When Divine was approached by Cati and Mike about featuring this incredible film, of course we said a resounding yes. Who wouldn’t want to showcase something like this?
The premise of the film is contemporary, relevant and from the sounds of it, heart breaking and uplifting at the same time. Read what everyone is saying about this incredible journey of friendship, life, humor and tragedy below.
“Think Kids meets Midnight cowboy”
Ekaj is a love story between two drifters, the naive teenage Ekaj and the sarcastic hustler Mecca. On the background, we can see the real world, in Harlem, Washington Heights, The Bronx, L.E.S. and Brooklyn. The parts of the NYC that are unforgiven, gloomy and dangerous. They go around the entire city sharing their dreams, cut off from society, discarded by life. The core of the movie is Ekaj, a runaway who thinks he will become the lover of a rich man and be taken care of for life. He finds his dreams shattered, although he makes some money as a prostitute, he finds he is disposable, replaceable and lacking what it takes to survive in the city.
Mecca is a hilarious, foul mouthed character that has multiple problems of his own. We get a glimpse that Mecca has AIDS, since he has it tattooed on his knees. He is high all day and still manages to be sane and sharp. When Ekaj finds himself used and discarded, Mecca shows him how to endure and not lose hope. As the film progresses Mecca becomes ill, at the same time we see Ekaj becoming stronger and less vulnerable. Their mutual loneliness leads to genuine friendship.
ABOUT THE CAST
The Director choose each character to fit as close as possible to the script. She also knew it would not be easy to make a film with two leading characters who are struggling with their own lives at the same time, but she didn’t want to work with trained actors. She wanted the closest to the real thing.
Jake Mestre (Ekaj)
Jake has grown quite a bit since we started the film and through the 3 years of making of the film he has modeled for V magazine, Dutch Marie Claire, Chromats Fashion show, and has been very close to getting big campaigns. He holds jobs here and there to support himself.
Badd Idea (Mecca)
His life began as a street kid during the Club scene in NYC, he was one of the best dancers. As a young man he was discovered as a model in Paris and was in numerous magazine covers all over the world and was known for his fierce runway walk and his beautiful tattoos. Today he is an amazing conceptual artist who writes music, a great painter and has expanded his new work to 3D. There is not much that Badd Idea can’t create. He is always full of surprises; his art has no limits in mediums nor his sense of humor.
Scooter LaForge (Johnny)
Scooter began his love affair with art at a very young age, growing up in the small town of Las Curces, New Mexico. Scooter received a painting degree at the University of Arizona, and then moved to San Francisco where he tried to find his voice as an artist. After building an impressive painting career in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco, Scooter packed his bags and headed to his next adventure; New York, where he won a fellowship to Cooper Union School of Art, finishing his studies at Cooper Union on a special scholarship. Scooter’s work can be characterized as Pop Art. His sculptures are a derivative of his successful clothing, t-shirt and underwear line, sold exclusively at Patricia Field, East Village, NYC. His sculptures are self-imagined 6-foot tall “T-Shirt Monsters,” that are hand tooled from the exact t-shirts that he makes for sale and are a permanent instillation at Barney’s New York Flagship store. His projects have been showcased at numerous galleries around the Big Apple, such as Exit Art, Wooster Projects White Columns, Feature Inc. and Bucheon to name a few. Scooter’s self- entitled t-shirt collection has been collected by Iggy Pop, Sandra Bernhard, Perez Hilton, Debbie Harris. Scooter has been selected to feature his work in the London Biennale opening at the Christopher Henry Gallery. Currently, Scooter LaForge resides in the East Village and works from his painting studio on the Lower East Side. Recently in 2015 Scooter’s work has exploded, doing Art pieces worn by Beyonce, and Madonna’s dancer’s in her performance on the Jimmy Fallon’s show among other celebrities…He is a rising super star.
This Film is written by a first time female director Cati Gonzalez with an all-male cast of “Non Actors.” It was casted as close as possible to the script and coming from all walks of life. For this particular film, she preferred true characters to fit the script, then fit a script to the characters. Every single cast to the film had experienced a similar story or identified with the characters they were playing or had friends who did. Ekaj is a film that’s very personal to the director and it reflects the experiences of many people she has known in her 20 plus years in NYC.
Cati Gonzalez was born in Cordoba, and raised in Barcelona, Spain. She moved to NYC in 1990 where she currently resides. Her work has been seen in French Photo, I.D, Spin, Vogue, Colors, Vibe, Interview, Paper, Big, Blaze, Trace, Surface, Liberatiòn, El Pais, Mademoiselle, New York magazines and other publications doing celebrity portraits such as director David Cronenberg, Russell Simmons, Notorious B.I.G., Pharrell Williams, The Ramones, David Byrne, Thurston Moore, Chloe Sevigny, Jaime King, Common, Beenie Man among others. She has also worked on various music artists’s album covers for Sony, Warner Bros, Atlantic Records and others. She has received many awards for her work such as “Festival De Le Mode Exhibition,” Nice, France, “The American Photography Magazine Awards”, French Photo listed as “Photographers of the Future” and she was a part of the Macy’s Window Art Photographers Exhibition. In the last few years she has written a couple of scripts and has worked for the last 3 years on “Ekaj” which she has produced/written/directed.
