Tinseltown and the American Dream in STAR MAPS

As long as they’ve been making movies in Hollywood, Tinseltown has represented the American Dream, where anything can happen for those who reach high enough. Scores of nobodies arrive in Southern California each year hoping for their lucky break, inspired by the stories of those who built multimillion dollar careers from nothing. In STAR MAPS, premiering on Wednesday at 8P and airing throughout the month, our hero travels to Hollywood in search of a new life, only to find something very different.

This film layers multiple narratives about the American Dream and stardom on top of each other, revolving not just around the search for a new life in Hollywood, but the specific nature of the immigrant experience in America. When Carlos Amado moves to the United States from Mexico in search of that elusive breakout role, his father Pepe pushes him into hustling to make his way in the world. When he thinks he might get his break through making the right social connection, everything threatens to crash down around him as his family want their slice of the pie too.

In some ways, the film hearkens to T.C. Boyle’s 1995 novel Tortilla Curtain. Boyle’s dark, intense novel follows two immigrants scrabbling for survival in a wealthy subdivision, and follows a sequence of unpredictable events that bring them into a clash with the white, middle class residents. As in Tortilla Curtain, the characters in STAR MAPS have a vision of the America they want to live in, shaped by the media they’ve been exposed to and the dreams they’ve been fed by friends and family. When they arrive, they find something very different.

It’s no wonder that even with the odds against you, people flock to Hollywood every year in search of the elusive break that might make them a star. The stories of people who beat those odds are compelling, and they involve some of the most famous names in Hollywood. William Shatner, for example, briefly lived in his truck after Star Trek was canceled and his divorce went through, yet went on to be worth millions. Oprah Winfrey was born to a single mother in rural Mississippi and got her big break in radio in her teens, going on to become an international sensation. Penélope Cruz comes from a working class background in Spain, yet achieved stardom after deciding to pursue her dreams of a career in film.

STAR MAPS harshly juxtaposes the reality of the immigrant experience in America with the truth of Hollywood dreams for the scores of people who arrive in Los Angeles each year hoping they’ll be the ones to be singled out for good fortune. It’s also a fascinating exploration of the interconnections between us and the power dynamic between wealth, poverty, and dreams.

STAR MAPS is part of Sundance Channel’s OFFICIAL SELECTION, a series of contemporary hits and timeless masterpieces. Watch a different award winning film from festivals around the globe every Wednesday at 8P.