Virtual KCET Cinema Series

Critical Thinking Post Screening Q&A

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FILM: 7:00 PM (PDT) | Q&A: 9:00 PM (PDT)

Mario Martinez (John Leguizamo) is a teacher at Miami Jackson Senior High School in 1998, who uses chess to help students in his "Critical Thinking" class learn how to focus mentally on their goals in life. Determined to excel in the game, the school’s chess club, comprised of Black and Latino students, becomes the first inner city team to win the U.S. National Chess Championship. The film marks the directorial debut of actor John Leguizamo.

Q&A immediately following the screening with director/actor/co-executive producer John Leguizamo


JOHN LEGUIZAMO- Director/Actor/Co-Executive Producer

Leguizamo was born in Bogotá, Colombia, when he was four his family emigrated to the United States. He was raised in Queens, New York, attended New York University and studied under legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg for only one day before Strasberg passed away. The extroverted Leguizamo started working the comedy club circuit in New York and first appeared in front of the cameras in an episode of Miami Vice. His first film appearance was in Mixed Blood, followed by roles in Casualties of War, Die Hard, and Regarding Henry. His career really soared with his performance in the independent film Hangin' with the Homeboys.

Fast-talking Leguizamo continued to impress movie audiences with his versatility: cold-blooded killers like Benny Blanco in Carlito's Way; a heroic Army Green Beret, in Executive Decision; and drag queen Chi-Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. He voiced Sid in the animated Ice Age, co-starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Collateral Damage, and directed and starred in the boxing film Undefeated. He starred in the remake of the John Carpenter hit Assault on Precinct 13 and George A. Romero's long-awaited fourth "Dead" film.

In 1991 he was back on stage with his show John Leguizamo: Mambo Mouth, in which he portrayed seven different Latino characters. The show was a hit, and won the Obie and Outer Circle Critics Award, and later was filmed for HBO. In 1995 he created and starred in the short-lived TV series House of Buggin', an all-Latino-cast comedy variety. Leguizamo continues his work in films, with key appearances in Super Mario Bros., Romeo + Juliet and Spawn. In 1998 he made his Broadway debut in John Leguizamo: Freak, a "demi-semi-quasi-pseudo-autobiographical" one-man show, which was filmed for HBO by Spike Lee.

There can be no doubt that the remarkably talented Leguizamo has been a breakthrough performer for the Latino community in mainstream Hollywood, in much the same way that Sidney Poitier crashed through celluloid barriers for African-Americans in the early 1960s.

PETE HAMMOND - Host of the KCET Cinema Series

Pete is currently the Chief Film Critic for Deadline Hollywood. For the past 9 years he has also been Awards Editor and Columnist for Deadline where he covers the Oscar and Emmy Seasons. He came to Deadline from the Los Angeles Times where he covered the awards seasons for The Envelope and LA He is widely considered to be one of the pre-eminent awards season analysts for film and television.