Local Filmmaker Spins a Bronx Tale

A look at the DVD release of Forever

Written by Jon Minners

It is a film about struggle and the paths we choose in life to get to where we are going; two cousins who take different journeys, but whose stories come full circle and in the end, the most important character in the film is its setting; The Bronx

Forever is a film by Justin Morales, featuring Bronx actors, that was shot in Westchester Square, Morris Park, Tremont and Throggs Neck, among other places in the borough.  The film was just recently screened in Manhattan, is on sale on DVD and could be shown theatrically outside the United States, giving the Bronx a chance to shine in movies that has not been seen since A Bronx Tale, a movie that inspired Morales’ latest work. 

When you ask what film is like Forever, I could only think of A Bronx Tale, but Bronx Tale was a much better film,” said Morales, who also credits such other films as Road Warrior, Rambo and Pulp Fiction for his love of filmmaking.  “It doesn’t have the same type of actors and it is an independent film.  In fact, I hope there are not too many movies like Forever.”

Forever is a morality play, according to Morales.  It is about two cousins, Alamo and Joey, who have grown up without the guidance of parents.  They learn from two uncles, one of whom takes a less favorable path in life while the other is a workingman.  Alamo finds himself taking a negative course through life, getting himself in trouble while Joey does the right thing.  Neither is supposed to succeed in life.  They had nothing growing up and are going nowhere, but when something that happens to Alamo leaves his son in Joey’s hands, Joey must instill in the child values Alamo was never taught, providing his troubled cousin with a chance to leave something positive behind in the world. 

The coming of age tale has received some positive feedback from those who have seen it, most recently at the Underground Film Festival, Arlene’s Picture Show.  “A lot of people have told me it was kind of grave; in a sense, like real life,” said Morales.  “I have taken some real life experiences and transformed it into a raw look at life.  It is not a commercial film.  There is no formula.  There is no glam.  This is my voice; something I wanted to say and I said it.  I am glad I did.

And while Morales saw a lot in his life that made it into the film, one aspect was changed.  Morales grew up all over the country, including Connecticut, Texas, New York and Florida.  “I never had a stable place to call home,” he said.  “I lived in the Bronx for three years and worked at the Marina del Rey where I made a lot of contacts.  I was on Haight Avenue and I was writing the script; the film was going to be cross-country, but I fell in love with the Bronx.  It became its own character in my film.”

Morales states that the Bronx is like no other place he has ever lived.  “The Bronx has its own identity,” he said.  “I have been to so many places and a lot of them just blend in.  You can interchange so many places, but the Bronx stands out above the rest.  In a film so intense, you need to shoot in a place that is alive.  I had to incorporate the Bronx into this film and I also needed to use actors from the borough.  For me to come here and not use Bronx actors would have been stupid of me.  They helped to adapt the culture more.  It fit in perfectly.”

Morales states that while he plans to film in other boroughs in the future, he still wants to do more filming in the Bronx.  “I am surprised it is not used more often,” he said.  “Saying that, I really do not want to see the Bronx oversaturated with films, but it is a great place for an independent filmmaker; an untapped market that has so many places, cultures and personalities.  The communities are also very receptive and they put themselves out there.  Without them being so open to us, we could not have made this film the way we did.”

Morales, who has worked for Paramount in the past, hopes his love for movies continues past Forever.  He is currently working with another group of local filmmakers, The Four Horsemen on a documentary about subway musicians.  Other films are also in the works, but Morales is not looking for superstardom as his primary goal.  “When I was younger, I didn’t know making movies was a job,” he said.  “I just thought it was something fun to do and now that I know it is a job, I still just want to make movies.  My goal is to be in the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game; then I know I made it, but I am not looking to be on the cover of People Magazine.  I just see myself being happy making films.  You can always make movies no matter what.  If you have the want and the drive, it can be done.  I just ask myself, do you want to do it?  I do.”

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