"Your dad's story doesn't work for people, I'm sorry, but he killed himself"
That's the text I received from filmmaker Dylan Avery yesterday.
It's one of the most harshest, insensitive things anyone has ever said about my Dad.
Let me explain.
Two years ago, Alex Salazar, an ex-LAPD cop and undercover narcotics officer turned "activist" befriended me on Facebook.
Salazar told me he was a fan of my work and that he was working on a project with filmmaker Dylan Avery, of 9/11 Loose Change film fame.
Salazar told me he had spoken with Avery, and the two of them wanted to include my Dad's story in their film, Black and Blue.
A week later, I welcomed Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar into my home, and around my children.
For the next three days, my apartment was converted into a small Hollywood studio.
Lights, tripods, microphones, cables, and cameras were set up in my living room.
Alex Salazar set up computers in my children's room, which I had transformed into a guest room for him and Dylan Avery.
Cameras Set Up in My Office
Dylan Avery Gets Ready to Interview Me
Alex Salazar in My Children's Room
I treated Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar to one of my favorite Latino restaurants, where we planned filming, over dinner and cold beers.
During dinner I explained to Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar that my Dad's story is something very emotional and very hard for me to talk about.
I wanted them to know that behind the whole "Davy V." public image that people see on YouTube, and social media, and which at times can perhaps come across as being a bit over the top, there's actually a real person with a lot of pain.
I also needed them to know that behind "Davy V.", there's a story.
A story which I don't often, or easily just open up to complete strangers about.
As many of you who follow this blog, and are familiar with my story know, my Dad Mario Vara, a Cuban immigrant who fled communism in the late 1960's, in search of a better life for him and his family in the U.S., was a police accountability activist in Rochester, NY in the 1980's.
In fact, my Dad was a pioneer when it came to cop watching.
Long before Rodney King, before smartphones, before YouTube, before it became cool to record cops, my Dad was out there with his big VHS camcorder.
My Dad Mario Vara with his VHS Camcorder Photo Circa 1987
As a result of his work, the Rochester, NY Police Department made my Dad's life hell.
During the late 1980's through the early 90's, the Rochester, NY Police targeted my Dad, harassing and intimidating him on an almost daily basis.
It became so bad that my dad fell into a deep depression.
On July 9, 1993, my Dad committed suicide in his bedroom, while me and my mom were downstairs.
My Dad's work, and his suicide is why I am so passionate about what I do.
That, combined with the fact that I will never forget, nor will I forgive the Rochester, NY Police Department for what they did to my Dad.
And for what they put him through.
I want to be clear about something here.
I don't want to make this an angry or hate piece.
But the truth is I'm just very hurt.
Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar both assured me that my Dad's story would make it in the film.
They both told me they understood my Dad's death was very personal for me, and they told me they wouldn't have travelled from Los Angeles, where they both live, to Upstate, NY, to waste my time.
I trusted Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar.
I trusted them with a very personal and painful subject for me, and for my family.
My Dad's death.
I remember how hard it was to be interviewed for Dylan Avery's film, Black and Blue
The interview lasted several hours and at times
was so hard that we had to stop several times because I became very emotional.
Recalling the day my Dad committed suicide is very hard for me.
And recalling the day my Dad committed suicide, in front of bright lights and several cameras, is even harder.
Even twenty four years later, my Dad's death is very hard to talk about.
I think what makes it especially difficult for me is again, I was home when it happened.
I was the first one to run up the stairs and see my Dad, and make sure my mom wouldn't see him like that.
I miss my Dad every day.
I always say I have needed my Dad more as an adult, than I ever did when I was a child.
I think that's because when we're children, we tend to take our parents and even our grandparents for granted.
Most children don't really have a concept of death.
Therefore as a child, and even as a young adult, the fact of one day not having my Dad in my life, never really crossed my mind.
One of the hardest things to accept is that my Dad missed out on so much.
