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Lucero slaying inspires Brentwood filmmaker

It was as innocent a summer scene as could be: a group of sun-kissed teenagers hanging out Thursday on the baseball diamond in Farmingdale's Sabellico Fields.

But a snippet of their conversation belied the innocent moment.

"Tell them we don't want them to take our jobs," one boy says to another, who nods.

The scene was then abruptly interrupted.

"Cut, cut. I like that one. That was good," said James Garcia Sotomayor, 39, a Brentwood filmmaker currently shooting the teenagers in a short film called "Taught to Hate."

Moved by the story of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant found beaten to death in Patchogue last November, Sotomayor and his screenwriter, Richard Caban, wrote "Taught to Hate" to teach teenagers about tolerance and diversity.

The film's lessons are filtered through John, a seemingly average American teenager who is steadily influenced by his uncle Ethan's anti-immigrant rants until there is a dramatic encounter with Hispanic immigrants.

Sotomayor, by day a video engineer and himself an Ecuadorean immigrant, has made a handful of short films in the past. He has high hopes for this film, self-financed and shot during his vacation time.

"The theme of this movie is teaching tolerance to our children," Sotomayor said. "We want to help stop hate crimes."

He called teenagers "the most important audience," citing the high school-age defendants in the Lucero case.

Brandon Hannan, 16, of Dix Hills, who plays John, says his character shows the outsized influence adult bigotry can have on children. "He's kind of too young to handle the information," Hannan said of his character. "It's kind of a downward spiral until the end."

Though the movie's ending was not revealed, Sotomayor said the movie is at heart educational, not vengeful. "No children are born with hate," he said. "Hate comes from adults."

The filming was slated to run through Monday in locations around Farmingdale, including a hiring hall for day laborers.

Sotomayor says the final running time will be less than 25 minutes and he hopes schools and film festivals will show his movie.

"My movie is about bringing people together. It's about healing. We don't want crime like this happening again," Sotomayor said. "I don't want to wait until something bad happens to me to say something."

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