Appearances are deceiving.
As I arrived at the Harmony Gold Theatre, after a lovely Mediterranean dinner at Xio (next door), I noticed a group of burly biker boys and their motorcycles parked out on Sunset Boulevard. We’re talking big, scrappy, tattooed, neckerchief coiffed, head-shaved biker guys with various body piercings — who could all strike fear without saying a word.
And then I noticed Aaron Sorkin. Oddly, I knew I was in the right place.
We were all in the house to see the documentary Harlistas: An American Journey. I don’t pretend to be a reviewer. Well, sorta. I review VIP’s.
Filmed on location in the U.S., Harlistas takes us through a slice of Americana with tremendous heart and soul. A Harlista is a Harley Davidson rider of Latino heritage. The film resulted from an open casting call. We’re talking non-actors.
By midway, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Conceived and directed by Columbia University grad Alfredo de Villa, Harlistas seeks the truth. Born in Puebla, Mexico, Villa’s work includes Angel, Washington Heights, Yellow, Adrift in Manhattan and Nothing like the Holidays.
We were treated to beautiful cinematography through the plains of South Dakota, gritty streets of New York, coastal routes of Oregon and the historical Monument Valley in the Grand Canyon.
Throughout the journey, the “guys” explore their lives with serious conversations, which de-myths the old adage that men don’t communicate. The Harlistas express tremendous love, honor and devotion to their families. Some pray before each ride. This film was like a reality TV show without the bickering or the million dollar prize.
Perhaps, the most precious segment was the journey of Shorty (Carlos DeLorio) and his teen son, Junior, who (unplanned in the script) came of age with experiences with drugs, juvenile hall, his parents’ breakup and teen romance.
Shorty lived through the Nicaraguan Revolution before landing in Chicago. A successful mechanic and owner of two Harleys, he openly shows emotion. He gives Junior his first solo ride on the open road and rewards him with the keys to his beloved Harley.
Danny Huerta, a technician from Baldwin Park, reconnects with his deceased Dad on a Southwest trip with his late Dad’s vintage photos as his guide. His bike adorns the boot from his father’s prosthesis.
Before the horrific 9/11 was the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. A sister is memorialized by the Rodriguez brothers (known as the Rod Brothers). Hailing from Queens, NY, the Rods — Pat, Jay, Vito and Ernie — are brought together and also honor their Father, a past Harley rider, now suffering from dementia.
Overcoming a life of drugs, crime and gang violence in Alhambra, CA, Lonnie Gallegos, a motorcycle shop owner, connects with his step-son Jerry. They work together in the shop on a custom 1961 Panhead.
The film is on-demand on Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, DirecTV, iTunes, etc. On May 27, it is on mun2 with airings on NBCU affiliates.
After the reception, screening and panel, all guests were invited to the trendy W Hotel to party. We heard someone yell from the stage: “Free booze.” Gotta love a Harlista!
Sue Facter’s news agency explores luxury lifestyle brand development and A-list personalities. Her work appears in international publications, on broadcasts and the web. Follow her on Twitter @TheFacter.