Selena (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gregory Nava
Produced by Abraham Quintanilla, Jr.
Moctesuma Esparza
Robert Katz
Written by Gregory Nava
Starring Jennifer Lopez
Edward James Olmos
Jon Seda
Jackie Guerra
Pete Astudillo
Constance Marie
Lupe Ontiveros
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography Edward Lachman
Edited by Nancy Richardson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • March 21, 1997 (1997-03-21)
Running time
127 minutes
134 minutes (extended cut)
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$20 million
Box office US$60,000,000[1]

Selena is a 1997 American biographical musical drama film about the life and career of the late Tejano music star Selena, a recording artist well known in the Mexican American and Hispanic communities in the United States and Mexico before she was murdered by Yolanda Saldívar, the president of her fan club, at the age of 23.

The film stars Jennifer Lopez in her breakout role as Selena. Her father, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., is played by Edward James Olmos and Constance Marie plays Marcella Quintanilla.


The film opens on February 26, 1995, with Selena (Jennifer Lopez) performing to a sold-out crowd of 66,746 at the Houston Astrodome in Houston, Texas. The film then flashes back to 1961 in Corpus Christi, Texas where a young Abraham Quintanilla and his band, The Dinos, are rejected for an audition by a restaurant owner because they were Mexican and the restaurant was for whites only. When the Dinos perform an English language song at a Mexican club, the crowd angrily rejects them. Crushed, Abraham gives up music.

The film moves ahead to 1981 in Lake Jackson, Texas where Abraham (Edward James Olmos) is now married to Marcella (Constance Marie) and has three children. When his youngest daughter Selena sings to him, he is amazed by the quality of her voice and decides to start a band called "Selena y los Dinos" (Selena and the Guys). He designates Selena as lead singer, his son A.B. (Jacob Vargas) on bass, and his oldest daughter Suzette (Jackie Guerra) on drums, despite Suzette's protests that "girls don't play drums".

The family opens a Mexican restaurant, where Selena and the Dinos often perform. Selena and the band receive a warm reception from the patrons. Unfortunately, the Quintanilla family goes bankrupt due to the 1980s economic slump and is forced to close the restaurant. They move to Corpus Christi. The family makes ends meet by touring with their band to county fairs. Selena y Los Dinos begin to build a strong fan base. Selena's persona is unique in Tejano because this music genre is largely male-dominated, and because of the sexy yet wholesome image she creates for herself on stage. In 1989, Abraham is shocked when she peels off her jacket during a show to reveal a jeweled bustier. Selena points out that this is the current fashion and other pop stars wear them, too. Abraham reluctantly agrees, and Selena indulges her talent for fashion design by creating elegant, flashy costumes for herself and her band.

A.B. meets a new guitarist, Chris Pérez (Jon Seda), and auditions him to his father. Abraham, however, is hesitant to hire Chris because of his tough-guy, heavy metal rocker image. A.B. says that's just "musician stuff". Abraham agrees to let Chris join the band if he cuts his hair and cleans up his rough appearance. Chris joins the band and forms a friendship with Selena which quickly blossoms into romance. Chris jeopardizes their relationship when his other bandmates wreck the hotel room while they're on tour. Selena confronts him, and Chris promises to reform rather than lose her. Selena's family and other band members are aware of her romance with Chris and help keep their secret, but eventually, Abraham catches them hugging on their tour bus. Angered, he fires Chris from the band. Selena tearfully objects, but her father threatens to disband the group if she continues to see him.

Selena and Chris continue their relationship behind Abraham's back, but she is tired of hiding their romance and tells Chris she wants to get married right away. On April 2, 1992, Selena and Chris secretly elope. They plan to break the news to her father gently, but a radio station announces their marriage and plays "Como La Flor" in celebration. The couple agree to hide out for the day to give Abraham time to cool off. She goes to see her family the next day. Abraham tells Selena that he only wanted to protect her, and his reluctance was due to a father's love. The Quintanillas welcome Chris into their family, and he returns as lead guitarist for Los Dinos.

José Behar, the head of EMI Latin, and his music associates watch one of Selena's live performances and tell Abraham they want to make an English-language album for Selena. Her record sales have been phenomenal, and they believe she can cross over into making an English album. Selena opens her first "Selena Etc." boutique in 1994 as well as, launches as Fashion line with Martin Gomes. Selena also appoints her fan-club president, Yolanda Saldívar (Lupe Ontiveros), as manager. She is thrilled when her album Selena Live! wins a Grammy Award for Best Mexican-American album. She begins to record her crossover album in early 1995 for the English-language market.

