A companion piece to topical, award-winning triumph The Big Short ( though, as opposed to it, this is seen through the eyes of ‘the people’) California Winter– available this month On Demand from Indie Rights – tells of an ambitious young real estate agent who must fight to save her integrity and her father’s home from foreclosure when the risky loan she advised him on send his home into foreclosure.
Golden Globe Winner Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) features alongside Michael Ironside (The Flash), A Martinez (Longmire), Rutina Wesley (True Blood), Walter Perez (The Avengers), Erik Avari (Hachi : A Dog’s Tale), and Elizabeth Dominguez in an Odin Ozdil film.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Odin Ozdil
At the height of the housing boom of 2005, Mexican-American, Clara Morales is a real estate agent full of ambition, building a career by enticing Latino clients to take out subprime loans that she doesn’t understand. She even convinces her cautious father, Papi, to refinance the family home to pay for her mother’s medical bills.
When the 2008 crash hits, Papi, now grieving the death of his wife, is devastated when his home goes into foreclosure – and he holds Clara responsible. As he lets his own health slide, Clara must now fight to prove herself to him by saving her childhood home and winning back the trust of her community. At the same time, she must outwit a devious coworker to hold onto her job at her a downsizing workplace.
One positive aspect to her life is a burgeoning romance with her bank representative, another first-generation Mexican named Carlos. However, with her father’s eviction date around the corner, Clara makes a reckless play to acquire a new client in the hope of paying off Papi’s home. This backfires and she loses her job and her new romantic relationship becomes even more complicated. Saving the home now seems more impossible than ever. Under these circumstances, all the experiences common to being a 20-something are exponentially more difficult for Clara. Anxiety becomes the new norm.
Ultimately, Clara and her father realize that although they have made some bad decisions along the way, they need to make peace and put the past behind them, and they enact a final and desperate plan to save their home and face off against the local sheriff.
A timely, heartfelt story about realizing how personal choices and family can be stronger than any force working against you
My first direct exposure to the housing crisis was in early 2009, when I worked as a cameraman on a documentary about Latino families in foreclosure. Witnessing people’s bafflement, panic and grief in the face of losing their homes had a powerful effect on me. The emotional fallout from the crash became the lens through which I viewed events as they unfolded, and it was this that inspired me to write the script. I strongly felt that in the media, the human stories of ordinary people’s loss were overshadowed by a focus on the big business machinations that caused the crash.
Recent films like The Big Short, Margin Call and Too Big to Fail show us the drama that took place at the top of the pyramid where billions of dollars were at stake. They’re set in the Ivory Towers of Wall Street and the back room offices of government. I wanted to make a film that could take place in any community, in any city in America. The monetary amounts may seem paltry in the scale of things, but for each of those families, the stakes were just as high.
In California Winter, we see the devastating impact of the financial crisis on a Latino community through the eyes of a father and daughter. Clara and Papi, already grieving the loss of Clara’s mother, struggle to connect as they deal with financial pressures and decision-making under stress as the world around them seems to fall apart. Every potential avenue of relief is blocked, simple interactions negatively construed in the most personal terms.
In deciding how to portray the experience of everyday Americans and explore how millions of people could sleepwalk into a financial trap in pursuit of the American Dream, I decided upon the setting of a mixed-generation immigrant household. This was an important choice for me. It allowed me to draw on my own experience growing up in a Sephardic-Turkish-American household to show the inner lives of families rarely seen on screen, and depict the kind of nuances and complex, specific challenges that inform what’s one version of the “average American family.” The culture clashes and language barriers inherent in bilingual homes add to the potential for drama and empathy, as we realize that many of the homeowners affected literally didn’t understand what they were getting into and fell for propaganda, bad information and outright lies.
Ultimately, I believe commonality of experience overshadows differences in culture, and that films like California Winter can help bridge the perceived divide between people of different backgrounds that coexist in our country. At a time when minority representation on screen is a hot button topic, I’m proud to say California Winter would score top marks on the Bechdel test or any other so-called “people of color” analysis. With California Winter, I wanted to create the type of content I believe audiences are crying out for – good stories with relatable characters that are seldom portrayed onscreen.
Long after Wall Street has recovered and turns record profits, banks continue to enforce predatory policies and tough times continue for many. We still fail to recognize the importance of empathy as a core value – one that should drive decision-making at the highest level. If we could only get there, perhaps risk aversion could become more engrained in regulatory policy, and we could mitigate future crises. I hope people can connect to the story of the characters in California Winter and are encouraged to question the actions of our most rich and powerful institutions, especially when they don’t value or exhibit the most important of human elements – family, honor, love and self-reflection.