Ekaj is edited by Cati Gonzalez and Mike Gonzalez. Mike Gonzalez is partners with Cati Gonzalez for over 20 years. They started the film together as “catiandmikegonzalezfilms.”
Mike Gonzalez experienced first-hand a similar story to the film, beginning with his mother dying of AIDS in the early eighties and then being tossed on the street at 13 years old. Homeless and practically a child he is fully aware of what you go through surviving the streets and overcoming rejection to finally become a self-taught Technical Editor and Sound Recorder/Mixer for the Film and all around partner in the filming process of Ekaj. He has also worked closely with the director on others video/ documentary projects in the past.
CATI- WHY I MADE THIS FILM
I fell in love with Jake (EKAJ) when he was sixteen. At the time, I wanted to make him a model. In the twenty plus years of working as a photographer, I have never seen a face like his. And I never felt that way about discovering anyone before. I photographed some of the greatest faces in my career but never got hooked as I did for him. One thing led to another.
My kids were already grown and gone, and there was this beautiful kid loaded with problems, and shy. Even though he had a good response in the modeling industry, he would shave his eyebrows right before a casting, or he was always cutting his hair… Always changing unexpectedly, never listening, impossible to control. The more that people told me to give up on him, the more I loved him. I identified with him in a mysterious way. I ended up writing the script with him in mind and reflecting many lives that I have known in this great city. There is so little belief in yourself when you come from broken worlds that don’t fit with society. If you are a rebel or have a heart, you don’t even want to fit in. After suffering buckets, you find the main stream insensitive or ignorant to your experience, and you feel completely inadequate at the same time. It’s hard to believe that so many people can be lonely in a city packed wall to wall with people. I have lost many friends through the years to drug overdose and AIDS. Ekaj is a film that’s very close to my heart.
Accolades for this film
Quotes from people who’ve seen this film
“EKAJ is a film that embraces a slice of life that is rarely seen on the screen. It covers a topic we all know about, but one that hasn’t been addressed in a long time… AIDS. But that said, I truly feel that EKAJ is so much more than a story about AIDS, it’s so universal. It resonates what love is… what it is to lose it, and what it’s like to continually search for it. It’s about survival and friendship… power struggles both within ourselves and with others. I think it says a lot about life, love and loss. I cannot tell you how impressed I am!!! You nailed it! You truly honed in on Ekaj’s journey…his inner conflict…and with the change of having his sidekick Mecca (probably his one true friend/love) die at the end is so much more poignant. I felt his pain, his sadness, his wants and needs.
Needless to say BRAVO!!!”
– Nicole Gomez Fisher (Writer/Director & Winner of “Best Director” at Brooklyn Film Festival 2013 for her film “Sleeping with the Fishes”
“Alright, major talent here, Cati, in the writing, direction and in the cinematography. No BS. Like I said, Major talent from what I saw in the trailer and what I’ve seen so far of the feature.
You have a truly powerful film. Reminded me a lot of Midnight Cowboy in different ways, but mostly in the arc of the characters, their relationship, the way they struggled with the conditions of their lives.”
Paul Calderon –Actor (Pulp Fiction, Bad Lieutenant, King of New York, The Castle, 21 Grams)
“I had the pleasure of watching Cati Gonzalez’s EKAJ and I have to say, I was blown away. It truly captures the sense of an Independent Film.”
Oscar Torre- Actor (Hangover III, Ladrones, Pretty Rose Bud, The Boatman)
“It certainly is a truthful film, well shot, edited, with good performances. We have been struggling for years to get ours made and only come close (even with “A” list actors) so I applaud you.” Peter MacNicol – Actor (Ghost Busters II, Bean, 24, CSI: Cyber Crime, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D)
“I finished watching the movie. Actually I watched parts of it a few times. It’s incredible in its own quiet and at times not so quiet way. As a writer, in love with words, I find it amazing how much you conveyed with so little dialogue, so few words. I know it’s Ekaj’s movie and he is so beautiful but I think Mecca is the film’s heart. He’s like a one man Greek chorus. It’s better than anything I have seen on Logo. And thanks for letting me watch it.”
Larry Benjamin – Book Author of: What blinds us, Damaged Angels, Unbroken and Vampire Rising (coming Summer 2015)
Film Trailer: https://vimeo.com/42660732
Sales & distribution inquiries:
Patricia Guillouard (917) 213- 6941 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cati and Mike Gonzalez email@example.com
Images used in this post are courtesy of Tompkins Square Park Films.
Divine would like to thank Cati and Mike for thinking of us and we hope that they have continued success with their ventures and with EKAJ.