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Fabian Morales-Botero: Director talks homelessness, personal journey
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2013-01-08

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People may not have heard much about Fabian Morales-Botero, but that could change significantly by year's end. The director/advocate is tackling a variety of issues with a series of films (including Take Me Home, which deals with homelessness in central Florida).

Morales-Botero talked with Windy City Times during a recent stop in Chicago.

Windy City Times: To start with the basics, your name is Fabian Morales-Botero? [Editor's note: Conflicting searches and press releases listed him as "Fabian Morales" and "Fabian Morales-Botero."]

Fabian Morales-Botero: It's Morales-Botero. With my name, I felt like I needed to add that personal touch. There are a lot of Fabian Moraleses, but there isn't a single Fabian Morales-Botero. [Smiles] I was trying to keep a very simple name. I went to Colombia, and people were talking about my last name. I felt that [adding to my name] would give that extra definition to who I am.

WCT: You're in Chicago because you're trying to enter film festivals?

FM-B: Yes. I am targeting the Chicago International Film Festival and the Chicago Latino Film Festival. If there's a way I can my messages out there through the festivals, I'm going to. If I can't, I'll have to do it privately. Hopefully, I'll be able to target certain communities, like the LGBT community, with messages about homelessness.

WCT: Yes. Some people feel that the entire LGBT community is very affluent.

FM-B: Right. Some people are just not very educated on the subject—and that happens with any subject we talk about. The more I talk with people, the more thankful they are for the information [in Take Me Home]. We're targeting youth; they're the ones who'll be making the bigger impact.

WCT: Going into your background a little bit, you're from Colombia?

FM-B: Yes; I came to the States when I was 14 so I was very absent from my culture and my country. My family came with the full intention of integrating into the culture; my mother was really into culture and language. We moved to Florida for about seven months; then we moved just north of Los Angeles. [Being close to L.A.] let me get close to the arts and theater.

I started as an actor. It was so technical, but it paid the bills. By 16, I was directing my first play, so that was a wonderful opportunity. I just went on, building from that. From an early age I knew I would direct and create art.

WCT: I did see in a YouTube video that you learned English through music. What songs did you listen to, in particular?

FM-B: Well, there were many songs. I would try to mimic the sounds. Many times when I spoke, I would mimic the sound but not necessarily the meaning.

WCT: So it wasn't like "I like big butts and I cannot lie."

FM-B: [Laughs] No—it was just love songs from the '80s. With that came this very bohemian, very romantic personality—which made me who I am today.

WCT: Reading about you, you seem to be a documentarian. Would you classify yourself as such?

FM-B: I don't, but I have this wonderful ability to document life. When I say that, I mean I've been doing that since I was a kid; I was the one organizing family albums. I have this wonderful way of remembering stories, including details, like what people are wearing. I feel I have this wonderful way of investigating. I do want to work on several documentaries, and put my word and work out to many communities.

WCT: Getting back to Take Me Home, does that focus on the LGBT community?

FM-B: It doesn't, and I tried. There are two [demographics] missing from the documentary: Latinos and the LGBT community. I came across a couple of people, but they didn't want to be in the documentary. With Latinos, there's this sense of pride that comes with the culture, and I just struggled so, so much [to get them in the movie]. However, I can tell you that several organizations in central Florida are using the video.

One of the reasons I came to Chicago is because I met this wonderful guy named Ruben [Feliciano], who worked on opening one of the first Latino LGBT shelters and with [local HIV/AIDS agency] Vida/SIDA. I want to, in a way, become a bridge between the people and the need.

WCT: So would you consider yourself an activist?

FM-B: I do—very much so. Actually, my mother thought I would be a president or politician. I would stand up on a table and debate, telling my family what I thought. I am a very opinionated person. I do believe we all have a voice and that we should let people know what our message is. If we don't, we don't get anywhere. I think a lot of people don't realize the power of their voice. With the homeless, I want to make sure I raise as much awareness as I can.

WCT: How do you decide what to focus on? There are so many issues.

FM-B: It's very difficult. When I was shooting a document, I knew I didn't want to focus on statistics or numbers. It's a huge problem; when people see numbers, people want to act because they can't because it's already too much. So I decided that I would focus on character. When I got out on the street and I saw so many of them, I just allowed them to come to me. When I did that, I discovered children, mothers, grandmothers, people with education. I put myself out there for two years and just documented everything I saw. This is my journey through their lives.

A lot of the people see [the homeless] as outcasts, but there's a community there; there's love, there's education. One of the things that got me the most [while filming Take Me Home] is that I used to sleep with them on the streets. There were times when we would read or talk about political issues before going to sleep. I was fascinated by this—the sense of community. It's time we stop living in "me" mode and go back to "we." Even the Constitution says, "We the people."

People ask me what the solution is, and I always say, "Love." When you love someone, there are no boundaries.

WCT: When you were out there sleeping with the homeless, did any part of you feel guilty, knowing you had a home to go to?

FM-B: [Nods] Yes, yes. I felt very guilty. During the very first months of documenting and being out there on the streets, I felt like I was a hypocrite. I would work with them, and go home. I would be in my space with all of this information about people. I would go to bed—and it would hit me, so I had to go out there. It took me a very long time to separate Fabian the individual from Fabian the director. The homeless told me I was doing better by going home, resting up and returning the next day.

WCT: You also have another movie called The Mothership.

FM-B: Yes; I haven't started shooting that one yet, but it's going to be a wonderful, wonderful [feature] film.

WCT: And it deals with a disease called … progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy [or PML].

FM-B: Yes—you got it! You know what interested me in this particular project? I'm in film school and I'm doing well. I get all of this attention for this documentary and I'm thinking, "People are just going to think he lucked out." I don't have the funds to make a feature film so I decided to make a short about a subject most people don't know about. So I met this guy who had a book based on his daughter's story; she was diagnosed with HIV, and she was misdiagnosed with PML—and she passed away a month later. So I started asking around about PML; every single doctor had no clue about it.

So I made a short. [A national organization] called me the next day and said, "The way you told this story is brilliant—and you did it with no money." [Laughs] But I'm very passionate about this subject. I figured I needed to look deeper into [the subject] because it's related to HIV and people need to know what's happening. I decided to tell the daughter's story from the point of view of her last-born, Alex. (She had four children.) That's why the film got attention. I'm funding the film as we speak. I've been speaking with NASA because Alex has this fascination with space; they've said they're interested, and they want to make this happen.

WCT: You're also heavily involved in politics. Do you see yourself running for office eventually?

FM-B: I don't know if I see myself running, but I do know I would support a cause I strongly believe in. I do see me attaching myself to certain people or organizations if it would bring justice to certain issues.

It's a very difficult question for me to answer now. I would say "yes" and I would say "no." I think the films will allow me to make an impact. So the answer is, "I may." [Smiles]

Follow Fabian Morales-Botero on Facebook.


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