Anti-gang film to screen in Sacramento for hundreds of youths

Danny Trejo, right, and breakout artist Johnny Ortiz in a scene from “Strike One.”
Danny Trejo, right, and breakout artist Johnny Ortiz in a scene from “Strike One.” Boricua Films

Filmmaker David Llauger-Meiselman calls himself “a Heborican, born to a Puerto Rican mom and Jewish dad.” He grew up in the gang-plagued Humboldt Park neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side, an experience that inspired his latest film, the cautionary tale “Strike One.”

On Monday, Llauger-Meiselman will share that story with hundreds of young Sacramentans ages 14 to 20 who have been invited to fill Crest Theatre as part of the movie’s nationwide tour of schools, universities and Boys & Girls clubs. Starring Danny Trejo, of the “Machete” movies and countless other action flicks, the film tells the story of a Latino teen trying to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, a former gang member who spent years in a state prison after gang-banging in Los Angeles.

The film also warns about the state’s three-strikes law, which Llauger-Meiselman called a “draconian” policy that disproportionately affects impoverished, at-risk youths of color.

“Latino gangs are a big reality in Sacramento and statewide. They’re all connected and they’ve been utilized in the last 15 to 20 years to sell drugs for the Mexican cartels,” Llauger-Meiselman said. “Because they have more money and weapons and there’s commerce going on, it’s easier now to recruit these kids.”

BeLisa Serna, the daughter of the late Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna, helped produce the event and said she worked to bring “a little bit of Hollywood to Sacramento because it’s the state capital and the timing’s very good.”

She added that the event’s organizers have invited community leaders, city officials and Sacramento organizations who work with at-risk youths.

“There’s a lot of talk now about prison reform and the criminal justice system that tends to rope in Latino and black kids,” said Serna, a public relations executive who works with Elia Esparza at the Los Angeles-based firm Always Evolving PR. Serna added that “films about Latinos are sorely missed in Hollywood.”

State Attorney General Kamala Harris has recently said she’s prioritized fighting transnational organized crime in California. “Criminal groups have made California the single biggest point of entry for methamphetamine into the United States, with 70 percent alone entering through the San Diego Port of Entry,” she says on the state Department of Justice’s website.

Esparza said California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation data show homicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds in the state. Law enforcement statistics show there are an estimated 1.15 million gang member in the United States, 40 percent under age 18, Esparza added.

That reality helped prompt the nonprofit group AmericanLatino Cinema, in conjunction with Boricua Films, to produce “Strike One” as a “call to action,” Serna said.

For more information, go to http://sacb.ee/4Elw or twitter.com/StrikeOneFilm.

Stephen Magagnini: 916-321-1072, @StephenMagagnini

‘Strike One’

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Crest Theatre

1013 K St., Sacramento