NYC MOVIE GURU
Casimiro Torres spent much of his troubled childhood bouncing between the care of his alcoholic mother and juvenile detention centers, sleeping on the streets and stealing food for his younger siblings.
As an adult, Torres, of Briarwood, Queens, spent 16 years incarcerated
for crimes ranging from assault to drug and gun possession. He bore
little resemblance to the man, now 45, who helps veterans battle drug
Newspapers are filled with stories of criminals going up the river, but
now there’s a film that shows what happens when they come back.
The film, “RELEASED,” details the struggles of Torres and three other
ex-cons who emerged from jail, turned a corner and somehow managed to
turn their lives around.
“We wanted to put a face on the formerly incarcerated,” said David
Rothenberg, who came up with the idea for the project. “There’s an
avalanche of stories about crime, and never about people who have
reclaimed their lives.”
Rothenberg founded the Fortune Society, a Long Island City-based group
that helps released prisoners get back on their feet. All of the former
inmates featured in the film were clients of the group.
The movie, which is making its big-screen debut this week, is based on an off-Broadway production, “The Castle.”
The play’s title refers to the Fortune Academy, a West Harlem residence
where many of the society’s homeless clients stay when they get out of
The play was supposed to be shown for only two weekends as a
fund-raiser, but it wound up having a 14-month run. It is still
performed in colleges and prisons.
Marty Feinberg, executive producer of “RELEASED,” saw the play at a
women’s prison in 2010, and said he knew it had to be made into a movie.
“I was very moved by the intelligence and demeanor of the convicts,” he
said. “I always thought of convicts as being terrible people, and now I
see them as real human beings.”
“RELEASED” delves even deeper into the lives of its subjects, including Torres.
When Torres got out of prison for the last time, in 2005, something
“clicked,” he said. “I just finally wanted to live more than I wanted to
die,” he said.
He went to the Fortune Society, met with counselors to help him get
clean and eventually became a case manager for veterans with drug
Torres agreed to tell his story in the play and the film because he
wanted to inspire people “going through the things I went through,” he
“I hope to create an awareness that there are people that come out of prison and do good things,” Torres said.
“RELEASED” is showing through Thursday at the Quad Cinema, 34 W. 13th St., Manhattan. For film times, see www.quadcinema.com.