On January 19th, Adios Vaya Con Dios was released by Chicago studio Ave Fenix Pictures, an Official Selection at the Bel-Air Film Festival. The movie was hailed a first of its kind, capturing a movie with real gangs and real street artists. The movie is an artistic gratification and revitalizing to watch, a distinctive spin on the gangster genre. Founder of Ave Fenix Pictures, Executive Producer Monica Esmeralda Leon, has reassembled her team of producers, Marius Iliescu and Joseph Mennella to bring yet another highly unique and grippingly controversial independent film When my Eyes go Dark to audiences. The film is based on early events of Lazaro Ruben Torres ‘the man who died five times,’ observing all of Lazaro’s close encounters with death.
In 2015 forensics connected the DNA of Lazaro on the clothes of Mark Costello, strangled to death inside a pew at Detroit’s St Agnes Cathedral eight years ago. Three years after his brother, Aaron Costello, met a similar outcome coincidently beside Lazaro. The U.S. called for the extradition of Lazaro late last year, now residing in Mexico, although his location is unknown. The movie When my Eyes go Dark pieces out this exact scenario and investigates the events that led up to the homicides. The movie is strikingly controversial because the movie plays into the paranormal allegory of Lazaro. Detroit neighborhoods fabled Lazaro ‘the man who died five times,’ requesting psychic sessions based on the abilities he brought back with him from the dead. The story becomes even more abnormal when in 2010 after completing seven months in rehabilitation at the Detroit Medical Center for several attempted suicides; Lazaro began working for the Archdiocese of Detroit as an Exorcist. When my Eyes go Dark uses the actual voice-recordings from Lazaro’s exorcisms, spreading them throughout the film. Needless-to-say, we were eager to speak with Ave Fenix Pictures about the upcoming movie.
Lazaro and his young daughter were randomly shot in 2005, his daughter killed and himself barley clinging onto life. Allegedly, Lazaro came back with extrasensory abilities and sought the killers, now believed to be the Costello brothers. Ave Fenix Pictures once again utilizes the gifted Zachary Laoutides from Adios Vaya Con Dios as screenplay writer and lead actor.
You’ve been busy the last year and half finishing Adios Vaya Con Dios and now writing and playing Lazaro in When my Eyes go Dark. What drew you to this controversial story?
(ZL): Executive Producer Monica Leon is from a town in Mexico rooted in witchcraft and the supernatural; you’ll actually find the same thing in Hispanic neighborhoods that I’m familiar with in Chicago. Stumbling on this story was simple. It’s terribly interesting when you start asking questions and looking deep into the story. Once I began writing I couldn’t stop.
How do you even prepare yourself for a role like Lazaro? You also play him younger and older.
(ZL): It was a distrubia you need to put yourself in and put yourself through. It wasn’t really hard to change my look; that was kinda fun. Lazaro has several different emotions manifesting inside of him, he’s mourning his daughter’s death, he’s black mailed, he’s suicidal and he’s hunting down the killer… The challenge is to hold onto to that place you create for yourself for months. It was a release when I was able to stop playing him.
In the film you seem to show what police didn’t know; forensics just now are beginning to piece everything together. Was that artistic interpretation on your part or did you know something we didn’t?
(ZL): It’s a bit of both. There’s only so much we can cover, you can easily write a series on Lazaro. I understood what we could show, what we couldn’t show and what we were able to achieve with our budget. We can always come back and show more in a different film. The material exists to go beyond what we did.
Likewise, we spoke with director Timothy J. Aguado, coming off of his successful directorial hand in Adios Vaya Con Dios, about blurring the lines between the paranormal and what society may soon be calling the hard facts.
Adios Vaya Con Dios had a very distinct organic feel. Are you going for the same art house approach?
(TA): Not the same, but similar. This is very much still a film that could be happening in any neighborhood. It has a real feel, so similar, but an entirely different genre style and vastly different emotional draws for each of the characters.
It seems that in the movie you are filling-in the gaps of time that have on going criminal investigations. Do you believe When my Eyes go Dark can be controversial to audiences?
(TA): It can be, despite its universal theme. As a storyteller, I do ask the audience to question their view of reality in order to connect with the character.
The demonic voices you have on tape and place throughout the film are disturbing to say the least. The U.S. has called for the extradition of Lazaro, linking him to murder. Do you believe in Lazaro’s paranormal capabilities or is he delusional?
(TA): This one I leave to the audience to choose whether Lazaro’s abilities are really happening or if it we are seeing the world that exists only in his head.
Actor Samuel Younan plays Mark Costello, strangled to death inside a cathedral pew. Currently, forensics believes it has solved the murder linking the DNA of Lazaro on the clothes of Mark Costello.
You played in arguably the most disturbing scene in the film opposite of Laoutides. Many are saying the performances you both give remind them of No Country for Old Men (2007), comparable to Javier Bardem’s character Anton Chigurh. Was it one take or numerous takes to bring that horrific scene to life?
(SY): Preparing for this scene was a bit difficult, I just tried to prepare by creating a similar environment and keeping a high intensity. I think we did two takes if I’m not mistaken, so you can say the first was a warm up (laughs). We tried to keep it as natural as we could.
Lazaro was stabbed in 2009 inside a restaurant alongside Aaron Costello, Mark Costello’s younger brother. Aaron was pronounced dead at the scene with Lazaro claiming two people walked inside the restaurant to settle a debt with him where both were attacked. Actor Emmanuel Isaac steps into the unfortunate shoes of the victim.
It’s a mystery what really happened that day. Do you believe you and Laoutides through your reenactment actually reveal what happened?
(EI): The entire scene felt very real. After we finished filming, we both looked at one another and were speechless. We then looked at our director Timothy Aguado and immediately knew we nailed the scene. But is this the real truth…? Do we really feel like this is exactly what happened? We’ll honestly never know. Only ‘they’ know what really happened. It was our job to make it as real as possible and put ourselves in the position that day and I think we did a terrific job doing that.
Closing our conversation we asked director Timothy J. Aguado his personal ambition with When my Eyes go Dark, a movie resounding with such debate, dark mysticism, and once again perhaps a movie that is first of its kind, blending existent demonic voices against the backdrop up of an on going criminal investigation. His answer humbling and something we didn’t expect.
I notice there is some different force of storytelling with Ave Fenix Pictures that is groundbreaking in the projects you are picking. What do you hope to achieve with this film?
(TA): To get people thinking about the idea of forgiveness. We don’t have nearly enough of it in the world. So I show how revenge is a dark obsession and how it constantly eats at you. It truly distracts you from everything else that life has to offer. The act of revenge is detrimental to the human psyche. I wish to show just how freeing forgiveness can be.
When my Eyes Go Dark is due out in 2017. For more information:
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