For example, he never got the chance to see his grandchildren.
And my children never met their grandfather.
They only know of him through stories.
Back to Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar.
The interview ended up lasting most of the day.
Afterwards I was drained.
Both emotionally and physically.
Dylan Avery stayed in Rochester one more day and Alex Salazar stayed a couple more days.
I took Salazar to Rochester's historic Mount Hope Cemetery, where we visited the grave of Frederick Douglass.
I also took Alex Salazar to Niagara Falls, which he had never visited.
It ended up being perfect timing, as the Falls had frozen over.
Once there, Dylan Avery called Alex Salazar and asked him to get video footage of the falls, to include in the film.
A couple of days later, I drove Alex Salazar to the airport.
In the months that followed, Dylan Avery contacted me several times to ask me for old archive video footage of my Dad.
Over the course of several weeks, I looked through hundreds of old VHS video tapes, and spent countless hours transferring footage to DVDs, which I overnighted to Dylan Avery.
I did this several times.
Each time Dylan Avery would update me on how good my Dad's "chapter" in the film was coming along.
Which is why I don't understand why Dylan Avery not only decided to cut my Dad out of the film, but I especially don't understand his very insensitive, shrill text.
Dylan Avery has refused to take my calls.
So has Alex Salazar.
Yes it is true.
My Dad did commit suicide.
He wasn't killed by police.
Af least not in the literal sense.
But they greatly contributed to his committing suicide.
What the Rochester, NY Police did to my dad, is something that's not often talked about.
We hear about physical abuse, such as police beating people.
And we hear about police killing people.
But we don't really hear about police agencies targeting individuals through a selective pattern of harassment and intimidation tactics.
In essence, a form of psychological warfare.
Worse than any physical beating.
And it was that psychological warfare which drove my Dad to commit suicide.
I may never know the real reason or reasons why Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar lied to me, strung me along, and ultimately cut my Dad's story out of their film, Black and Blue.
But I feel that politics played a major part.
It's no secret that I'm very outspoken and opinionated.
And a lot of folks don't like that.
Take, for example, my criticism of the hypocrisy behind the Black Lives Matter movement, where they have no problem protesting whenever a cop kills a black youth, but are nowhere to be seen or heard from when innocent little black girls are killed in Chicago, the victims of gang crossfire.
And some folks don't like that.
They can't handle the fact that I'm me, and that I can't be bought.
And that I'm always going to speak my mind regardless of what anyone thinks.
Like when I say that the real enemy of black youths is NOT the police, sadly, it's other black youths.
And when you have filmmakers and Hollywood distributors who are more interested in making money than in speaking the truth, well, you make decisions to get rid of anyone who is deemed outspoken or "controversial."
Also, as many of you know, I've been the target of many threats, and I have my share of haters and trolls.
According to a source who asked to remain anonymous, potential distributors for the film told Dylan Avery to cut my Dad and myself out of the film, or according to the source, "they wouldn't touch it."
Which, if true, would at least help to explain what Dylan Avery meant with his text, where he said "Your dad's story doesn't work for people."
Doesn't work for people?
What the fuck does that even mean exactly?
If it is in fact true that distributors asked Dylan Avery to cut my Dad out of the film, then that would also show that Dylan Avery has sold out to Hollywood.
In other words, he's a puppet.
They own him.
Whatever the reason, Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar have refused to tell me.
I need to say this:
The truth is I didn't want to write this.
And at first I wasn't.
But then I realized I had to.
You see, I owe it to every single one of you who read this blog, and who follow my work.
And I especially owe it to everyone who I shared the link for the official trailer for Black and Blue with.
That's another thing.
Not only did Dylan Avery feature my Dad in the official trailer for Black and Blue, but as you can see in the photo below, he even had my name printed on the official movie poster.
Official Black & Blue Film Poster Shows My Name
And that's why I decided to write this.
I owed it to everyone who contacted me regarding the film.
