With the recent release of Flamin’ Hot, Eva Longoria, the talented actor, producer,
makes her directorial debut telling us an inspirational Horatio Alger-like story with a
decided Mexican twist of Richard Montañez, the humble janitor working for Frito-Lay
who developed the spicy seasoning for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, America’s favorite snack
While the nuts-and-bolts facts surrounding the development of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are in dispute, Longoria doesn’t go into that aspect of the story but rather brings clear
focus the body and soul of this story which is Richard Montañez’s rags-to-riches, triumph over adversity buoyed by the strength of his Mexican heritage and close-knit family.
The Montañez Family trying to create the perfect slurry for the Cheetos
Jesse Garcia (The Avengers) gives an honest, sympathetic performance as Richard, a
young Mexican struggling to navigate and overcome the barriers of a troubled upbringing and systemic racism to realize his ambitions and dreams.
Annie Gonzalez (Gentefied, Vida) delivers an excellent performance as Judy, Richard’s wife who bolsters, encourages, scolds, and never loses faith in Richard. In many ways, Judy’s never faltering strength in this story is reminiscent of the tireless determination of the Mexican wives in the Herbert J. Biberman-directed feature The Salt of the Earth (1954) who were the driving force behind the copper miners strike in New Mexico.
Judy’s presence in the film reminds us that Mexican society is not necessarily a male-dominated, macho one, but more often a matriarchal hierarchy ruled by: las madres, abuelas, tias, hermanas, and comadres. At least that was the reality in my family.
Longoria’s even-handed directing style is crisp and fast-paced. She allows the story to evolve and reveal itself at its own chosen speed. There are no slow parts in Flamin’ Hot. The story is punctuated and rounded out by the casting of veteran character actors: Dennis Haysbert, Tony Shobeforeuloub, and Pepe Serna.
Flamin’ Hot was recently screened at the White House as part of the administration’s advocacy efforts to strengthen DACA and immigration reform. Alicia Menendez, host of MSNBC’s American Voices asked Longoria why she made Flamin’ Hot: “It’s a love letter to the Mexican American community”, said Longoria.
“When I think about tonight’s movie, I think about courage. So many of you, your ancestors left behind all that they knew to start a new life in the United States,” said President Biden as he addressed a crowd of over 900 people at The White House for the outdoor screening of the film for community, White House staff and press.
Flamin’ Hot is indeed a love letter to our community. But it is also a message to Hollywood we need to see more positive representations of Latinos in film, TV, and theater and we have exceptionally talented storytellers, like Eva Longoria, to bring those “love letters” to American audiences and beyond.
“Richard Montañez disrupted the food industry in the ‘90s by channeling his Mexican American heritage to help turn Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into a multi-billion-dollar brand today and a cultural phenomenon,” said Longoria “We are telling a story that celebrates the American entrepreneurial dream without sidestepping the fact that the dream isn’t available in the same way for everyone.”
Flamin’ Hot starring Jesse Garcia and Annie Gonzalez is currently streaming on Hulu and Disney+.
Produced in association with Latin Heat