‘H.O.M.E.’ Offers a Glimpse Into a Part of Queens Few Get to See

Jeremy Ray Valdéz plays a young man with Asperger’s syndrome (Photo courtesy of Gashouse Films via Queens Latino)

Jeremy Ray Valdéz plays a young man with Asperger’s syndrome in H.O.M.E. (Photo courtesy of Gashouse Films via Queens Latino)

One of the most successful and acclaimed films at the recent Queens World Film Festival (QWFF), the movie “H.O.M.E.“, took the Best Feature Narrative prize. With it, director Daniel Maldonado’s five-year-long dogged effort finally reaped its reward, and at the very place that inspired it, too.

The filmmaker relied on a small but talented group of actors to tell the story. Jeremy Ray Valdéz plays Danny Pérez, a young man with Asperger’s syndrome who meanders through and knows every inch of the subway’s labyrinth of tunnels, which serve him as a shelter of sorts. Jesús Ochoa is Gabriel Carrera, an Ecuadorean taxi driver and fútbol fan who works in Queens and dreams of someday returning to his country to settle old family issues. Ángela Lin is “la chinita” – “the Chinese woman” – Sze Wun. Actors Carlo Albán, Lauren Augarten and Karen Lynn Gorney also appear in the film.

Filmmaker Daniel Maldonado during the premiere at the Queens World Film Festival. (Photo by Marcela Álvarez via Queens Latino)

Filmmaker Daniel Maldonado during the premiere at the Queens World Film Festival. (Photo by Marcela Álvarez via Queens Latino)

Written by Maldonado and Héctor Carosso and produced by Gashouse Films, “H.O.M.E.” tells two urban stories that are unknowingly linked in the middle of an often disconnected city. The production – carried out by Darren Dean and Hispanic producers Ingrid Matías and Vanessa Verduga – is a remarkable effort that is already creating buzz within cinephile circuits for its subject matter and its excellent cinematography.

How long did you work on” H.O.M.E.”?

The movie took me exactly five years. I started in the winter of 2011.

At the QWFF opening night, you were holding a sign that read: “Ask me about my movie.” We found it very effective.

Yes, it was a coincidence that the festival’s director asked me to put that sign on stage.

(…)

After having spent so much time on the subway during the shoot, how do you see it now?

It is a maze that many of us use to get from point A to point B. I spent many weeks exploring and living on the subway just to have a level of sensory acquaintance and be able to understand all its details.

Does Asperger’s syndrome affect you on a personal level?

I have a friend, Dan Compton, who is within the autism spectrum. He and his family really supported the movie and served as references when we were developing the script.

As a filmmaker you want to reach all audiences, but you are especially addressing Ecuadoreans.

Yes, I’d like to reach the Ecuadorean community in New York. Gabriel is a character who was born in Quito, Ecuador, and now lives and works in Queens. Having met many taxi drivers personally, I wanted to give visibility to a community that we frequently bump into in New York.

H.O.M.E.Given the success of the movie in the QWFF, what’s next for “H.O.M.E.”?

We will be showing it at the 10th Annual Manhattan Film Festival. In early May, we will be in Austin, Texas, for the 19th Annual Cine Las Américas Film Festival.

(…)

What will be your next project?

I am writing a screenplay about a small Puerto Rican community affected by a tragic event. I will also be working on the next episode of a series of experimental horror short films that have been made and presented internationally.

Tell us a little bit about your recent move to Jackson Heights.

Yes, I moved to the neighborhood because I have always been interested in that community, especially after shooting there. I was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, between Bergen County and New York, and graduated from the School of Visual Arts’ film department. I have Ecuadorean roots with Puerto Rican and Filipino ties.

“H.O.M.E.” SHOWTIMES

The movie will play on April 15 as part of the Manhattan Film Festival. Filmmaker Daniel Maldonado will be present to talk to the audience.

Where: Cinema Village, 22 East 12th St., Manhattan
When: Friday, April 15
Time: 10:45 pm
Tickets: $12
Details: www.homeacronymfilm.com or www.manhattanff.com

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