Folks as far away as Australia, who contacted me to tell me how much they were looking forward to seeing my Dad in the film.
My brother said something to me which is very true.
He told me that at the end of the day, I became too emotionally involved in the film.
A film I had no control over.
But nonetheless, a film I believed in.
In fact, scratch that.
A film I STILL believe in.
Because I do.
Like I wrote in my February 23, 2016 piece titled "Dylan Avery's Film Black and Blue Will Help Many Deal with Their Pain of Losing Loved Ones to Trigger-Happy Cops", the film will help bring closure to families.
But I don't trust Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar.
Not after how they lied to me,
And I question their motives for not only cutting my Dad out of the film, but now I find myself questioning their motive behind making the film.
Let me elaborate.
As I look back now, there were some things that made me question whether I should have opened up to Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar and whether I should have trusted them in the first place.
For example, someone reached out to me after I posted some photos of Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar filming in Rochester, and they told me to be very careful with Dylan Avery.
According to the person, some years back, when Dylan Avery produced the film 9/11 Loose Change, he and his partner Korey Rowe, who co-produced the film with Avery, were accused of defrauding investors and scamming them out of more than $100,000, before selling the rights to the film to a distributor, and never repaying the investors.
But at the time I didn't think much of it.
To be honest, I didn't think it was neither here nor there, as frankly it had nothing to do with me, and Dylan Avery never asked me for any money,
On the contrary, it was I, on my own free will, who chose to make several donations to Avery, and I sent him several hundred dollars over a few months.
I wasn't a lot, but it was my way of letting him know that I believed in him and I wanted to help out with travel expenses, etc.
I also paid the Sundance Film Festival entry fee for Black and Blue, after Dylan Avery told me he was strapped for cash.
The film ended up being turned down by Sundance.
UPDATED: According to my records, I sent Dylan Avery a total of $725.00 in 5 separate transactions.
Then there were the rumors about Alex Salazar.
Apparently, there were several people claiming that Salazar, who once worked in the infamous LAPD Rampart Division during the Rodney King beating, as an undercover cop, was still working undercover, and perhaps even more disturbing, was trying to infiltrate different police accountability groups and befriend activists.
So naturally, I brought the matter up to Alex Salazar, but he denied it.
However, the next day, Alex Salazar defriended me and blocked me on Facebook.
When I asked him about this, he told me something which I found interesting.
Alex Salazar explained to me that he was forced to defriend people on Facebook, and ultimately decided to deactivate his Facebook account altogether, because the rumors about him working as an undercover agent continued.
Salazar currently works as a private detective in Los Angeles.
Which reminds me of something else.
Another thing I thought was unprofessional of Salazar, is that he would often call me on three way when he would talk to his clients.
I felt it was unprofessional, not to mention unethical.
Again, Alex Salazar is a private detective in Los Angeles, with a large percentage of his work involving extramarital affairs.
For Alex Salazar to violate the trust and confidentiality of his clients, I feel says a lot about him personally.
Salazar would get upset when I would hang up, and he just couldn't understand that I felt it was wrong.
But there was one thing in particular that bothered me personally about Alex Salazar, and something that makes me question his and Dylan Avery's motives behind making Black and Blue.
It occurred during the filming of my interview for Black and Blue.
After a very emotional part in the interview, where I was describing the evening when my Dad committed suicide, Salazar yelled at me across the room during a break in filming, and told me I had to "make it more emotional."
I recall feeling uncomfortable.
I just felt it was as if he and Dylan Avery were trying to coach or direct me.
And it didn't feel natural.
Again, my Dad's death is something that's very painful for me and very hard to open up about, and it just felt like they were exploiting it.
I've learned a valuable lesson in all this.
I learned to be more careful trusting people.
And I've learned that no matter how empathetic someone may seem, oftentimes people aren't who they say they are.
Screenshots of My Dad Mario Vara from Black & Blue Film Trailer