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“Collisions” star Jesse Garcia: Deportation family stories have “always been relevant”

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Jesse Garcia, best known from the Sundance darling “Quinceañera,” exudes charisma starring as a reluctant caretaker in the film “Collisions,” which airs on FUSE TV Saturday, Oct. 5 at 9 pm ET. This timely melodrama concerns the impact of deportation on a Latino family.

Garcia, who also produced the film, stars as Evencio, the estranged uncle of 12-year-old Itan (Izabella Alvarez) and her younger brother Neto (Jason Garcia, Jr.). When their mother Yoana (Ana de la Reguera) is detained by ICE, Evencio, a trucker, helps his niece and nephew try to locate their mom.

“Collisions,” written and directed by Richard Levien, opens with a statistic that “every four minutes a U.S. citizen child is separated from a parent by deportation.” The film also features a Mexican proverb about being born either “under a lucky star,” or “into collisions.” Both messages ring true over the course of the film.

Evencio is hardly fit to take care of the kids. He drinks, smokes, curses, and generally does not put the children’s needs first. (One dramatic moment has Neto wandering off unsupervised). In fact, Evencio only agrees to help Itan after she offers him money. But “Collisions” allows the themes of immigration, being undocumented, and deportation come across clearly. Itan tracks her mother’s progress through the system on her cell phone, while Evancio, Itan, and Neto encounter roadblocks trying to find Yoana. The film also emphasizes the idea of having one foot in the homeland and one foot in the new land, searching for a better life.

Garcia’s canny performance grounds the film. He gives a relaxed portrayal of a man who is both jaded and resigned towards a system that is designed to oppress him. He has a marvelous rapport with Garcia, Jr. as Neto and some nice conflicts with the feisty Alvarez.

In a recent phone interview, the actor/producer spoke with Salon about “Collisions,” his experiences as a Latino actor, and the importance of creating his own opportunities.

This film is your first full producer credit after you executive produced “Hostile Border.” What motivated you to produce this film?

There are a couple reasons why I came on to produce this. When Richard [Levien] first reached out to my manager to see what my interest was, I read the script and said I like what’s here and would love to have a conversation with Richard about it. He got to me because [producer] Vincent Cortez was a fan of mine and he thought I could be a good fit for this. I talked to Richard, and from the “Quinceañera” days, I’ve grown a lot as an artist, a filmmaker, a director, and producer. I’m a lot pickier about what I want to do.

The character I got to play here was different. I asked, "How much collaboration are you willing to have?" Some directors are set on their words or have firm visions. He was open to all ideas. If I’m going to do a smaller movie, then I want to say what I find is dishonest and collaborate on it. And he was down for that. He was sitting on the script for six years. I said, "There were key........

© Salon