A Puerto Rico box office hit premieres in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA - November 13, 2013

The film is more a movement than a movie, and it premiers at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

"Por Amor en el Caserio" or "For Love in the Projects" was created and written by Antonio Morales.

"When I wrote this story, I was 16, and it is based on my life experiences," said Morales.

Antonio grew up in Puerto Rico's largest public housing project.

"My dad was a drug lord of one of the sides of the housing projects where I was raised," said Morales.

Antonio grew up in San Juan's largest and most violent housing project.

But for Antonio, and his two brothers, the vicious cycle of poverty and despair began to change when he was introduced to the arts.

"I was accepted into the performing arts school in Old San Juan, so as theatre students, we were learning about the Shakespeare legacy," he said.

Theatre was a refuge for Antonio from the relentless violence raging outside and inside his family's own turmoil.

He started a drama club, and decided to adapt "Romeo and Juliet" to a play about the harsh reality of the projects.

"So after I read about Shakespeare and West Side Story, I decided to make my own adaptation. I had to associate it with my community. There was no way I could see it as a faraway story, which it was, but I had to relate it to our reality," said Morales.

In translating the play into film, Antonio is exposing a reality that Hernan Guaracao, the founder of Al Dia News Media, says remains in the shadows.

"We're talking about the largest demographic group, which is growing by leaps and bounds in this city," said Guaracao.

In the movie, Antonio's character falls in love with a girl who comes from an opposing drug family; theirs is prohibitive love, but there is also the possibility of redemption, and there is hope.

"There is hope because there is love," said Morales. "There is hope for the future."

"We all talk about finding our voices, and Latino voices aren't heard that readily," said Sabrina Vourvoulias.

"Now it is our turn to tell our stories," said Morales.

But the voice of Antonio Morales is being heard in a big way, and he knows he has a big responsibility to a younger Latino generation.

"They always saw me as a role model, and to me it was always important not to fail in anyway," he said. "So I guess that's what kept me hanging in their strong and focused."

The premier for "Por Amor en el Caserio" will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

Copyright © 2024 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.