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On The Verge: Brooklyn-born, Spike Lee-approved!

By Lapacazo Sandoval and Art Shrian | 4/17/2014, 4:54 p.m.
Brooklyn filmmaker Josef Kubota Wladyka is preparing to screen “Manos Sucias,” his gritty, authentic and heartbreaking portrayal of narco-trafficking in ...
“Manos Sucias”

Brooklyn filmmaker Josef Kubota Wladyka is preparing to screen “Manos Sucias,” his gritty, authentic and heartbreaking portrayal of narco-trafficking in Colombia, at the Tribeca Film Festival, premiering on Thursday, April 17 at 6:45 p.m. at BTC8. The film is co-written by Alan Blanco.

This Spike Lee-executive produced endeavor is the result of the filmmakers holding a five-week storytelling workshop during preproduction for Buenaventura residents to build lasting, sustainable skills among the community.

After the intensive course, where students learned basic camera techniques, how to structure story lines and how to edit in camera on their cell phones, many were hired on as production assistants during principal photography. One local went on to become the film’s production coordinator.

Loosely, the film is about two impoverished fishermen Afro-Colombian brothers from Colombia’s Pacific coast who transport drugs for cash in Buenaventura, Colombia’s biggest Pacific port, a spot for violence and criminal activity.

Dreaming of a better life, elder brother Jacobo (Jarlin Javier Martinez), who fancies himself “the devil,” wants to move to Bogota. Long abandoned by his wife, and his young son murdered by a paramilitary gang, his dreams seem simple compared with those of Delio (Cristian James Abvincula), a wannabe rapper who doesn’t possess an aptitude for the “dirty hands” (the literal translation of the Spanish title) required to thrive.

The screenplay gives voice to the underrepresented Afro-Colombian youth, capturing their serious lifestyle, strong aspirations, fiery frustrations and surprising humor.

The music is a clever mix of local selections, from the hip-hop and rap to the chill-inducing tones of funeral choirs.

It’s hard to get films made, but the New York City hustle is in Wladyka’s blood. He is the youngest of three sons of a Japanese mother and Polish father, who shared their deep passion for dance, photography and cinema with their family.

Immersing himself in the rich cinematic opportunities of the city, the aspiring storyteller created a series of shorts and commercials that have been screened at festivals around the world and on JetBlue Airways, gaining him a nomination for a Young Director’s award and a Porsche Student Advertising award.

The value of a formal education didn’t elude him, and he now holds an MFA from the NYU Tisch Graduate Film Program, where he won a Spike Lee Fellowship. “Manos Sucias” is already on a winning streak, being the recipient of the SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Award and the Canon Award.

When not working, Wladyka can be found on Brooklyn basketball courts, typically losing to teenagers. Here’s what the basketball-challenged filmmaker had to share about screening at the festival and working with Lee.

AmNews: What’s being at the Festival mean to you?

JKW: As a New York filmmaker, it’s always been a dream of mine to screen a movie at Tribeca, and I’m really excited to experience the film with our friends, family and the New York audience.

How was working with Spike?

Spike has been my mentor ever since my third year in the program (NYU Tisch Graduate Film Program), and he’s always supported me and helped me figure out how to make this film a reality no matter what, encouraging me never to give up. He’s been there for the film every step of the way, and his notes and feedback have made “Manos” the strongest it can be.

Screening information: Thursday, April 17 at 6:45 p.m. at BTC8 – first public screening (premiere); Friday, April 18 at 9:45 p.m. at BTC8 – second public screening; Monday, April 21 at 10:30 p.m. at BTC9 – third public screening

Tickets can be purchased online at www.tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets, or by telephone at 646-502-5296.