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click play to watch a snippet from Encounter

It all started when I saw an article about Jonathan Fajardo. His photo as a 7-year-old Latino boy in baseball uniform, sparkling eyes, and a huge smile was captivating.

But Jonathan grew up to join a gang, and at 18, he killed a 14-year-old black girl and was sentenced to death. Since there's no death penalty in California, Jonathan was serving a life sentence in San Quentin.

I wanted to know, Why? Why does a cute boy like that turns out to be a murderer? So, I requested the prison authorities permission to visit him. But another prisoner got to Jonathan before I could, and slashed his throat. I was mad that I didn’t get to find out and the question nagged me even harder.

Then, one day I was standing in line at the courthouse to pay a traffic ticket, and there he was a few people ahead of me - a Latino young man, shaved head, and tattoos all over. There was my chance to find out.

I rushed over to him. "Oh my God, are you a gangster?"

He looked at me like fell from the moon, but then said, "Yes. 18 Street Gang." He stretched his arm forward proudly, showing the number 18 tattooed on his hand.

"I’ve got to find out why would anyone join a gang. Do you mind giving me your phone number?" He did.

And so, I ventured deep into the Los Angeles "hood" and found out what I wanted to know, particularly, that not everything we see and hear about them is the way it is.

In the short, Encounter, I challenged myself to tell the story without dialogue. I relied on the acting, cinematography, and sound. Except for the lead guy, all the gangsters were real gangsters, not actors. They did a pretty good job, don’t you think?

I hope you enjoy watching the film as much as I enjoyed producing and directing it – Actually there were times that it was sheer hell. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. But we pulled through.

Thank you for reading and watching.

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