An Independent Film With Great Contribution To Society
If we name you a series of words consisting of Family, Divorce, Suicide, and God, would you associate them? Los Angeles-based filmmakers Jess and Anayancy Thomas did. They devised, produced, and directed the film God & Salsa, a feature film that addresses the Mental Health of a teenager after the divorce of his parents and increases the Faith of a Christian woman.
“We are independent filmmakers based here in Los Angeles who met 9 years ago at church. Our film project is a story that is very close to our hearts as it mainly deals with the devastating effects of broken families, which can lead to depression and sometimes even suicide.” Jess commented on a digital medium.
He further added that “working on the story and the script was cathartic for both of us. We had friends who experienced the loss of their son to suicide at that time.
Currently, the WHO (World Health Organization) revealed that more than 280 million people suffer from depression in the world, a common mental condition and one of the main causes of disability.
God & Salsa present a positive solution to this disease. This drama feature film with heartbreaking characters fulfills the promise of Ecclesiastes 3:4 and was made on a really low budget so some of the crew members had to play multiple roles. “…Pre-production was crucial. Many details had to be ironed out long before production began, which was a challenge as we both have full-time jobs. It was nothing short of a miracle…” Anayancy Thomas said for this international medium.
But, what is the plot of the story?
God & Salsa unfold in a wonderful emotional meeting between two people with generation gaps. On one side is Raquel, a divorced single mother (40 years old) and grieving therapist who partially loses faith over the loss of her daughter to suicide, while Shane (16 years old) is an unhappy teenager whose parents are in the midst of a battle of divorce. Both characters are looking for answers, both are angry and hurt.
Raquel and Shane are in different phases of their lives; however, their lives intersect creating a beautiful collision where each one makes a valuable contribution to the other’s life with the interventions of a pastor who will not give up, an instructor of wise but extravagant dance, a wise old nun, and a sermon.
According to Jess and Anayancy Thomas, God & Salsa is the embodiment of Ecclesiastes 3:4, “There is… a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
How did the story come about?
The story is based on statements by Jess Thomas to a local digital media outlet.
“Anayancy and I met at an Entertainment Business Ministry event that our church at the time, Bel Air Presbyterian, was hosting. She expressed to me that from her personal experience, she had it in her heart for quite some time to write a book or make a documentary about the long-term negative impact that contentious divorce can have on both children and parents.
It immediately intrigued me because when I was a kid, my parents went through a horrible divorce and I was able to relate to it from a kid’s point of view. I remember as a preteen and teen I was really confused, depressed, and lost. I acted in many ways, anger, lethargy, drugs, and alcohol, and over the years I contemplated suicide on more than one occasion.
We met several times to follow up on the idea and both decided that a narrative feature film showing characters going through this would be a much more effective and impactful way to make the point.
We got to work on the plot and although the film is not autobiographical, numerous are things that both Anayancy and I experience: the sense of loss, depression, hopelessness, not to mention faith, and Salsa dancing.
But over time, something beautiful happened; we fell in love and got married. Now, nine years later, with the help of many talented people and organizations like Film Independent, we have a complete movie.”
Knowing A Little About The Cast
Shane is played by Javier Luna. He is a young model, actor, and singer from Madrid known for his role as Felipe Díaz in Disney’s “Violetta”.
“I play a 16-year-old boy who is struggling a lot since his parents are divorced. He has a lot of pressure and starts to take drugs. It is a story about overcoming these struggles,” Luna told a European digital media outlet.
For this leading character, the Spanish actor pointed out that he lost weight and was intensely involved. “It was a bit difficult to have that mindset at first, but I hope this movie can help a lot of people. As an actor, I tried to make it as authentic as possible… I’m excited about this movie. I gave it my all,” he added.
Raquel is the character played by Jovanna Vidal, an American film and television actress, presenter, producer, broadcaster, and businesswoman. She has ventured into shows like Disney Vacations and Girls Night Out, as well as representing Dr. Sánchez in TLC’s Evil Things and participates in the YouTube series Dahr Mann.
Enio Córdoba & Terryl Jones
Enio and Terryl are married and they are also partners on the dance floor. Both are professional dancers, have participated in numerous championships, and took part in Dance With Me (1998). Since then, Enio and Terryl have performed in more than 26 countries teaching Salsa around the world.
“My deepest congratulations to Jess and Anayancy for risking so much while trusting that this would be a hit. In the dance scenes, we had to show beginners learning. I told some of my old students to dance like they used to before taking lessons. Several scenes later they get to dance normally. OMG, they made me look like the world’s greatest dancer teacher”. Enio Córdoba expressed in his Facebook account for the award obtained for God & Salsa as the best narrative feature film at the Los Angeles Film Awards.
Navarro performed and composed two of the original songs for God & Salsa. Carlos Navarro is the founder/singer/percussionist/producer of La Orquesta “Son y Clave”, which has been a part of the Salsa-Latin-Mambo dance genre in the United States for many years. This band is well known for being dancer-friendly from beginners to professionals with their tight, contagious rhythm and impeccable elegant presence. One of Hollywood’s best, this band has participated in many media events including, dance competitions, festivals, concerts, etc. They also featured in the film Almost A Woman which won two Imagen awards and one Peabody award. The Fragment was taken from the official website of Film Independent.
Jess is the Writer, Director, and Producer of God & Salsa. Jess Thomas studied Drama/film at San Francisco State University. In 2000, he wrote, directed, and edited a B-Action-Movie titled Checking the Gate, which was picked up for distribution by Echelon Entertainment. Since then, Jess decided to focus on more uplifting and inspirational films such as The Seeker (2004), a human interest story, which was his first documentary feature film. It won the award for Best American Documentary at the Rome International Film Festival. In 2007 he co-wrote, directed, and edited the short film Forever, which premiered at the Dances With Films Film Festival. That same year, the second documentary feature Beijing Girl: Made In China was an Official Selection at the Santa Fe Film Festival. Jed (2010) is his third documentary on opera singer Jess Thomas senior. In 2017, his short Love Always was nominated for five awards at the 168 Film Festival. The fragment was taken from the official God & Salsa website.
Anayancy was born in San Salvador (El Salvador) and is the writer/producer of God & Salsa. Anayancy went to Watterson College, a vocational school in Pasadena, California. She has worked in the healthcare field since 2001 at various organizations based in Los Angeles and currently works as a contract administrator. In 2007 she was certified as a domestic violence support group facilitator working with battered women. In 2011, Anayancy joined a mission trip to Mexico with the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, where she helped build a home for a family in need and served as a translator. Under the instruction of Enio Cordova and Terryl Jones, she participated in dance exhibitions and joined a salsa dance team trained by Enio and Terryl, the team won first place at the Aloha Ball in Kona, Hawaii. Anayancy Thomas produced Love Always in 2017. Part of the fragment was extracted from the official page of God & Salsa.