Prince & Ekaj

I had the good fortune of “meeting” Cati and Mike Gonzalez on Twitter (@CatiandMike), meeting as much by chance as the main characters do in their new, hard-hitting docudrama project, Prince & Ekaj. On learning a bit more about the film, I found it to be a great project for my inaugural review entry.
(c) Cati and Mike Gonzalez
Prince & Ekaj closely follows two homeless, LGBT teens on the streets of New York City. In a city where you don’t make it unless you’re strong, quick and resourceful, the teens form a bond immediately, caught in a troubling yin-yang relationship.

As one teen hustles while the other does the dirty work of scoring with guys who like “trannies,” it’s easy to see how quickly things get out of hand. Violence, drugs, and loneliness are always a heartbeat away, and every day brings with it the cold realization that the pair will have this cycle staring them in the face, over and over again. But above all, there is always the reality that at the core of their difficult life together is the human need for love, which feeds the more special, tender moments in the film.

The camera work keeps us close to the teens, never letting up, holding back, or keeping any secrets. It gives the viewer a wonderfully personal, brutally unblinking look into the lives of LGBT youth, especially for those who have no home or real family. The dialogue and fresh-faces of the actors pull no punches, letting you know that what you see is definitely what you get.

I got a chance to have a chat with Cati and Mike on the film, and this is what they had to say:

Why did you decided to make this film in this style?
I was inspired to write the screenplay after meeting this LGBT teen and getting to know him through a process of a year. As a fashion photographer, I took some pictures of him and a couple of model agents were very interested in him as well. But he refused to adapt to the industry standard look of male models, and he wanted to model as a girl. After a year of knowing him I gave up trying to make him a model and by then I  already cared about him and I realized that it takes guts to stand up specially at such a young age. I had met Giovanie, the other actor in the film around the same time and I was fascinated with his looks and personality.

Was there a particular story in the media or that you heard/experienced/saw in New York that was part of your motivation?
All of the above, I am inspired by my friends stories, people in the street, news,  and anyone I see suffering injustice, but with this particular film, my main inspiration was the lack of knowledge most people, even the most gay friendly, have on what these kids endure and the fact that so many are homeless played a big factor. Our film is actually based on part fiction and part true events, hopefully never knowing when it's one or the other.

How do you think race factors in to the treatment of LGBT youth?
This story is about two latino kids, we don't want to make it a race film, it's a human story, I believe there can be more ignorance in certain neighborhoods, but sometimes it can be surprising how accepting some people are, where you least expect it.

There are a lot of people who get frustrated with films about LGBT youth and lifestyle, who say that the films are only ever made to highlight the pains of being different, instead of highlighting how “normal” the teens really are – they want love and acceptance just like anyone, they form connections and have goals and dreams just like anyone. How do you think your film addresses this issue; are we feeling the film through society’s lens or your characters’?
It's a human story of homeless kids, who happen to be gay, is not a film about being gay, that's my entire point in making this film.

Cati and Mike aim to have shooting completed by the end of October 2012. The full feature is expected to be completed by March 2013.

Though still somewhat nascent online, the film has been getting attention from some great places on the web, including the UK's Attitude, and Sundance, and great reactions from Harry Goaz and Steven Baillie. Follow Cati and Mike's tumblr to watch scenes of the film and keep track of the buzz!

For every $20 donated to the film, Cati and Mike will donate $1 to the FortytoNone Project founded by Cyndi Lauper, which aims to eradicate homelessness among LGBT youth. To learn more and donate, go to the tumblr page.

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