30 years since its release, 'Blood In Blood Out' to be commemorated with new book, screening at Cal State L.A.

For the first time in 30 years, Angeleno audiences will have the opportunity to watch “Blood In Blood Out” on the big screen.

The epic crime drama about a trio of Mexican American cousins from East Los Angeles has earned a rabid cult following among Latino audiences since its 1993 release. The film initially bombed at the box office — Disney, which financed it through its now defunct Hollywood Pictures label, buried the movie because of its depictions of gang violence. Despite its short-lived theatrical run, “Blood In Blood Out” found a second life thanks to home video distribution and word of mouth.

Earlier this year, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) included “Blood In Blood Out” in his list of films that should be considered for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

The making of the film is the subject of a new book — also titled “Blood in Blood Out” — by director Taylor Hackford, screenwriter and poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, photographer Merrick Morton and artist Adan Hernández. It features a production journal written by Hackford; new poems by Baca; never before seen images from Morton, who served as on-set photographer; and Hernández’s artwork, which was prominently featured in the film.

The book will be released on Jan. 20 at a free event at Cal State L.A., which will feature a meet and greet with the film’s cast, a poetry reading by Baca and a screening at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex.

Hackford credits Morton and Hernandez for the idea of putting out the book.

“We had this 25th anniversary event at LA Plaza de la Cultura y Arte and we had 2,000 people show up,” he says. “There’s a lot of people that love this film, and at that moment Rick and Adan said, ‘We should do something. We should commemorate this experience.’”

In May 2021, Hernández died of heart failure. His passing served as the impetus for the group to follow through on their plan.

“It’s a four-author book and one of us is not here,” says Hackford. “But Adan’s paintings are well represented and it’s a great tribute to him.”

To produce the book, Hackford tapped Hat & Beard Press, a Los Angeles-based independent publisher that specializes in “original, illustrated nonfiction books of pop-cultural and historical significance that draw on existing cult audiences.”

Hackford says he chose to work with the boutique press because its publisher J.C. Gabel believed in their vision.

“If the biggest mainstream marketer in the movie business, which is Disney, had completely forgotten about [“Blood In Blood Out”], I don’t think we were going to find a big publishing house to put it out,” Hackford says.

When it came to the book release event, Hackford knew it had to take place somewhere in East Los Angeles, which is where “Blood In Blood Out” is set. He enlisted the help of Bel Hernandez, CEO of Latin Heat Media and wife of actor Enrique Castillo (he plays Montana in the film), who reached out to Cal State L.A. about the possibility of hosting the event there.

It didn’t take much to convince the school’s administrators.

“For us, this is really a way to celebrate our connection to East L.A., where so many of our students come from,” said Stephen Trzaskoma, dean of Cal State L.A.’s College of Arts & Letters.

“We’re really here to serve the public good of the communities we are embedded in. We want to make sure that people know they’re welcomed on our campus.”

Kristiina Hackel, chair of the school’s department of TV, film and media studies, says the book release event is a great opportunity for her students to have exposure to the film industry.

“East L.A. is not always a Hollywood destination,” Hackel says. “Many of our students are the first in their families to go to college. They don’t come with family connections to the industry. We’re very honored that Taylor is bringing back this film to East L.A.”

For Hackford, the event at Cal State L.A. is an opportunity to watch “Blood In Blood Out” with the audience he made the film for. He expressed appreciation for Latino fans who embraced the film.

“This film has a magic life,” he says. “ It’s very wonderful to have that kind of passion in the community.”

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