Uniting the Four Corners
On the evening of Tuesday, September 26th, Santa Monica College hosted a screening of the documentary West Los. “I’m not Charlie from Culver City, I’m just Charlie.” Charlie Chacon, a first time filmmaker from Culver City, says this to highlight why he is making this documentary. He has spent the last three years trying to create a film about how the lowrider culture within West Los Angeles was a way to unite former rival neighborhoods. Specifically, what he referred to as The Four Corners, from Pico in Santa Monica, Culver City, Venice, and West LA. Gentrification of these areas is displacing Latinos and low income families who can no longer afford to live there. Chacon is using the film as a way to educate people about this growing issue and to unite these communities to fight for their heritage. The film is still in the process of production. The event itself featured the trailer from the film, a discussion with Chacon about the film, and a Q&A segment.
Before the trailer for the film is shown, Charlie Chacon explained the mission of his documentary. He explains why he wants to bring the ‘four corners’ together. He talks about growing up on the streets of Culver City and how he only saw “what was going on in the street and lowriding”. Chacon sees lowriders, a style of cars that originated in Los Angeles within Mexican-American barrios, as a way to unite these conflicting neighborhoods. He has been working on the film for the last three years with many challenges, due to a lack of trust because of where he is from. Though he is slowly gaining trust, Chacon hopes to complete the film as soon as possible.
The documentary stars Danny Trejo, who is a Mexican American actor born in Echo Park, California. He spent much of the 1960’s in and out of prison before getting his life back on track and becoming a Hollywood actor. The film mostly features residents of the four barrios. They talk about how murals and art works defining the Hispanic American culture are being replaced or painted over without anyone from those communities being notified. All of these rival neighborhoods have a shared love for their communities, their heritage, and a love for lowriders.
The lowrider culture brings the Hispanic community together. Instead of continuing this generational hatred for each other, Chacon wants to highlight their cultural similarities. He aspires to remind the Latino community in West Los Angeles that they have a shared history and they need to come together to preserve it. He introduces several people who either helped with the making of the film or influenced his decision to create it. One of these people is Ernie Gonzalez who is a part of the hip hop group, Proper Dos. Chacon explained how when Proper Dos came out with its first album in 1992, Mexican Power, no one from his neighborhood would buy it because he was from a rival section of West LA. He now believes they should have bought the album to help build the career of a fellow Latino. Gonzalez agreed and spoke about why he named his album Mexican Power. He wanted it to not be about one area but about the entire Mexican American community here in California. The two men are now friends and Gonzalez appears in the film as a sign of solidarity.
The film has taken Chacon nearly three years to complete and he is still working to finish it. He has faced numerous challenges trying to gain trust from people who grew up hating him because of the street he lived on. He hopes his film will inspire the Hispanic American community to come together to stop gentrification in their neighborhoods and to preserve their culture and heritage. You can see the trailer and support the filmmaker by going to his Facebook page, West Los the Documentary.