"Fillly Brown," the film starring the late singer Jenni Rivera, opens in nearly 200 theaters today across the country.
The movie, about a struggling Latina rapper played by Gina Rodriguez, features the Long Beach-born Rivera portraying the drug-addicted mother of the central character, a role that drew major attention at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. The film also stars Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips.
The cast, family, friends and fans have continued to pay tribute to Rivera who died last year on Dec. 9, when her small plane crashed in Mexico shortly after a concert in Monterrey. The singer was best known for her success in regional Mexican music in addition to other business ventures from beauty products to hosting her own radio show.
On Wednesday most of the Rivera family, including the singer's children, attended a screening at the Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14. The film's distributor, Pantelion Films, invited hundreds of fans who lined up to see the movie and Rivera's feature film debut.
For Pedro Rivera, the singer's father, it was a day to focus on his daughter's accomplishments as an entertainer, entrepreneur and actress.
"She had love for her fans," said Pedro Rivera, as he took time to greet members of the press before the screening. "When someone is so passionate and loves what they do the results speak for themselves."
James M. McNamara, Pantelion’s chairman, also attended the film’s premiere and concedes that “Filly Brown” will be seen by the enthusiastic fans of Jenni Rivera in cities such as LosAngeles, San Francisco, Houston and Phoenix, cities with large Latino populations.
“What we’ve tried to do is tap into that tremendous fan base that Jenni had,” McNamara said. “Those fans have reacted positively to the film. She’s a very good actress.”
While the film is relying on a traditional marketing campaign with the support of ads on TV, radio and social media, McNamara said that “Filly Brown” recently benefited from Univision’s reality show “Nuestra Belleza Latina” (Our Beautiful Latina) which featured a “Filly Brown” tie-in giving contestants the opportunity to act a scene out using clips from the film.
"Filly Brown" producer Amir Delara, owner of Cima Productions, says that his belief in the film startedfive years ago when the project was first being developed. Rivera's participation in the project elevated it to another level.
"Jenni personally told me that she was excited to start this chapter in her life," Delara said. "She said that music was in her heart, but acting was something new for her and she really enjoyed the experience. She was a true superstar."
The film's co-director Michael D. Olmos said that working with Rivera was a highlight especially when his father Edward James Olmos and Rivera recorded the duet "Hurts So Bad,” which now is being held for another Rivera project, but the song can be heard in the film. The film's soundtrack, featuring artists such as Slow Pain, Braxton Millz and Dominator, among others, was produced by the husband and wife team Lisa "Khool-Aid" Rios and Edward "E-Dub" Rios.
For Edward James Olmos, seeing Rivera work in a studio was also an experience that gave him a front row to her process as a recording artist.
"She's so comfortable in the studio," Olmos said. “She was also comfortable on the set, but in thestudio she is serene, almost spiritual.”
For Rodriguez, promoting the film in recent weeks has been bittersweet, but believes that Rivera's work and legacy will live on as someone who championed important causes which ultimately empowered women.
"This is a movie that I will be able to cherish for the rest of my life knowing that I got to meet Jenni Rivera," Rodriguez said. " She wasvery good to me, kind and generous."