Texas Accused of Denying Film Tax Break because of Positive Portrayal of Immigrants

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Danny Trejo as an ex-federale in "Machete" (photo: Joaquin Avellan, AP)

The makers of two violent action films set in Texas have sued the state’s film commission claiming they were denied tax breaks because they dared to portray immigrants in a flattering light.


The Robert Rodriguez movies, “Machete” and its sequel, “Machete Kills,” include positive representations of Mexican police and immigrants, according to the producers. But those portrayals, they say, also upset members of the Texas Film Commission, which grants incentives to production companies to film in the Lone Star State.


Having been denied incentives for both movies, Machete Productions LLC is now suing the commission, claiming its actions violated the U.S. Constitution.


The plaintiffs says “the Film Commission improperly denied the grant based on a perception that the film glorifies the role of a Mexican Federale (Mexican Federal Police Officer) and sympathizes with immigrants,” according to the complaint. They also claim the commission was concerned with “political fallout” if it provided public support to the production.


The suit contends the commission violated the First, Fifth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.


This litigation has roots in an earlier lawsuit filed by the production company against the commission. That lawsuit, which is still active, claims the problems began in May 2010, following the release of the film trailer for the original “Machete.” The movie was almost immediately “politicized by anti-immigrant political activists” who inundated the film commission with complaints that the content of the movie was inappropriate, the lawsuit alleged.


Courthouse News Service reported that prior to “denying the ‘Machete’ application, the commission had rarely, if ever, turned down an application based on ‘inappropriate’ content and had, in fact, awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars for the ‘slasher’ film Friday the 13th.”


David Morales, the commission’s former director and general counsel to Republican Governor Rick Perry, who was named a defendant in the case, denied the “inappropriate” content accusation. But he allegedly provided no other explanation for the commission’s decision, according to the lawsuit.


The governor’s office declined comment, citing its policy to not publicly address pending litigation.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

‘Machete Kills’ Company Sues Texas Film Commission over Denial of Incentives (by Charles Ealy, Austin American-Statesman)

‘Machete Kills’ Producer Sues Texas Officials (by Muriel Perkins, Courthouse News Service)


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