Q&A with “Backstreet to the American Dream” director Patricia Nazario
The food truck revolution, which began as a grassroots movement for struggling chefs and working-class families, is now a billion dollar industry. Truck parades offering endless varieties of cuisines now dot the streets of nearly every major city, redefining our idea of the American melting pot. Intrigued by the intersection of food, culture, and microeconomies that have emerged from this growing industry, the local TV news veteran Patricia nazario set out to tell the stories of the food truck vendors. Nazario makes her directorial debut with “Backstreet to the American Dream», A new documentary featuring a Los Angeles mariscos truck parked in the same location since 1982. As part of Latina’s partnership with GLAFF, writer Josef Rodriguez spoke with director Patricia Nazario. The two discuss where the food truck industry is heading, what these changes mean for working-class Mexican families, and how her investigative expertise has helped her tell this story. one of a kind.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
Food trucks exist as small economies within metropolitan areas. How did that inspire the film and the direction you decided to pursue?
Traditionally, food trucks are family savings. Food trucks are family businesses that employ their children. This is how [owners] pay off their mortgage, send their kids to school, buy their clothes and how their kids get their pocket money. It’s very self-contained that way. When you look at the more pop-culture model, you have either companies that have gotten into the food truck industry or since the Kogi. [Korean BBQ] boom, people who have followed some kind of cookie-cutter model that has been a route to the mainstream that way. There’s an informal economy, the mom-and-pop side, and there’s another side that’s much more mainstream and a product of pop culture.
It is a growing concern that established businesses are moving towards the food truck. What will happen to the smaller mom-and-pop food trucks as large companies continue to occupy this space more and more?
Now that more and more people are entering the industry, are they going to break what was? I think the bottom line is the price. The people in the Doña Guille neighborhood don’t pay $ 12 and $ 18 for a burrito or a taco, and they don’t even pay $ 6 for a taco. They pay something like $ 2.50. When you go somewhere that [advertises] authentic or street, you could probably get a better deal if you are in the neighborhood. If you’re going through town to get to the business district or the nightclub district, you’re going to pay more. It’s kind of like your fancy truck model. The traditional truck targets this worker or the inhabitants of the neighborhood.
In “Backstreet to the American Dream” we observe the tradition of Doña Guille lonchera and mariscos a truck. It parks in southern LA, an autonomous economy, where its clientele is 100% immigrants, 100% Latino. In this community you will drive down the street and see cars parked after cars [because] there is an exchange where you can buy used shoes and clothes. In addition, there are street vendors outside the exchange meeting with their wares spread out on the sidewalk.
Why have these trucks become such a phenomenon? Why have so many people decided to bet on a food truck as a business?
In the documentary, we profile Grill them all, winners of the first season of “Food Network”The great food truck race. “The show premiered in 2010; Chef Roy Choi founded Kogi Korean BBQ truck in 2008. From 2008 to 2010, there was an underground wave of food trucks when content producers got the wind and decided to do a TV show when they were new, hip and nervous.
People saw Chef Choi’s success and wanted a piece. This included Ryan Harkins and his pal Matt, the two co-founders of Grill ‘Em All. Ryan says they started the food truck because they didn’t have the money to start a restaurant. In 2009, they decided to launch their truck when they each obtained a loan of $ 5,000 from their parents. With $ 10,000, they were able to put [a deposit] get into the truck and get their initial expenses, groceries and supplies. They went out into the street and started selling.
You can’t do that with a restaurant. Starting them is expensive and the risk of failure is enormous. You need to come up with the license fee, the first and last month’s rent and the security deposit. If you want to sell alcohol, there are additional expenses. There is no comparison.
What keeps them coming back to the customer experience?
It’s the food. Grill Em ‘All created an overnight sensation in pop culture. You saw these guys win on TV [and then] you could go to their truck, stand in line, talk to them and order their burger. They tell you what their latest concoction is and people are blown away. I want this one, you know? So there’s this thrilling experience of interacting with a celebrity and it’s appealing to people.
It’s not like that for the El Pescadito truck at all, but [Doña Guille] makes everyone feel so special. She’s been parked at the same location since 1982. Once, while filming, she was cooking food and asked her son, “Is this this one for Clemente?” And he said yes. I asked, “Well, how do you know what Clemente wants? She took a hit, walked over to the window and said, “Clemente, how long have I known you?” Clemente says, “Oh, 20 years old.” And she said, “Even longer.”
You have these two worlds with different kinds of connections that people are looking for. Doña Guille’s world is more familiar, she is like a sweet grandmother. All she does is taste her food while she prepares it, making sure it tastes good, and then she will serve it. And with Ryan, you have a connection to pop culture that people thrive on. Either way, the food is delicious.
What was your approach in terms of the style of the film? There are plenty of portable images on the fly in the trailer. I’d love to know more about how you conceptualized the film visually and what that process was like for you.
I looked at my experience with local television, where I worked for about 10 years. I was a one-man band and ENG [Electronic News Gathering] journalist for two and a half years. It was all ENG style because that’s what I know. I didn’t have a DP because I didn’t have the budget for one. Plus you don’t have space for much more [equipment] with that kind of story. It must have been a person inside a truck with a monopod and a portable camera. I attached a wide angle lens camera to the camera and was able to get more depth of field.
In post-production, did any stories come up that you might not have expected?
Honestly, the whole social justice angle. [This project] started in 2010 when food trucks were so popular. When I started getting into the traditional side, I knew I wanted to find someone who had been parking in the same spot for years. In Los Angeles, it’s an old-fashioned model. Once I found this person and their truck, I began to learn about their history, the history of police harassment and the political maneuvers that try to marginalize the industry and make these family trucks disappear.
At the end of the day, we have something that speaks to different people in different ways. Here at Newport Beach Film Festival, we are under the culinary canopy. We just got back from New York for another festival called the United Workers Film Festival. What is the [programmers] seen [in the film] was economic discrimination and workers’ rights. We have Dolores Huerta as an executive producer, which I think also speaks to the social justice aspect. I didn’t go for this, [but] when i look at it now i think, oh yeah, it has a strong social justice tone to it.
The film is more about who these people are than about the food itself. At what point were you like, okay, I kind of have to switch here in this new story?
From my years as a journalist, telling stories and working on television and radio, I knew what makes a good story. The industry and the immigrant experience needed to be humanized, but accessing it was difficult. When I was trying to find this traditional model, I mostly found men who drove these trucks. I tried two or three different men, and it didn’t work [well]. As a reporter, I knew I needed more access, but it was weird. I come with this camera and I also say to myself: “I want to go to your place and meet your wife”. At one point, I thought the story was not going to pass. When I found Doña Guille, she said to me: “Obviously you can come to my house and meet my family. “
About the Guadalajara Film Festival:
The festival’s mission is to show the best of Latin cinema and its creators, in order to cultivate relationships for an industry without borders. He hopes to become the bridge that maintains the roots and customs of each of the nations involved.
GLAFF exists to recognize, nurture and empower all generations of Latin American and BIPOC filmmakers around the world.
The festival will take place in Los Angeles from Thursday, November 4e – Saturday November 6e 2021. For more information, please visit http://glaff.org/