Robert Mailer Anderson’s new film, Windows on the World, offers a Latino point of view on the 9/11 tragedy
Tech disruptors are change-makers, but so is Robert Mailer Anderson, a blue collar-born novelist, screenwriter, playwright and philanthropist whose wife, Nicola Miner, is the daughter of late Oracle Corp. co-founder, Bob Miner. Anderson’s first novel, Boonville, about a backwoods Northern California community, was an unexpected bestseller. He worked on a financial campaign committee for Barack Obama, who became the first black president. Anderson was told it couldn’t be done, yet led a successful $65 million capital campaign to build the SFJAZZ Center—a building hailed by The Guardian of London as “one of the greatest jazz concert halls in the world.” His fundraising slogan for the center, “The world is listening,” was so catchy that the Grammy Awards used it in advertising in 2013.
As this month’s 62nd Grammy Awards and February’s 92nd Academy Awards draw near, Anderson and his independent UpCal Entertainment hope for some new upset victories: a Grammy for SFJAZZ Collective tenor sax player David Sánchez’s album, Carib, which sings to the African Diaspora in the Caribbean by way of Sánchez’s native Puerto Rico, and another for the soundtrack to Anderson’s latest film, Windows on the World, the story of a Mexican immigrant’s search for his father, an undocumented worker in the World Trade Center’s famous restaurant on 9/11. Written by Anderson and his cousin, Zack Anderson, and starring Edward James Olmos and Ryan Guzman, it was directed by Olmos’ son, Michael D. Olmos. After an effort with Miramax in 2004, novelist Anderson made the film himself. It has earned nine awards at U.S. film festivals this year, but he’s been unable to find a distributor. He asserts the film has been spurned because it doesn’t hew to Hollywood’s ethnic stereotyping but arranged screenings in Los Angeles in December with an eye toward the Oscars for best supporting actor, screenplay and original song.
Sánchez’s optimistic, melancholy “Fernando’s Theme” (named after the main character in the film) appears on both albums. Each has been released by Ropeadope Records and is out on vinyl with covers by Jim Goldberg, SFJAZZ’s photographer laureate; and Sandow Birk, who with his wife, Elyse Pignolet, created the three iconic murals inside the SFJAZZ Center. “We need our music and storytelling now more than ever,” Anderson says. “We need to create empathy and change the narrative. We need to get our soul back.” Hopefully, the world is listening.
Below, from left: Tenor sax musician David Sánchez with screenwriter Robert Mailer Anderson, both of whom wrote songs for the new film Windows on the World.
Photography by: Craig Lee