Yolanda gives her a friendship ring, which was really a gift from the staff. Her obsessive behavior towards Selena draws concern from Abraham and her family, especially after they discover that Yolanda had been stealing money from the fan club and important business records are missing. On March 9, 1995, Selena and her father, along with Suzette, confront Yolanda with their evidence of her mismanagement at a meeting. Yolanda says she knows nothing about missing records and has done nothing wrong. She pleads with them to give her time to find them and she'll explain everything. Selena angrily asks Yolanda how she could do this to her, and more importantly, to her fans.

Selena performs at the Houston Astrodome to a sellout crowd of 66,746 people. This is a record for attendance at this venue and her family celebrates their success. Selena expresses hope to her mother that the crossover album will be a success, and says she and Chris hope to start a family after the tour is over. Selena's future is bright with promise.

On March 31, after arguing over the missing financial documents, Selena is murdered by Yolanda at a Corpus Christi motel. Yolanda is arrested after a nine and a half hour standoff with the police. Selena's family, friends and fans are overwhelmed by shock and grief at her death and the end of her brilliant, so-promising career. As Selena's fans gather for a candlelight vigil to mourn her death, a montage featuring the real Selena from her live performances, award show appearances, and music videos follows. The film ends with a freeze-frame of a smiling Selena and the caption "Selena Quintanilla Perez: 1971 - 1995".



On August 30, 1995, it was announced that Gregory Nava had signed on to write and direct Selena. The director was well known for his previous films El Norte and Mi Familia, which "gave moviegoers a passionate, powerful look at Hispanic life" according to The Dallas Morning News.[2] Selena's father Abraham Quintanilla was announced to executive produce the film. Abraham agreed to the film as "sort of a pre-emptive strike", and felt that it was better the film about Selena's life be made with him rather than someone else.[3] Abraham had personally chosen Nava, stating: "I chose Mr. Nava because I think he's a good director and scriptwriter".[2] The film was created with full participation from the Quintanilla family.[2] The biographical film was focused on Selena's life instead of her death, Nava said "I don't want to attend to [her murder]", while her death is treated "at a distance".[4]


In June 1996, it was announced that Jennifer Lopez was chosen to play Selena, in what was described as the "role of a lifetime", for a reported salary of US$1 million.[5][6] Also that month, it was announced that a 10-year-old girl originating from Harlingen, Becky Lee Meza, was chosen from "thousands of girls who answered a nationwide casting call" to play a younger version of Selena in the film. Lee Meza stated: "I'm really excited about this because I've never done anything like this before".[7] Lopez, along with other actresses, had to undergo intense auditioning for the role, even though she had previously worked with Nava in the film My Family (1995).[8] The screen testing was described as "grueling", requiring "nine minutes of singing and dancing and eight pages of script."[4] On August 8, 1996, the Los Angeles Daily News announced that Jon Seda and Edward James Olmos had joined the cast as Chris Perez and Abraham Quintanilla, respectively.[9]

However, Lopez's casting was the subject to high criticism from fans of Selena, who weren't pleased that Lopez, a New York City native born to Puerto Rican parents, was selected to play Selena, a Texan of Mexican descent. They preferred an actress with Mexican roots. The Latino community began protesting for a re-cast. During pre-production, Lopez stated: "I know a few people were protesting, but in Corpus [Selena's hometown] everyone has been really supportive".[4] Nava admitted that the backlash was "a little hurtful", and felt that the protesters "should be celebrating that we have an all-Latino cast and that Jennifer Lopez, one of our own, is becoming a star."[4] Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly noted that "nothing could have prepared [Lopez] for the hype attached to her million-dollar salary". Lopez perfected Selena's dialect while also "studying performance footage of the pop sensation" according to Nava. Lopez said "you need to do your homework on this gig" because Selena was "fresh in the public's mind".[4] After seeing Lopez's portrayal of Selena, protesters revised their opinions and were more accepting of Nava's decision.[10] Filming Selena inspired Lopez to begin her own music career.[11][12]


Principal photography began September 1996, in San Antonio, Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas, Poteet, Texas, Houston, Texas and Lake Jackson, Texas. Nava used locals as extras for the film.[13] Selena's real singing voice was used in the film, while Lopez would lip-sync to her songs.[4] During filming, Jon Seda was unable to play the guitar the way Chris Perez did, as he explained on the film's DVD extra, Making of Selena: 10 Years Later.[14] He then persuaded Perez to pay a visit to the set without telling him that he was going to have Perez play the guitar during the scene in which Chris auditions for Abraham, and the camera would zoom into his hands to make it seem like Seda was playing the guitar. Perez eventually agreed, and his hands were made up to match Seda's.[14][15] In the noted stadium scenes, where Selena once performed, the producers used approximately 35,000 extras. Filming took place at the Alamodome in San Antonio, rather than the actual concert location: the Astrodome in Houston.[16] Nava said he wanted to capture the "magnificence, beauty and excitement" of the concert.[17] Abraham Quintanilla told Nava to remove scenes where Chris and Selena elope, because he didn't want to influence Selena's younger fans that eloping is right. However, Nava maintained that while this was true, the scene was inevitable because it was an important part to Selena's story. Abraham eventually agreed.[14]


Main article: Selena (soundtrack)

An original motion picture Selena soundtrack was released by EMI Latin on March 11, 1997 debuting at number 20 on the US Billboard 200.[18] The CD contains twelve tracks including Selena singing songs heard in the film. The only songs performed by Selena that were not heard on the film were "Is it the Beat," "Only Love," and "A Boy Like That," and the Selena tributes sung by other artists.

