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My Family

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gregory Nava
Produced by Executive Producers:
Francis Ford Coppola
Guy East
Tom Luddy
Sergio Molina
Lindsay Law
Anna Thomas
Associate Producer:
Nancy De Los Santos
Written by Gregory Nava
Anna Thomas
Narrated by Edward James Olmos
Starring Jimmy Smits
Edward James Olmos
Esai Morales
Music by Orchestral:
Mark McKenzie
Folk Music:
Pepe Ávila
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Jason Poteet
Editing by Nancy Richardson
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) May 3, 1995
Running time 126 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5,500,000,

My Family (1995) is an American drama film directed by Gregory Nava and written by Nava and Anna Thomas. The motion picture stars Jimmy Smits, Edward James Olmos, Esai Morales, and others. It also features Jennifer Lopez in her first film role.[1]

The film tracks three generations of a Mexican-American family that emigrated from Mexico and settled in East Los Angeles. The life story of Jimmy Sanchez in the final part of the film is inspired from Satyajit Ray's 1959 film Apur Sansar.



The story of this is narrated by the family's eldest son, Paco (Edward James Olmos). The film begins with the father of the family, José Sanchez (Jacob Vargas), making a journey that lasts one year on foot from Mexico to Los Angeles. He travels to Los Angeles to meet a distant relative known as El Californio, who was born in the city when it was still part of Mexico. They become fast friends and grow a corn farm together. However, after several years, El Californio nears death. Shortly before dying, El Californio says he wants the following written on his tombstone:

When I was born here, this was Mexico, and where I lie, this is still Mexico.

José meets and marries the love of his life, María (Jennifer Lopez), an American citizen. After María is illegally deported to Mexico by the U.S. federal government in a mass roundup, she makes it back to Los Angeles via a long and arduous trip two years later, where she returns home with their new son Chucho.

Jimmy Smits as Jimmy Sanchez and his son, Carlitos.

Next, it's almost twenty years later in the 1950s and eldest daughter Irene (now played by Maria Canals Barrera) is getting married. Chucho (Esai Morales) and Paco the Narrator (now played by Benito Martinez) have grown up. New additions to the family include Toni (Constance Marie), Guillermo a.k.a. Memo (played by Greg Albert as a child, and by Enrique Castillo as an adult), and brother Jimmy (Jonathan Hernandez and Jimmy Smits as an adult).

The film begins to gain momentum after the wedding, when a series of events seal Chucho's fate. One night at a dance hall, Chucho is dancing with his girlfriend, when his rival Butch Mejia (Michael DeLorenzo) starts to bother him. This results in a bloody knife fight between the two, and Chucho accidentally kills him. After this event, Chucho becomes a fugitive by the police. One night when Jimmy is playing ball with his friends, Chucho is shot dead by the LAPD before Jimmy's eyes, other members of the family learn of Chucho's death also, when they hear gunshots and rush to a nearby street, where they all find his dead body. As an ambulance arrives to take Chucho's lifeless body away, we hear Paco narrate how Chucho's fate had been on borrowed time.

The third generation, which takes place another twenty years later in the 1970s, faces situations such as acculturation, assimilation, and past problems of the family.

Jimmy (now played by Jimmy Smits) completes a stint in jail and returns home. It is revealed that after Chucho's death 20 years back, Jimmy became an angry man following in his footsteps becoming a fugitive like him. One day, Toni visits the Sanchez home and stuns her parents with the news that she is no longer a nun and has married a priest named David Ronconi (Scott Bakula). In a telling scene Isabel (Elpidia Carrillo), Jimmy Sanchez's wife (a Salvadoran refugee), who he married so she wouldn't be deported, comes up to him and changes the music in the cassette-player. She tries to get him to dance with her, on the street. At first he doesn't want to and he's not sure he loves her, but she finally succeeds. He asks her at the end of the song, "Will you teach me how to salsa?" It is here that they fall in love for the first time. This scene serves as a metaphor for the continuation of the Sanchez family.

Soon Isabel becomes pregnant, and when she gives birth to their son, Carlitos, she unexpectedly dies. Enraged, Jimmy attacks the doctor, he blames for her death, burglarizes a store, and is jailed, leaving his son to be raised by his parents. When Jimmy gets out of prison, he initially doesn't want anything to do with his son who now has behavior problems. When Jimmy finally sees his son, he is filled with joy and immediately wants to care for him. However, his son hates him. The remainder of the movie primarily focuses on Jimmy's attempts to form a loving relationship with his estranged son. After much conflict, Jimmy's son eventually accepts him and moves with Jimmy to San Antonio for a job. The film concludes with Jose and Maria reminising about their past as Jose says "God has been good to us, we've been very lucky, and our life it has been very...very good" and the camera pans to a shot of contemporary Los Angeles.



While the film was distributed by New Line Cinema, many production companies were involved in the making of the film. The include: American Playhouse, Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope, Majestic Films International, and Newcomb Productions.

