AFI Movie Club: SELENA
A biopic of the beloved, Grammy® Award-winning Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, SELENA stars Jennifer Lopez in the lead role, alongside Edward James Olmos – an AFI Honorary Degree recipient and longtime AFI Trustee.
Movie Trivia about SELENA
-DID YOU KNOW that Selena’s family chose to make the movie as a pre-emptive strike since other unauthorized films about her life were already in production? Many Latino filmmakers, including Luis Valdez (LA BAMBA) and Edward James Olmos (AMERICAN ME), were considered to direct, but it was Selena’s family that chose Gregory Nava?
-DID YOU KNOW that writer/director Gregory Nava had to fight the studio to win Jennifer Lopez the role? Warner Bros. was originally considering non-Latinx actresses for the part.
-DID YOU KNOW that, by accepting the role in SELENA, Jennifer Lopez became the highest paid Latinx actress in Hollywood at the time?
-DID YOU KNOW that several Latinx advocacy groups objected to the casting of Jennifer Lopez, who was a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent instead of a Mexican American like Selena?
-DID YOU KNOW that to prepare for the part, Jennifer Lopez moved in with Selena’s sister Suzette Quintanilla in Corpus Christi to learn more about her and to make sure she portrayed the role authentically?
-DID YOU KNOW the famous concert scene where Selena sings at the Houston Astrodome was actually shot at the Alamodome in San Antonio in front of 30,000 fans? Speaking about the experience of performing on stage, Jennifer Lopez has said, “It was an incredible rush. I felt a lot of love from the crowd…I was a little overwhelmed.”
-DID YOU KNOW that Selena’s singing voice was used throughout to honor her and for her fans? Jennifer Lopez only sang three words in the entire film, “Como La Flor.”
-DID YOU KNOW that Constance Marie, the actress who plays Selena’s mother Marcela, was only four years older than her onscreen daughter in real life?
-DID YOU KNOW that Selena’s father Abraham wanted to remove the scene where Selena and Chris Pérez run off and get married because he didn’t want to encourage eloping among Selena’s young fans? However, writer/director Gregory Nava felt it was an important character development and kept it in the film.
-DID YOU KNOW that several members of Selena’s band, including singer/songwriter Pete Astudillo, writer Rick Vela and keyboard player Art Meza played themselves in the movie?
-DID YOU KNOW that writer/director Gregory Nava made the conscious choice not to depict Selena’s murder and instead use the cinematic device of a radio announcer? Nava said, “I didn’t want the movie to be about Yolanda. I wanted it to be about Selena.”
Learn more at the AFI Catalog.
The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions
-Why do you think Selena was such a cultural phenomenon? What did she as a person and her rise as a Tejano singer represent to the Latinx community?
-How did Selena break barriers for Mexican American female musicians? Why hadn’t a Tejano female singer broken into mainstream before?
-What did you think of the close ties between Selena and her family in the film? How did her relationship with each member of her family evolve personally and professionally as they grew up and began touring together?
-What did you think of Jennifer Lopez’s performance as Selena?
-What creative liberties did the film take with Selena’s story? Do you think the biopic portrayed her story authentically?
-Did you sympathize with members of the Latinx community who wanted a Mexican American actress to play the Tejano singer?
-Why do you think Abraham worried so much about Selena becoming romantically involved with Chris Pérez?
-How does the film depict discrimination against Mexican Americans, particularly when Selena goes to LA for the Grammys®?
-What do you think of the creative choice not the show the full confrontation between Yolanda and Selena and have the murder instead be announced over the radio?
-At the time of her passing, Selena was working on an English-language crossover album. What do you think she would have been able to accomplish if it wasn’t for her untimely death?
-How does Selena’s legacy live on to this day both in her hometown of Corpus Christi, TX, and to her millions of fans around the world?
-How would you rate SELENA?
In this exclusive AFI Archive clip, director Gregory Nava talks about the music in SELENA:
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