Nearly three years ago, Alex Salazar, an abusive, womanizing, drug addicted ex-LAPD cop and ex-undercover narcotics agent turned "activist", contacted me, telling me he was a fan of my work as a police accountability activist, and an avid reader of this blog.
Salazar went on to tell me that he was working on a project with filmmaker Dylan Avery, who directed 9/11 Loose Change film about the World Trade Center Towers attack.
Alex Salazar told me he had spoken with Avery, and the two of them had decided they wanted my Dad's story to be featured in their film, Black & Blue.
And they wanted me to tell it.
My Dad Mario Vara with his VHS camcorder (Photo circa 1987)
My Dad Mario Vara was a community activist in Rochester, NY in the 1980's and early 90's.
As many of you who follow this blog, and are familiar with my work already know, my Dad Mario Vara was a Cuban immigrant who fled communism and arrived in the U.S. in 1968 in search of a better life for our family.
Having known all too well what it was like to live in a police state, my Dad became very passionate and outspoken against police brutality here in the U.S. after an incident in 1986 where Rochester, NY Police Officers Randall "Rambo" Benjamin and Mark Mariano kicked in our front door without a warrant, and terrorized me and my family at gunpoint.
That incident forever changed my life and the way I look at police.
My Dad was devestated to see that he had left his family and his homeland behind only to experience similar abuse at the hands of the very same individuals who have taken a sworn oath to serve and protect.
Dad became very active in the Rochester community.
He organized and attended rallies, protests and marches.
He even co-hosted a Spanish language cable television access original gram titled "La Voz del Pueblo", which in English means The Voice of The People.
With that show, and with his activism work, my Dad helped expose many injustices.
And he also empowered people.
People who were too afraid to speak out and tell their stories.
I was so proud of my Dad.
I admired his passion.
In many ways my Dad was a pioneer.
Long before Rodney King, long before smartphones, long before YouTube or Facebook, and long before it became cool to record cops, my Dad was out there with his big VHS camcorder.
As a result of my Dad's activism, the Rochester, NY Police Department made my his 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.
It's been almost 25 years that my Dad has been gone.
And I miss him every day.
When Alex Salazar told me that he and Dylan Avery wanted my Dad to be featured in Black & Blue, I was so happy.
You see, for years my goal has been to tell my Dad's story on film.
But as someone who struggles with depression and PTSD, it's been very hard to make a film about my Dad.
Making a documentary is already hard enough, especially when it's such a personal story.
And especially for someone who struggles with depression.
The truth is I've been stuck for years trying to make my film about my Dad.
So when Alex Salazar told that he and Dylan Avery wanted to tell my Dad's story in their film, I was very happy.
Shortly after Alex Salazar contacted me, I welcomed him and Dylan Avery into my home.
I introduced them to my family.
For the next three days, my small apartment was converted into a small Hollywood studio.
Lights, cameras, tripods, microphones, and cables were set up in my living room.
Alex Salazar set up his computers and camera equipment 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 Alex Salazar and Dylan Avery like family.
I even treated Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar to one of my favorite Latino restaurants, where we planned filming, over dinner.
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.
As most of you already know, my Dad's work, and his suicide are the reasons why I'm so passionate about what I do.
That, combined with the fact that I will never forget, nor will I ever forgive the Rochester, NY Police Department for what they did to my Dad.
And for what they put him through.
I want to say something here.
This isn't meant to be 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.
Alex Salazar and Dylan Avery lied to me.
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 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.
The interview ended up lasting most of the day.
I was drained afterwards.
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.
Then without any real explanation, Dylan Avery completely cut my Dad from the film.
After asking Dylan Avery several times for an explanation, he finally sent me this text:
"Your dad's story doesn't work for people, I'm sorry, but he killed himself"
That's the response I get from someone I welcomed into my home and let around my children.
That's the response I get.
An insensitive, and shrill text.
"Doesn't work for people?"
What the fuck does that even mean exactly?
It's one of the most harshest, insensitive things anyone has ever said about my Dad.
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 people 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 Black & Blue told Dylan Avery to cut me and my Dad out of the film, or according to the source, "they wouldn't touch it."
I don't doubt it.
That would at least help to explain what Dylan Avery cut my Dad out.
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.
It's all very strange.
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
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.
As far as Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar, I question their real intentions.
And I don't feel they should be trusted.
Not after how they lied to me.
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.
Looking back on it now, in many ways I believe I was scammed.
You see I believed so much in Black & Blue, that I made several donations to Dylan Avery.
Over the course of a few months, I donated a total of $725.00 to Dylan Avery.
I wasn't a lot of money, 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 even paid the Sundance Film Festival entry fee for Black &!Blue, after Dylan Avery told me he was strapped for cash.
Black & Blue ended up being turned down by Sundance.
I feel stupid for trusting Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar.
There's one thing in particular that really bothers me when I look back.
Something that makes me question Alex Salazar 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 like they were trying to exploit my pain.
I'm not sure.
It just didn't feel right.
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 taking advantage of that.
Again, like they were trying to exploit that.
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.
I'd like to end with this.
Simply put, just because I don't trust Dylan Avery and Alex Salazar, and I don't believe they are good people, doesn't mean I don't believe in the film.
Black & Blue will help a lot of families who have lost loved ones at the hands of police, find closure.
And as someone who lives with the pain of what the Rochester, NY Police Department did to my dad, and who has struggled to find my own closure, I know how important that will be for these families.
Screenshots of My Dad Mario Vara from Black & Blue Film Trailer