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INT. DRUMMING CIRCLE. NIGHT.

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San Juan, Puerto Rico. 1922.

Like something out of Africa we hear this amazing drumming. A drumming that makes your blood hum and your bones tremble. Black men and women dance around a bonfire with skulls and beads surrounding. A chicken flaps its wings throwing feathers and dust into the air. ALTAGRACIA 60, an older matriarch type, holds a cigar and begins to blow smoke at the other members as they all chant "Yamaya, yemaya, wowoo wowoo, yemaya yemaya".

2 INT. RIVERA HOUSE. MARQUITA’S ROOM. NIGHT.

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Marquita Rivera 7, lies in bed bored. She can’t sleep in her perfect little girls room surrounded by dolls. She gets out of her big bed and walks to the window. She stares at the moon that is the size of big arepa.

Her attention diverts to a faint sound that she hears off in the distance. A very faint drumming. Barely audible, only discernable by the youngest of ears. She looks over to the distance and sees the maids house with a flickering lights and smoke emerging from behind.

She’s curious.

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Oooow, oooww yemaya yemaya. Altagracia is now in peak trance and raises the chicken and with a knife slices its throat spraying blood all over the members of the group. The chicken flaps its wings.

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3 INT. DRUMMING CIRCLE. NIGHT.

4 EXT. RIVERA HOUSE. NIGHT

Little Marquita steps out into the night with the sounds of coqui, coqui. She walks closer and closer to the maids

quarters, the light getting brighter getting more and more frenetic.

Suddenly. A headless chicken comes running out from behind the house. She stops in fright but can’t look away. The headless chicken runs around flapping its wings and stumbles around, almost dancing with the music, and then eventually falls dead. Most little girls would run away in fright. Not Marquita. She continues towards the house and eventually looks in.

The drumming

2.

5 INT. DRUMMING CIRCLE. NIGHT.

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The mood is now a little lighter and Altagracia drinks some rum and dances. She sees little Marquita starring in the corner. She gives her a big toothless smile and licks her lips.

ALTAGRACIA Ven. (come)

Marquita is frozen not sure what to do.

ALTAGRACIA Ven mi amor. No pasa nada.

Marquita timidly walks towards the matriarch. The drummers are shocked to see a white little girl in their midst. Especially the daughter of the land owner. They stop drumming one by one. Altagracia rubs her head in a motherly way.

ALTAGRACIA Escuchaste la música. La música te llamo porqué eres fuerte. Solo las personas muy valientes escuchen el llamado del tambor.

She pours a cup of rum. Croutches down.

ALTAGRACIA Toma. Es tu herencia.

Marquita takes the cup ceremoniously. Drinks and immediately sprays the rum all over Altagracia face and coughs. Altagracia laughs.

MARQUITA

Lo siento.

ALTAGRACIA No te preocupes. Hiciste bien.

They both smile at each other with wet faces. Suddenly Altagracia stands up and screams

ALTAGRACIA

Tambooooor!

And with that, the drums take off wickedly fast with some hollering.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

3.

ALTRACIA Habrá se hacía fuego!

She takes Marquita arms and opens them to the fire and drums. She closes her eyes.

ALTAGRACIA Siente ese tambor!

Marquita in a frightened trance obeys. Altagracia takes a long pull from her cigar and crouches down to the little girl.

Respira

ALTAGRACIA

As Marquita breathes in Altagracia slowly blows smoke into her face. Marquita is posesed with the spirits of Africa entering her body and transforming her soul.

Her feet begin to stomp.

6 EXT. TOLUCA, LOS ANGELES 2002. FREEWAY.

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A Prius cruises through a highway. JIM 40 talks on a cell phone with her sister. He’s a bit scruffy and looks a little stressed from too many frapaccinos.

JIM Yea I’m almost there

stay too long I have a call back in Venice. Look I’m sorry alright these things come up. Yea I know you got kids ok I’m trying here. We’ll get her to sign don’t worry.

You know I’m her favorite. Ok love ya sis.

I can’t

He smiles and turns up the Marc Anthony on the radio and sings.

He pulls into the Toluca Assisted living Center.

7 INT. TOLUCA ASSISTED LIVING CENTER. DAY.

JIM Margaret Biscardi.

RECEPTIONIST

Room 237.

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4.

8 INT. ROOM 237.

Jim knocks and enters

Mama.

JIM

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No one there. He looks at a few picture frames of a large family. Some black n white photos. On her bed he sees an old scrap book with newspaper clippings. He’s about to turn the page and suddenly the door opens. An elderly black woman BETTY 84 enters with her walker. Betty is startled.

JIM I’m sorry, am I in the right room?I’m looking for Margaret Biscardi.

BETTY Yes this is her room. Who are you?

JIM Her son Jim.

BETTY oh yes she told me about you. The actor.

JIM Yea. Is she around do you know?

BETTY I believe she’s at the show.

JIM

The show?

9 INT MUSIC ROOM.

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Jim enters the music room filled with old people. He scans the room but doesn’t see his mother anywhere. An announcer emerges.

ANNOUNCER Welcome to the Toluca assisted living talent show. today we have a special treat for you. All the way from Puerto Rico. The queen of the conga. The Latin hurricane. Marquita Rivera!

He takes a piece of paper with the words Latin Hurricane drawn with crayon and places it on the wall. He then walks over to the stereo picks up an iPhone and starts fiddling.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

5.

ANNOUNCER These things always get me. Hold on.

He fingers with it some more then an old Cuban Pete song comes on from the little stereo and echoes into the room. He raises the volume.

Out from behind a curtain comes Marquita 79. Smiling joyously. She walks around the room. Slowly, given her age. Dressed in colorful scarves. Bells on her feet. Everyone in the room perks up. Jim is flabbergasted. He sits down.

