A frantic phone call from his mother in Ecuador about two murders, including the Marcelo Lucero killing, inspired James Garcia Sotomayor to write a script based on the incidents.
"Taught to Hate," the resulting short film, focuses on the insidious effects of prejudice on John, an impressionable teenage boy whose thinking is swayed by a bigoted uncle. The film will be shown at the Long Island International Film Expo at 222 Petit Avenue in Bellmore on July 16, during the 3:15 pm screening block.
In the film, Sotomayor contrasts John's life with that of a hardworking Hispanic teen who eventually falls victim to a hate crime.
Sotomayor, who is himself an Ecuadorian living on Long Island, said that he wrote and directed the film to explore the sociological underpinnings of racial violence, and whether it could be defused. Co-written with Richard Caban, the film received the Indie Fest's Award of Excellence.
Brandon Hannan, a 17-year-old actor from Dix Hills, plays John. He is probably best known for playing Vito Spatafore Jr. in the HBO series, "The Sopranos."
The storyline was an eye-opener for Hannan.
"The script was different from anything that I had done before," Hannon said. "It is based on a true story. It teaches you that this kind of hatred comes from the home, from your peers. It is not inborn."
Helen Proimos, Hannan's mother and a professional actress, was one of the movie's producers.
"It's a story that has to be told, and it tugged on my heartstrings. We are all just people. We all have families who love us," Proimos said of the analogies that the film draws between the two teens whose worlds collide violently on a deserted field one night.
The film shows that, in the case of racial prejudice, words can speak as loudly as actions and "one thing can lead to another, and anything can happen," Sotomayor said.
In addition to traveling the film festival circuit, "Taught To Hate" is being used as an educational tool in colleges and high schools.
For ticket information about Friday's screening, call (516) 783-3199.