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Culture clash in 'Pulling Strings'

If you're not of Latin heritage, you may not know the handsome pop-singing actor Jaime Camil. With three albums and numerous stage and telenovela (Mexican soap opera) appearances, Camil, 40, is just starting to pop out of the Univision corner of North American culture by turning up on more mainstream networks (Lifetime's “Devious Maids”) and now, on the big screen.

“Pulling Strings” is about a single dad (Camil) and a culture clash: . Here, it's Americans (Laura Ramsey, Stockard Channing) discovering the “real” Mexico City. And “Strings,” from the same studio (Pantelion) that released the unexpected hit “Instructions Not Included,” has a secret weapon — mariachi. That is Camil's character's profession.

Film preview: 'Pulling Strings'

We reached Jaime Camil in Los Angeles.

Q: In the States, mariachi bands are used as kind of a punch-line, a musical joke. What about in Mexico?

A: People in the U.S. or other countries hear mariachi and they think it's time to break out the tequila. 'Get wasted! Hey boys, play 'The Macarena!' Mariachis don't do 'La Macarena.' It's hilarious. 'La Bamba,' yes. 'Macarena,' no.

Mariachi IS Mexico. Look at the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, black-and-white films with Jorge Negrete, Agustin Lara or Maria Felix, the beautiful musical movies we used to make, you realize it has this long and honorable musical tradition.

Q: Nobody can fall in love in Mexico without mariachis, right?

A: Oh, from Quinceañera (sweet 15) parties to serenading a woman outside her window, you want to win the heart of a lady, you need mariachis. There's a plaza in Mexico City — Plaza Garibaldi. On Friday on Saturday night, if you've had a fight with your girlfriend, you can drive by Garibaldi where mariachi bands are giving out cards. 'I need a serenade. Come on, guys!' They pile into your car, or follow you in their van, and they help you out. We had to show that in 'Pulling Strings.' A band, on the street, for hire — rescuing romance. What woman wouldn't forgive you if you brought a band to serenade her?

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