Ma?

JIM

An elderly man GUS 85, overhears him.

GUS Oh you must be Jim. I’m Gus. I once saw your mother dancing at the palladium in 1939. Man she was something. Marquita Rivera

JIM I think your mistaken. My mother never danced at the Palladium. And its Margaret Rivera Biscardi.

GUS Yea Marquita Rivera that’s her. The Latin hurricane. I know those moves anywhere. One time she was with Ricky. I mean Desi. You know. And wow she had all those old Jews with their mouths open. The way she moved. It was something. Of course for 80 she’s not half bad. Funny how life is you know.

Jim is confused and just watches as his old skinny mother twists and turns getting more and more alive.

Finally they lock eyes. She smiles and dances over to him. She waves her scarves in his face. Someone notices.

SENIOR Oh boy Marquita likes them young.

MARQUITA He’s my son silly.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

6.

JIM Ma what are you doing?

MARQUITA Can’t you see I’m dancing. This is what I was born to do.

JIM Please your embarrassing me.

MARQUITA Just like your father. I thought you took after me.

She takes off and continues her dance. Jim just watched amazed.

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A young teenage Latino bangs on garbage cans with sticks. Other friends stand around watching and playing with pots, pans and shakers. Marquita 12. Emerges and dances. Hollering from the crowd.

10 EXT. LOWER EAST SIDE 1929. DAY

CROWD Go Tito! Go Marquita!

Marquita is loving the dance. Suddenly a large man grabs her by the arm.

MARQUITA Ow. What the hell!

Slap on the mouth.

FAUSTO You watch your mouth young lady. This is what I mean about staying away from those hoodlums. You are not one of them. You’re better then that. Don’t let me see you with those monkeys again.

MARQUITA Pero papa. I like to dance. It’s just dancing.

FAUSTO That is not dancing. That’s vulgaridad. If you want to dance you must do it with dignity and honor. Let me see your pose.

She does a flamenco pose.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

7.

FAUSTO Chin up. Good. Now clap.

She begins to clap and stomp flamenco style. Fausto claps as well.

FAUSTO Very good. That’s my girl

Father and daughter share a moment clapping and dancing flamenco on the streets.

11 INT. DANCE STUDIO.

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Children and Marquita are dancing flamenco. The bell rings. Kids disperse.

TEACHER Niños don’t forget to practice in front of a mirror. Marquita wait.

Young Marquita eager to leave stops.

MARQUITA Yes professor

TEACHER I have something for you.

He takes out a small Silk bag and hands it to her. She’s confused.

TEACHER Empty it out.

She does and two mahogany castañets come out.

MARQUITA So pretty. What are they?

TEACHER Castanets. We haven’t gotten there yet, but since your are the most advanced student I thought you should have them.

MARQUITA Thank you. I don’t know how to use them yet.

TEACHER You will. These belonged to Rita Hayworth. You’re going to be a (MORE)

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

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TEACHER (cont’d) great dancer. It’s who you are. You are a dancer. Don’t forget that. Be who you are. Let your fire shine bright for the whole world to see. You can dance Anything you want. But remember to never stop. If you stop. you die. A dancer must dance to live. It’s like breathing. You can’t hold your breath or else you’d die. So the same with dance. You dance to live. Do you understand me?

She nods. She placed her little fingers into the castanets. She clacks them intuitively. Her face lights up in a big smile that will captivate the world.

12 INT. TOLUCA ASSISTED LIVING.

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Jim is now sitting in bed looking at the scrap book.

MARQUITA You’re father never let me show you that.

JIM This is incredible. I knew you used to be a dancer but not like this. Who’s this?

MARQUITA That’s Lupe Velez. Lupita as we called her. She was a beautiful movie star. Everyone loved her. But she as also a total bitch.

13 INT. AZTEC STUDIOS 1932

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LUPE Where is my close up. I want it now now now!

Lupe struts on the stage. The director is walking behind her.

DIRECTOR Por favor Lupita try to understand we need to shoot the wide first with the dancers you know how---

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

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LUPE You can stick your wide up your ass.

DIRECTOR Yes I’ll try that. Ok dancers!

Among the dancers is Marquita now 17 dressed in flamboyant feathers. She is in awe of Lupe and how she commands the set.

LUPE

Listen up ladies. You only get one

take.

Comprende?!

If you mess up. You’re out.

Marquita is shy and tries to avert her gaze from the commanding woman.

DIRECTOR Ok thank you for your input Lupe. Girls your gonna do great. Marquita I want you in front. Places and Action!

The band takes off. The dancers are shaking it. Marquita steps ahead of the crowd and dances to the drummers. Lupe takes notice. Cut. The dancers nailed it. Applause. Marquita is out of breath but rejoicing with the Dancers.

Lupe is starring down Marquita.

You!

LUPE

The girls freeze. They all look to Marquita.

MARQUITA

Quien? Yo?

LUPE Si tu! Ven acá inmediatamente.

Marquita is terrified. She quickly comes over to Lupe

LUPE Como te llamas niñita.

Marquita.

MARQUITA

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

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LUPE Bailas como un hurracan.

She doesn’t know if this is a compliment or not.

LUPE

Cubana?

MARQUITA No. de Puerto Rico.

LUPE Ha. Con razón.

This laugh releases some tension.

LUPE Bueno continuamos.

Marquita awkwardly smiles at the other dancers. They do another take of the routine with old Marquita’s voice over.

MARQUITA (voice over)

I did 4 pictures with Aztec

studios. But Lupe Velez was my best teacher. I learned what it really meant to be a movie star from her.

I wanted to be her. Eventually I

almost did. But it almost killed me like the way it killed her. Fame isn’t everything.