, which is no surprise from a seasoned documentarian. In fact, Gregorio Cortez is striking in its epic ordinariness, and it is out of a clear blue sky that the entire misadventure begins. Cortez's unhappy tale is thanks to the shortcomings of a translator who didn't understand the distinction in Spanish between "horse" (caballo) and "mare" (yegua). The sheriff, investigating accusations of horse theft, is instantly convinced of Cortez's guilt and comes after him with a gun, shooting Cortez's brother in the process. Cortez shoots and kills the sheriff and the hunt begins. Gregorio Cortez as a film, is as rooted in history as its subject matter. It was produced by activist/producer Moctesuma Esparza, with funding from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and based on With His Pistol in His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero by Américo Paredes. David Rosen writes in Chicanos and Film: Representation and Resistance (edited by Chon A. Noriega): "Like the film's wrongly accused hero, Esparza had been wrongly indicted by a Los Angeles grand jury during the 1960s because of his political activities. Esparza was committed to making a film that could speak to a broad, multiethnic, multilanguage audience about cultural misunderstanding. He saw the film as 'a project of the Chicano community, not for it.'" Gregorio Cortez was slated to have its initial debut on PBS' American Playhouse, but its producers insisted it be shot as a theatrical release, not a made-for-TV movie. So the film was shot in super 16mm and framed for an eventual 35mm blowup for the big screen. Another unconventional aspect to the production was the decision to do the film in English and Spanish without subtitles, replicating, for many viewers, the confusion the film's characters experienced. The film's producers, of which Olmos was one, had negotiated a contract requiring a theatrical premiere before the PBS premiere, but they didn't have much time. Just three weeks before the PBS airing, Olmos organized an unusual screening in San Antonio, Texas. With funding from La Raza and Esparza, he "four-walled" a theater-renting it out for free showings to encourage people to see it. According to David Rosen, "At the first screening...only two paying customers attended. By week's end, however, favorable word of mouth was drawing 250 people per screening." Once The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez had aired on PBS, it lost its status as "virgin property" and the prestige of its first window, so to find distribution, the producers had to prove there was a larger audience who wanted to see it. Another four-walled series of screenings took place in Los Angeles and caused such a stir that Embassy Pictures soon agreed to a distribution deal and a radical marketing approach. They hired the films' producers as well as community activists to employ a revolutionary grass-roots approach in developing a potential fan base for the film. Unfortunately, Embassy rushed the campaign and pulled the $1.3 million film after three months, disappointed with the returns. The producers managed to negotiate another distribution deal with Embassy and earned an additional $100,000 from the film. Though it wasn't a blockbuster by any means Gregorio Cortez received a wealth of critical acclaim, including the Los Angeles Times's review by Kevin Thomas: "A cordial welcome to Robert M. Young's Gregorio Cortez, which proves a relieving shot in the arm of a palsied, disfavored genre, drawing its narrative thrust from a popular Mexican corrido or folk-ballad woven around one of the most famous man-hunts in Texas history." Producers: Moctesuma Esparza, Michael Hausman Director: Robert M. Young Screenplay: Victor Villasenor; Robert M. Young (adaptation); Americo Paredes (book "With His Pistol in His Hands") Cinematography: Reynaldo Villalobos Art Direction: John Bertucci, Arthur Coburn, Richard Soto Music: W. Michael Lewis, Edward James Olmos Cast: Edward James Olmos (Gregorio Cortez), James Gammon (Sheriff Frank Fly), Tom Bower (Boone Choate), Bruce McGill (Reporter Blakely), Brion James (Captain Rogers), Alan Vint (Mike Trimmell), Timothy Scott (Sheriff Morris), Pepe Serna (Romaldo Cortez), Michael McGuire (Sheriff Glover), William Sanderson (Cowboy), Barry Corbin (Abernathy), Jack Kehoe (Prosecutor Pferson), Rosanna DeSoto (Carlota Munoz), Buddy Vigil (Skin), Zach Porter (Fly's Posse). C-104m. by Emily Soares

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1983

Released in United States June 1983

Released in United States September 1990

Released in United States January 1991

Shown at Munich Film Festival June 1983.

Shown at Museum of Modern Art, New York City in the series "American Playhouse Ten Years of Independent Filmmaking" September 14 & 15, 1990.

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States 1983

Released in United States June 1983 (Shown at Munich Film Festival June 1983.)

Released in United States September 1990 (Shown at Museum of Modern Art, New York City in the series "American Playhouse Ten Years of Independent Filmmaking" September 14 & 15, 1990.)

Released in United States January 1991 (Shown at Sundance Film Festival Park City, Utah January 17-27, 1991.)