She's Got Something Important to Say
By David Nicholson, Daily Press (10/02/07)
Victoria Racimo's film, "Casi Casi," premieres tonight at the Kimball Theatre
Victoria Racimo - an accomplished actress and director - has added the title of producer to her name.
"Casi Casi," her first film project, will have its U.S. theater premiere this week at the Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg. Racimo served as executive producer on the independent film, a warm-hearted story about the value of friendship among students in a Puerto Rican high school. After "Casi Casi" placed well at several film festivals around the country, Racimo sold it to HBO for distribution and a future airing.
Racimo grew up in New York but spends part of the year in Williamsburg. It's the place her late father retired to, a place she has grown increasingly fond of, and a place she's enriched through several artistic projects she's developed. She's staged radio plays at the Williamsburg Regional Library, wrote and directed the "Journey of Destiny" musical theater piece for the Jamestown 400th anniversary weekend, and is bringing two New York opera singers to the library for a recital on Oct. 13.
Racimo's acting and directing talents have prepared her for her role as a producer, which requires finding the right people and convincing them of her passion for the project. Most projects take years to develop, and "Casi Casi" was no exception.
The film was the dream project of two 20-something brothers, Jaime and Tony Valles, who were raised in Puerto Rico and now live in New York. Both have been involved in artistic careers - Jaime as a singer, actor and graphic artist and Tony as a singer and theater producer - but neither had ever made a film. Racimo met them through friends in New York and agreed to help them get their film made.
"I could tell they had talent and fervor, and they exuded the right kind of energy," she said. "There was artistic chemistry between us."
Beginning in 2003, Racimo guided the young men on writing the script and raised money for the project, and she eventually got HBO interested in it. "Casi Casi" was shot over one summer in an empty San Juan high school. Many of their friends appeared in the film, and their aunt, well-known Puerto Rican actress Mirian Pabon, played the role of the school's overly strict principal. Racimo won't say how much the film cost to make.
"Casi Casi" translates into "very nearly." Emilio, the main character of the film, has fallen in love with Jacklynne, the most popular girl in the school. He enlists his friends to help him run for student council president so that she will notice him. Their campaign unravels in a series of comic events.
"It's an adventure," says Racimo. "It's about five friends and the value of friendship. We shot it in the San Juan high school that the boys went to."
"Casi Casi" was selected for several U.S. film festivals and won the audience award at the 2006 San Diego Latino Film Festival. The brothers have formed Lirica Inc., a film production company based in Puerto Rico, and plan to work with Racimo on a second independent film, probably a thriller.
Racimo is already deep into negotiations for her next project, an original opera based on the film, "On the Waterfront." She's obtained the rights from screenwriter Bud Schulberg and has commitments from opera director James Robinson, composer David Carlson and librettist J.D. McClatchy to develop the project.
"I love putting things together," says Racimo. "Music and film are all related. When you cut a film, it's all about rhythm. It's really all about if it has something really important to say."