Published : Friday, March 23, 2018 | 12:28 PM
“Marisol,” a short film written and directed by Hillsides’ prevention specialist Juan Escobedo, has won “Best Dramatic Short Film” at the 2018 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival. The film won out over thousands of international submissions.
The plot of “Marisol,” which deals with domestic violence and child abuse, was influenced by Escobedo’s work with high-risk youth in his job as a program manager for Bienvenidos, an affiliate of Hillsides. Escobedo runs a program called Project SAFE LA, an HIV, Hepatitis C, and substance abuse prevention program for East Los Angeles youth that includes the use of art, film, and storytelling.
One day four years ago, Escobedo was at a community roundtable when a social worker told the story of a young Latina girl whose parents, as punishment, plunged her hands into boiling water. When he told the story to others, he learned this type of extreme discipline measure was not unique. “A lot of people could relate to this, which gave me energy to get the story out there,” he said. “I felt I had to do something to raise awareness for child abuse prevention.”
This incident became the shocking focal point of “Marisol” when the title character of the film, a young girl named Marisol, is physically harmed by her mother’s abusive boyfriend. The film explores what factors led to the abuse and chronicles the emotionally wrenching aftermath as the family seeks to heal from the traumatic event.
Escobedo, who has a theater arts degree from California State University, Los Angeles and attended film school at Los Angeles City College, had already made several short films before “Marisol.” While originally he envisioned “Marisol” as a feature-length film, he eventually decided to leave it at a very impactful 17 minutes. (To enter a short movie into a competition, the film must be under 30 minutes.)
Escobedo is happy to have his filmmaking skills honored, but the message of the movie is even more important. “For me, it’s all about prevention,” he said. “This is aimed at young mothers, who need to learn coping and parenting skills so hopefully they won’t fall into the practice of neglecting their kids or worse. Abuse can take place in seconds — you turn around, and it’s happened.”
Currently Escobedo is entering “Marisol” into different film festivals, with the ultimate goal of having it qualify to be nominated for an Oscar. He has also begun working on a new movie about the activist movement Black Lives Matter and a documentary on blood prohibition, shunning, and the handling of child abuse cases in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion.
“Marisol” will be screening locally at the Playhouse West theater in North Hollywood on March 25, at 1 p.m. at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood as part of the Playhouse West film festival (http://www.playhousewest.com/2018-full-schedule-of-events.html) and at the Downtown Independent Theatre on May 3 at 6: 30 p.m. as part of the LUNAFEST Film Festival (https://www.lunafest.org/screenings/los-angeles-ca-041918) to benefit the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, an agency that assists victims of domestic violence. To learn more about Bienvenidos and Project SAFE LA, please visit www.bienvenidos.org.
Hillsides, with its affiliate Bienvenidos, is dedicated to healing children and young adults, strengthening families, and transforming communities through quality comprehensive services and advocacy. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the agency serves 14,000 children and families in Southern California throughout more than 40 sites, including school-based mental health offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Baldwin Park. Foster care and adoptions services are offered in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. To learn more about Hillsides, please visit www.Hillsides.org. Visit Hillsides on Facebook @hillsideschildren, on Twitter @Hillsides, or on Instagram @HillsidesPasadena.