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VALLEY FOCUS | North Hollywood

Theater to Show Local Film on Gang Strife

January 23, 1998|TOM BECKER

A special short film with a distinct anti-gang message starring a Pacoima native will be shown this weekend at the Laemmle's Sunset Theater, with all proceeds going to the Valley Community Clinic in North Hollywood.

The scar on Demetrius Navarro's left arm has nothing to do with Hollywood magic--it is a sign of surviving gang violence to make a better life for himself.

Now, several years since being stabbed by a rival of his older brother, Navarro is trying to get his message to Valley teenagers that gangs are not the answer.

This weekend, the short film starring Navarro, "No Salida" which means no exit, will be shown at 10 and 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Laemmle's Sunset Theater. Admission is $4. A question-and-answer period with the cast and crew will follow.

All proceeds of the event will go to Valley Community Clinic, where Navarro himself is very involved.

"I saw what a connection the clinic had to young people and I decided that maybe this film could help change some lives for the better," he said.

The film, directed and co-written by William Birrell, is the story of two brothers, one a gang member, the other trying to avoid gang life in favor of an education.

The story parallels the real-life story of Navarro, whose own older brother was a gang member. One day, a rival gang member tried to get to Navarro's brother by stabbing Demetrius. Today, his brother is in prison for shooting that man.

"Once I read the script, I had to do it," Navarro said.

Birrell also has close ties to the story. Growing up in Echo Park, he said it was hard to survive in gang territory.

"These kids grow up in a minefield. It's important that someone speaks to them, shows their story," he said.

The two chose to donate the proceeds to the clinic because Navarro spends much of his time volunteering there and going into Valley schools to give his anti-gang message. He now plans to include the short film in his presentations, he said.

"I hope this movie touches people when they see it. That way they can understand that violence doesn't just affect an individual, it affects the whole family," Navarro said.

The Sunset Laemmle is at Sunset Boulevard at Crescent Heights in West Hollywood.

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