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SUNSET JUNCTION

Sunset Junction is at once a vérité drama and a comedic collision-of-cultures about a Beverly Hills hairdresser who evolves into a most unlikely father figure to hard-core gang members and the abandoned, addicted and abused children of illegal immigrants.

In 1981, Michael McKinley made peace between gang-bangers and the gay and lesbian community by shutting down Sunset Boulevard and throwing a street fair. The LAPD predicted a bloodbath. A quarter-million people from across the city showed up. Twenty years later, he operates an unorthodox sanctuary for troubled youth that also employs the kids to stage what had become an annual event, The Sunset Junction Street Fair, the largest in California and a celebration of the diversity and tolerance Michael teaches.

This intensely rich character study is fueled by the dynamic between Michael and his Latin-American charges. How do adolescent boys filled with self-doubt and machismo find a way to connect with a flamboyant in-your-face gay man who invokes Diana Ross and The Supremes as role models for them?

Sunset Junction addresses issues of immigration, gang violence, poverty, sexuality and racism through the eyes of five young people filmed during the months leading up to and including their experiences at the Street Fair. Esser, a former gang member, coaches the program’s unmotivated soccer team and oversees the all-important admission gates. Edwin, never without a Che Guevara t-shirt, disdains America’s materialism yet embodies its Protestant work ethic as he troubleshoots at the Fair. Luz operates Sunset Junction’s coffeehouse and attempts to break her family’s cycle of poverty by becoming a massage therapist. Gisselle, an endearing slacker, attends as many funerals as she can, “preparing for what may come.” Maria, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, is plagued by demons of a distinctly American teenager.

As the national debate over immigration rages on, Michael McKinley continues the work of helping the children he says his country is throwing away. He offers them a chance to believe in themselves. Si se puede! YES WE CAN.

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