John Robinson (Wayne Montgomery) and Alex Meraz (Nicaragua) in 186 DOLLARS TO FREEDOM, a film by Camilo Vila. Picture courtesy Four Fish Films. All rights reserved.
- Fernando Gagliuffi
- Paula Vila
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186 Dollars To Freedom (2012)
Also Known As: City of Gardens, The City of Gardens
Opened: 09/21/2012 Limited
|Quad Cinema/NYC||09/21/2012 - 09/27/2012||7 days|
|Monica 4-Plex||09/28/2012 - 10/04/2012||7 days|
Genre: Action/Drama (English and Spanish w/English subtitles)
Trailer available on film website.
Trailer available on film website.
Based on the gripping true story of the film's writer-producer, Monty Fisher, a young surfer living happily with his beautiful girlfriend in Lima, Peru in 1980 naively lets his visa expire and finds himself behind bars in Lima's notorious El Sexto prison. When the ruthless Peruvian police find that they have an American in prison, they plant drugs in his backpack in order to extort money from him and his family. Wayne refuses to play the game and he quickly becomes a non-person, even to his own Embassy. Absorbed in a grim system of corruption, torture and wholesale murder, and surrounded by eccentric and dangerous fellow prisoners, he comes of age, struggling to survive and, against all odds, escape.
- Winner BEST FILM, Hollywood Reel Film Festival
- Grand Jury Award BEST DIRECTOR
- Camilo Vila, Houston Worldfest
- Winner BEST ACTOR John Robinson, Hollywood Reel Film Festival
- OFFICIAL SELECTION, New York International Latino Film Festival
I was initially drawn to Monty Fisher's story because of its raw truth and unforgettable characters. A young, unsuspecting American gets thrown into a Peruvian prison in 1980 by a military government, and his life suddenly becomes a struggle to survive. The challenge I found was to recreate the 80s in Latin America in an authentic way that people throughout the world will understand. Fortunately, when we got to Peru we found a prison location so ghastly and foreboding that this location became an unforgettable character itself in the film.
We used handheld 16 mm cameras and film for a gritty realism that the story demanded. We were also blessed by outstanding performances from a mixed Peruvian and American cast and crew that drew heavy inspiration from Monty's story. The budget and time restraints made us all work harder and more intensely than a commercial or studio film. The end result honors everyone involved.
-- Camilo Vila, Director
I was waiting for a plane flight back to the United States. I had just escaped from the El Sexto prison in Lima, Peru and had secretly journeyed by car, bus and on foot more than a thousand miles to cross the border to freedom in Ecuador. I was exhausted by my ordeal, but I had one last night to "enjoy" in Latin America. I decided to see a movie. The movie was "Midnight Express", the true story about the American who almost lost his mind and life in a Turkish prison. I left the film shaking and in a trance. I could barely speak. Somehow, some day I promised myself that night, that I also would tell my story about my time in a Peruvian jail, and I too would show it on a big screen.
The next twenty eight years were a series of blunders, false starts and deviations from the path. I became an actor (not so good), a playwright (a little better) and a theater director (terrible) along with my day job as a school teacher. I wrote 13 drafts of the story and changed the title four times. I returned to Peru eight times to look for a director to take on my screenplay. I even went to film school.
It wasn't until I hooked up with Camilo Vila in 2008 that I saw any real progress. He saw the raw potential in my story and worked with me to craft a magnificent screenplay (originally titled "City of Gardens").
I sensed that when we put this script with our casting director, Pixie Monroe, that a lot of young guys would die for this role of a young surfer who has to turn into a man in a Peruvian prison. We received over 3,000 submissions, from which we chose John Robinson. We had seen him in "Elephant" and "Lords of Dogtown". He had sweetness and vulnerability, and we liked that he insisted on doing his own surfing stunts.
Originally, our plan was to bring John to Peru and the rest of the cast would be Peruvians. But when our script was being passed around some of the Hollywood agencies, suddenly we had a lot of requests from name actors, like Alex Meraz, Deborah Unger and Grant Bowler, all of whom were willing to work for SAG minimum just for the chance to be part of this film. Suddenly our little Peruvian film was becoming a big Hollywood movie.
April, 2010. We begin production and spend 29 grueling days in a forbidding, condemned haunted old building, nicknamed "Siberia" for the cold ocean fog that flows through it. Every American cast and crew member got sick at least once. We had equipment and sound footage stolen and kept hostage by local criminals. But we also had amazing luck. 2010 had been the coldest, cloudiest year in Lima in decades, yet on the one day we were to shoot our beach scene, the sun miraculously came out. We were also blessed by a cast of prison extras, who all had been real prisoners, but who were now Born Again Christians. Their joyful and grateful attitude carried us through the hard times of 14 hour a day production.
Editing the film was grueling too. Each new version we screened in front of a different college film class. The response was tepid, at best. We had to throw out a lot of our favorite scenes: a party, surfing stunts, absurd prison scenes; all of this to be left with the remaining raw story of a young guy who has to get out of prison, or die. Now we saw that audiences were moved by the story.
When we finally added the music, we knew we now had a great film. I am really proud of our score composed by Roger Bellon. It's a unique blend of ethnic, rock and opera that really pumps up the emotional rollercoaster of this story.
My most effusive thanks go to Camilo Vila. This film is the embodiment of his vision. His patience with me, a first time producer is near angelic. He has worked far beyond his contract to ensure that this film is as magnificent as it is. He has been a loyal partner, and a remarkable mentor to me.
The final goal I have for this film, is to share it with Billy Hayes, the American prisoner in the Turkish jail in "Midnight Express" whose story would never leave me. I want to thank him for being the spur in my heel that never let me give up this promise I made to myself back in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1980.
-- Monty Fisher, Producer/Writer
About the Director
Camilo Vila has directed hundreds of commercials for the English and Spanish Market all over the world. In addition to numerous Spanish television shows. He has also been credited with English films and television shows as well. His most recent endeavor is 186 DOLLARS TO FREEDOM, starring Grant Bowler from "Atlas Shrugged", Alex Meraz of "Twilight" and John Robinson of "Elephant". Vila is versatile and drama driven director. TELEVISION CREDITS: "Resurrection Blvd." 2001 Viacom, "18 Wheels of Justice" 1999-2000 Season, Stu Segall Productions/Eyemark CBS. FEATURES: "City of Gardens", "Unlawful Passage", Saban Entertainment, "Options", "The Unholy", Vestron Pictures. COMMERCIALS: Over 300 commercials internationally.