Gregory Nava has stated that the film has autobiographic overtones, but the film was more inspirational rather than specific. Nava says, "A lot of the specifics came from other families when I was doing research for the film in East Los Angeles."[2]

The final scene is duplicated shot-for-shot from the final scene of Satyajit Ray's 1959 film Apur Sansar (The World of Apu).[3]


Filming locations

The film was filmed in both California and Mexico. In California locations include: Agoura Hills and Los Angeles, California. In Mexico locations include: Ocumicho, Patamba, and Pátzcuaro, all in the state of Michoacán, Mexico.

Critical reception

Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, liked the direction of the film, and wrote, "Their story is told in images of startling beauty and great overflowing energy; it is rare to hear so much laughter from an audience that is also sometimes moved to tears. Few movies like this get made because few filmmakers have the ambition to open their arms wide and embrace so much life."[4]

Film critics Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, who write for the web based Spirituality and Practice, liked the film, the acting and the direction of the film. They wrote, "My Family is a touching and often mystical portrait of a multi-generational Mexican-American family in East Los Angeles...Director Gregory Nava (El Norte) does a fine job orchestrating the many events in this emotionally resonant drama."[5]

But not all were so kind. Caryn James, in a film review in The New York Times wrote the film was "wildly uneven" and "offers a trite, overblown narration by Edward James Olmos and an often flagging sense of drama." She was also not happy with Nava's direction and wrote, "[Nava] seems so enamored of the texture of Mexican-American life that he glides past any sense of character."[6] Yet, she was very complementary of Jimmy Smits' performance.

Currently, the film has an 80% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on ten reviews.[7]


The film opened in the United States in wide release on May 3, 1995. In the United Kingdom it opened on October 6, 1995.

The film was screened at a few film festivals including the Donostia-San Sebastián International Film Festival, Spain.

Sales at the box-office were lackluster. The first week's gross was $2,164,840 and the total receipts for the run were $11,079,373.[8] The budget of the film is estimated at $5,500,000.

Video and DVD

A video was released April 8, 1997 and a DVD version was released on June 9, 2004 by New Line Home Video.

A Spanish version video was also released.


For the original motion picture soundtrack the producers include a cross section of Latino music, including a merengue and a mambo.

The song "Angel Baby" by Rosie and the Originals, is included as well, sung by Exposé vocalist Jeanette Jurado. In the movie, Jurado made a cameo appearance as Rosie Hamlin performing the song.

A CD was released on April 25, 1995 on the Nonesuch Records label. The CD contains fourteen tracks including the main title theme written by Mark McKenzie and Pepe Avila. Gregory Nava wrote the liner notes for the CD.

Track listing

# Title
1. "Main Title Theme from My Family (Mark Mc Kenzie & Pepe Avila)
2. "Rosa De Castilla" (Los Folkloristas)
3. "Angel Baby" (Jeanette Jurado)
4. "Que Rico El Mambo" (Perez Prado)
5. "One Summer Night" (All-4-One)
6. "Celoso" (Maná)
7. "Down On The Riverbed" (Los Lobos)
8. "Tu', Solo Tu'" (Pedro Infante)
9. "I'm Your Puppet" (James & Bobby Purify)
10. "Guavaberry" (Juan Luis Guerra)
11. "Konex, Konex" (Los Folkloristas)
12. "Senorita" (Juan Luis Guerra)
13. "Zappa Mambo" (Banda Machos)
14. "Flor De Canela" (Gerado Tamez and Mark Mc Kenzie)
Mark McKenzie's Con Passione CD cover.

Con Passione

Composer Mark McKenzie also released Con Passione (2001), a CD that contains various music he has written for films including seven tracks for My Family.[9]

Track list

  • 10. "My Family/Mi Familia Main Titles" (2:25)
  • 11. "The River" (2:50)
  • 12. "Train Deportation" (1:21)
  • 13. "Chuchos's Nightmare" (1:47)
  • 14. "I Know You" (:46)
  • 15. "The Owl/No One Really Cares" (1:42)
  • 16. "God Has Been Good to Us" (1:41)




  • Casting Society of America: Artios Award; Best Casting for Feature Film, Best Casting for Drama Feature Film, Jane Jenkins, Janet Hirshenson, and Roger Mussenden; 1995.
  • Donostia-San Sebastián International Film Festival: Golden Seashell; Gregory Nava; 1995.
  • Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Make-Up, Best Makeup, Ken Diaz and Mark Sanchez; 1996.
  • Independent Spirit Awards: Independent Spirit Award; Best Male Lead, Jimmy Smits; Best Supporting Female, Jennifer Lopez; 1996.


  1. ^ My Family at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Cineaste interview with Gregory Nava.
  3. ^ My Family, IMDb, ibid.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, May 3, 1995.
  5. ^ Brussat, Frederic and Mary Ann. Spirituality and Practice, film review. Last accessed: December 8, 2007.
  6. ^ James, Caryn. The New York Times, film review, May 3, 1995.
  7. ^ My Family at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: November 22, 2007.
  8. ^ The Numbers box office data.
  9. ^ Lindahl, Andreas. Score Reviews, review of McKenzie's soundtrack.

External links


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