The only recordings by Selena heard on the film were the "Cumbia Medley," "Disco Medley," and "Where Did the Feeling Go?", which was played in the last half of the closing credits of the film. The Vidal Brothers' "Oldies Medley" was also on the film. Included are rare tracks, hits, and cuts like the "Disco Medley, Part II", recorded live during Selena's 1995 concert at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. All songs were recordings of Selena from concerts.


Box office[edit]

Following its August 1995 announcement, Selena was slated for an August 1996 release date.[13] It was last pushed back to sometime at "the end of" 1996.[6] Ultimately, it was released in America on March 21, 1997, after being pushed back several times. After its opening weekend, Selena grossed a total of $11,615,722 domestically, opening at #2 at the United States box office.[19] In its second weekend, the film fell #3, grossing $6,138,838. The following weekend, it fell to No. 6, grossing $3,456,217. By April 20, 1997, Selena grossed a total of $32,002,285.[20] Its total lifetime gross stands at $35,281,794.[19] According to Box Office Mojo, Selena is the ninth highest-grossing musical biopic of all time.[21]

Critical response[edit]

Selena received mostly positive reviews from critics. Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, was impressed by the acting, and gave Selena three-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "Young Selena is played by Becky Le Meza, who has a big smile and a lot of energy. The teenage and adult Selena is played by Lopez in a star-making performance. After her strong work as the passionate lover of Jack Nicholson in the current Blood and Wine, here she creates a completely different performance, as a loyal Quintanilla who does most of her growing up on a tour bus with her dad at the wheel."[22]

Film critic Lisa Kropiewnicki liked the film and wrote, "Jennifer Lopez delivers a breakout performance...[and] Nava's engaging script wisely mines his subject's life for humor and conflict, embracing Selena Quintanilla's passion for music."[23] Film critic James Berardinelli also liked the film and the screenplay, writing, "It would have been easy to trivialize Selena's story, turning it into a sudsy, made-for-TV type motion picture." He believed the acting was top notch and wrote "Jennifer Lopez is radiant as the title character, conveying the boundless energy and enthusiasm that exemplified Selena, while effectively copying not only her look, but her mannerisms. I wonder if Selena's family, upon watching this performance, felt an eerie sense of déjà vu."[24]

Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan gave the film a mixed review. He wrote the film is part of a "completely predictable Latino soap opera." Yet, "there are chunks of Selena that only a stone could resist. This movie turns out to be a celebration not only of the singer but also (as "What's Love" was for Angela Bassett) of the actress who plays her, Jennifer Lopez."[25]

Some critics, however, did not like how the film appears like a sanitized Selena portrait. Critic Walter Addiego considers Nava's work a worshipful biography of her. Addiego, writing for the San Francisco Examiner, did have a few enjoyable moments viewing the film but wrote, "You can't help cheering for Selena, but the good feeling is diminished by the sense that her story's been simplified and sanitized."[26] The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 64% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on thirty-nine reviews.[27] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, it has a rating score of 65, indicating "Generally favorable reviews".


Award Date Category Recipients and nominees Result Ref.
ALMA Awards June 4, 1998 Outstanding Feature Film Selena Won [28]
Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film Edward James Olmos Won
Jon Seda Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film Jennifer Lopez Won
Jackie Guerra Nominated
Outstanding Latino Director of a Feature Film Gregory Nava Won
Golden Globe Awards January 18, 1998 Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Jennifer Lopez Nominated [30]
Grammy Awards February 25, 1998 Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media Selena: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Nominated [31]
Imagen Awards April 1, 1998 Best Theatrical Feature Film Selena (tied with The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca) Tied [32]
Lasting Image Award Jennifer Lopez, Selena Won
Lone Star Film Awards 1998 Best Actress Jennifer Lopez Won [33]
Best Supporting Actor Edward James Olmos Won


The film opened in wide release on March 21, 1997 (1,850 theaters) and sales the opening weekend were $11,615,722. Selena ran for 15 weeks domestically (101 days) and eventually grossed* 60,000,000 ($35,281,794 in the United States. The film sales worldwide were considerably more. At its widest release the film was shown in 1,873 screens. The production budget of the film was approximately $20,000,000.[34][35]

