Timothy Greenfield-Sanders on HBO's The Latino List, Pitbull, and Andy Warhol

Categories: Film and TV
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders headshot ED Portrait © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.jpg
Portrait © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders is no stranger to crafting portraits. His are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Whitney Museum.

Vanity Fair also avails itself of Greenfield-Sanders' talents as a photographer and there are several books celebrating his work including Art World, XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits and Face to Face.

He recently turned his eye to film, producing and directing five documentaries including Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart.The Black List, one of his most successful projects to date, is a series of documentaries for HBO that explore the contributions and impact that black culture has had in America.

Now he gives Hispanics a voice with his new project, The Latino List, in which he interviews prominent Latinos - from Sonia Sotomayor to Miami's own Pitbull. We had the chance to chat with Greenfield-Sanders about what it means to have Andy Warhol as a role model. Follow the jump for our Q&A.

John Leguizamo_Caption Portrait ED by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.jpg
Portrait © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

New Times: Tell us about The Latino List.
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders: My new HBO film, "The Latino List" is a wide-ranging view of Latinos in the U.S. From Sonia Sotomayor to Pitbull to Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo, the documentary explores identity, achievement and struggle in a very intimate and personal way. Visually, I've taken my distinctive photographic portrait style ... a single light source, a plain grey backdrop and a focus on the subject's face and translated that to film.

NT: How did the project come about? What inspired you?
"The Latino List" is a organic extension of my last three films for HBO, "The Black List" documentaries, which were about leading African Americans in the U.S. When we started those films in 2006, we always hoped that one day we would film Latinos in a similar way. About two years ago, Ingrid Duran, Catherine Pino, and Susan Gonzales, three Latinas who were fans of "The Black List" films met with us and we decided to partner on "The Latino List." They knew or had access to many of the subjects who ended up in the film. Others, like John Leguizamo, is a friend and I asked him to sit for the project. Christy Turlington, whom I have shot in the past, is in the portrait show at the Brooklyn Museum, the AT&T sponsored book, and will be in Volume 2 of the film -- when that happens.

Sandra Cisneros_Caption Portrait ED by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.jpg
Portrait © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street.
Many artists tend to cross pollinate. Do you think an artist is an artist is an artist? 
My role model has always been Andy Warhol, who gave artists "permission" to break out of categories. He was a painter, a filmmaker, a publisher, a fashion model, a sculptor, a writer... he did it all and broke the mold that pigeonholed artists into just one artistic field. I've always loved film...I have an MFA in film from the American Film Institute...so it wasn't a giant leap for me when after years of taking portraits, I made my first doc, "Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart". What I have done that's special here and very rewarding to me is the combination of directing the films, producing them and taking portraits of all of the subjects.

Why documentaries? Do you think you'll ever make a fictional film?
I love documentaries. I don't have a desire to make narrative films... my younger daughter, Liliana Greenfield-Sanders does...so I'll leave that to her.

Pitbull_Caption Portrait ED by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.jpg
Portrait © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Miami rapper, Pitbull.

What do docs like The Black List and The Latino List add to our social tapestry? 
Documentaries like "The Black List" and "The Latino List" expose all of us to achievement and great accomplishment in areas that we to be less aware of. We all know the success stories of Barack Obama and Oprah and perhaps Sonia Sotomayor, but we don't know enough about people like Toni Morrison, or Cesar Conde, or Ralph de la Vega, or Marta Morena Vega, or Julie Stav.

Having lived in Miami, you must be somewhat familiar with Latinos and Latino culture. How do you think the Latino population has impacted South Florida?
I left Miami in 1970 when I graduated from Ransom School (before it was called Ransom Everglades!). I moved to New York and got my degree from Columbia University, so my Miami perspective is antique, to say the least. But I still have family in Miami and I still love the city. Miami is an ever-changing city and if you read its history, always has been. The Latino influence is just the latest "change." It has been enormous and it has brought great vitality to South Florida. I was going to say it made Miami sexy, but Miami was always sexy!

There will be a red carpet premiere for The Latino List on Tuesday, September 20 at the Colony Theatre (1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach). You can watch celebs working the red carpet from 6:45 p.m. until 7:15 p.m. but the screening at 8 p.m. is by invitation only. Catch the documentary when it premieres on HBO Latino on September 28 at 9 p.m. and on HBO on September 29 at 8 p.m.                     

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