Posted by: Drew | April 11, 2008

D.R. Hernandez – Latina Film Maker with Jersey Shore Roots

In our final interview from the 6th Garden State Film Festival, we had a chance to speak with D.R. Hernandez. Hernandez’s company Blue Force Films had it’s New Jersey premiere of Closure and A Call For Valor at the ferstival. When I spoke to Hernandez and she told me she was a retired police officer I was not suprised as it the profession seemed to fit her demeanor or vica versa. Hernandez is a cop through and through, when answering my questions her answers had a very “Just The Facts” feeling to them. After speaking with her I found an impassioned artist who really believes in her work. In this day in age finding people who have this sort of passion is rare. Hernandez is a breath of fresh air with her insightful vision of public service.

Just The Facts

Celebrated Police Captain turned award-winning filmmaker Donna Roman (D.R.) Hernandez and her husband Jerry Hernandez attended the 6th Garden State Film Festival this past weekend. Hernandez is a Latina filmmaker who was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey but counts Asbury Park as home away from home. Becoming a Police Officer in 1980 , she recently retired at the rank of Captain with the Caldwell Police Department after twenty six years of service. Not ready to sit back and relax she next founded Blue Force Films, an independent film production company, in 2005. The company specializes in documentaries centering on law enforcement topics. Hernandez cites her influences as, “Real police stories and victimization of survivorship. Telling the survivorship stories of officers injured in the line of duty and those that have experienced traumatic events.” Interestingly as a filmmaker Hernandez also finds inspiration from Charlie Chaplin & silent movies. Hernandez says “I love understanding a story without any sound.” Talents including a passionate writer and trained public speaking give Hernandez a great skill set to tell a story with real impact.

All Things Filmmaking

While discussing the recent Writers Guild strike and possible Screen Actors Guild strike, Hernandez had a few thoughts of her own to share. “It just shows Hollywood isn’t Hollywood without the writers. You have to pay for good product and nickel and dime-ing those people who make these programs hits, isn’t fair. Its all about being fair and equal across the board.” she said. Being a former police Captain, we are sure this is one filmmaker who understands the art of the negotiation.

On the topic of YouTube and film festivals she says, “I think it’s wonderful, I think any venue that enhances or assists people like myself, …theres not a lot of money out there, especially in New Jersey with all the cutbacks. (for the Arts)” and “The Garden State Film Festival is the most tremendous venue for independent filmmakers, is right here in the Garden State.”

When asked about what Hernandez was hoping to gain from the Garden State Film Festival, she had this to say. “If I can affect one life, with my stories of how they perceive police officers as human being versus robots, we have our flaws, but the bottom line is we are here to protect the people. If someone walks away with a positive image of what police really do and are, then I’m a winner”

Her ability to tell a story is has manifested itself so far into four impressive films, the multi award-winning documentary The Ultimate Betrayal: A Survivor’s Journey that exposed her family’s 40 year history of physical and emotional terrorism at the hands of her father. We will provide coverage of her newest film in an upcoming story.

Closure

September 11, 2001 altered the life of a female cop whose sister, an NYPD cop, perished in the World Trade Center. Six years after her sister’s death and with pending police disciplinary action against her for job performance problems, she returns to Ground Zero hoping to find a way to move on with her life and discovers that closure doesn’t always mean a ending.

Hernandez points out that there are parts of the post 9/11 site such as the artwork that were removed just two weeks after filming. Hernandez feels that “Closure, is a standing tribute to not only the fallen offices, but to every and anyone who was involved in that horrific event.”

Closure received the award for Best Dramatic Short at the The New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in LA.

A Call for Valor

Police Sergeant Ken Hogan was involved in an armed encounter with a suspect who had mission to kill Hogan and himself. Sgt. Hogan was ambushed inside his police car as the suspect fired more than 19 rounds from a semi-automatic weapon, four of them penetrating Sgt. Hogan’s body, with the last round lodging in his skull. The suspect completed one part of his mission–he died. Sgt. Hogan had a plan to survive and he did. In his own words, Hogan vividly recalls his call for valor.

Both Closure and A Call For Valor played last weekend at the Garden State Film Festival and is currently being moving through the festival circuit. In 2007 A Call For Valor was selected for representation at the 2007 American Film Market in Santa Monica, CA.

In a quote from Independent Film Quarterly, Hernandez said, “Sgt. Ken Hogan and I are police
colleagues. His story is every cop’s worst nightmare of being shot in the line of duty, …In early 2007, Sgt. Hogan allowed me to hear the actual 911 tape and view the crime scene photos from the day he was shot. I was amazed at Ken’s ability to perform his duty and call Headquarters after being shot multiple times, bleeding profusely and facing the threat of death. I knew instantly that his miraculous tale of survival should be told. I am honored Sgt. Ken Hogan allowed me to tell it in A Call For Valor.”

As a veteran Police Captain in 2006, D.R. was named the 1st Runner-up for the National Positive Force Award, a prestigious award for exceptional acts of heroism in the community.

The Shore Connection

Hernandez, although from Newark, is no stranger to the shore. She says, “All my family on my mothers side lives in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. …we would come down a car load of kids, meet my cousins down at the shore with thier car load of kids, and we would be on a beach and boardwalk. It was a great family bond. We were kids, we didn’t have to be adults, we had fun. ” Still feeling the sand between her toes, Hernandez says ” I always come down to the shore.” In fact when they were driving down Hernandez pointed out to her husband , “The park that leads right to Ocaen, I have a picture of my father at that hotel, which was a hospital at the time, Veternen Hospital, he was injured on a ship, during WW2 (and recuperated there)”

Parting Shots

Not passing up the oportunity we discused another place with beautiful beaches, Cuba. Hernandez’s husband Jerry is Cuban by birth. He feels that Raul Casto is beginning the slow march towards change. For example you can now own a cell phone in Cuba. Hernandez is hoping that the relations between the US and Cuba become better citing the fact that they cannot travel there without fear of not being able to leave. We will leave you on this thought, from Hernandez about communism in Cuba and elsewhere in the world. “Communisim dosent exist with the internet. People are able to see how other people live, and you can’t keep them in the blind anymore. So The internet has really put a thumbs down to communisim.”

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