A 10th Anniversary DVD edition of Selena was released on September 18, 2007 by Warner Home Video. The two-disc set contains the original theatrical version (127 minutes) and a director's cut version (134 minutes) of the film, which had been shown on several TV stations before. Extras include a Making of Selena: 10 Years Later featurette, a Queen of Tejano featurette, and nine additional scenes.[36]


  1. ^ "Selena (1997) gross". The-Numbers. 17 September 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "Nava chosen for `Selena' movie Filming to begin in February 1996". The Dallas Morning News. (James M. Moroney III). August 30, 1995. 
  3. ^ "SELENA' ARRIVES LATE TEJANO SUPERSTAR'S FAMILY LEAVES LOVING IMPRINT ON SCRIPT ...". The Fresno Bee. The McClatchy Company. March 21, 1997. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Karger, Dave (August 9, 1996). "Biopicked for Stardom". Entertainment Weekly. Time Warner. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  5. ^ Jakle, Jeanne (October 30, 1996). "Selena star says yes to role as fiancee". San Antonio Express-News. Hearst Corporation. 
  6. ^ a b "`Mi Familia' actress Jennifer Lopez to play Selena in movie". Austin-American Statesman. (Cox Enterprises). June 15, 1996. 
  7. ^ "Harlingen girl chosen to play young Selena". San Antonio Express-News. (Hearst Corporation). June 19, 1996. 
  8. ^ Associated Press (June 14, 1996). "Lopez gets Selena role". Dallas News. 
  9. ^ "News & Notes". Los Angeles Daily News. (MediaNews Group). August 8, 1996. 
  10. ^ Guzman, Isabel Molina and Angharad N. Valdivia. "Brain, Brow, and Booty: Latina Iconicity in U.S. Popular Culture", Routledge: Volume 7, Number 2 / April–June 2004.
  11. ^ Mendible, M. (2007). "From bananas to buttocks: the Latina body in popular film and culture". Austin: University of Texas Press. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  12. ^ "On the Down Lo". Billboard. 119 (5). Nielsen Business Media. February 3, 2007. p. 27. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Bennett, David (September 14, 1996). "Director to use Corpus Christi, S.A. locales in Selena movie". San Antonio Express-News. (Hearst Corporation). 
  14. ^ a b c Making of Selena: 10 Years Later (DVD). Gregory Nava. September 2007. 
  15. ^ Selena LIVE: The Last Concert, "All Access: Behind the Scenes", movie featurette.
  16. ^ Béhar, Henri. Film Scouts, interview with Gregory Nava.
  17. ^ "60,000 sought at dome for `Selena' scene". San Antonio Express. (Hearst Corporation). September 4, 1996. 
  18. ^ "Billboard 200 > 29 March 1997". Billboard. 109 (13). 29 March 1997. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  19. ^ a b "Selena (1997) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo, Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Selena (1997) - Weekend Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo, Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Biopic - Music Movies at the Box Office - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo, Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  22. ^ Ebert, Roger. The Chicago Sun-Times, film review, March 21, 1997. Last accessed: January 9, 2008.
  23. ^ Kropiewnicki, Lisa. Selena at AllMovie, film review. Last accessed: January 9, 2008.
  24. ^ Berardinelli, James. Reel Views, film review, 1997. Last accessed: January 9, 2008.
  25. ^ Turan, Kenneth. Los Angeles Times, "In the Authorized Selena, She's Seen in the Best Light", Calendar Section, March 21, 1997. Last accessed: January 9, 2008.
  26. ^ Addiego, Walter. San Francisco Examiner, film review, page C, March 21, 1997.
  27. ^ Selena at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: September 12, 2011.
  28. ^ "1998 ALMA Awards nominees" (PDF). ALMA Awards. Retrieved July 31, 2014. 
  29. ^ "1998 ALMA Awards recipients" (PDF). ALMA Awards. Retrieved July 31, 2014. 
  30. ^ Cottrell, Robert C (2010). Icons of American popular culture : from P.T. Barnum to Jennifer Lopez. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 0765622998. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  31. ^ Baugh, Scott L (April 13, 2012). Latino American cinema an encyclopedia of movies, stars, concepts, and trends. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313380376. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  32. ^ "13th Annual Imagen Awards". Imagen Awards. Retrieved July 31, 2014. 
  33. ^ Albertson, Mark. Cultivating Chicana/o Images: Negotiating the Cinematic Masterpiece for Cultural Survival. p. 18. 
  34. ^ The Numbers box office data. Last accessed: January 9, 2008.
  35. ^ Box Office Mojo box office data. Last accessed: January 9, 2008.
  36. ^ "10th Anniversary edition of Selena" at DVD Active.

External links[edit]