Project type: Fiction Short
Project status: Development
Writer/Director/Producer: Miguel Angel Caballero
Writer/Lead Actor: Luis Antonio Aldana
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When Ray, a 40-year-old gay Chicano, returns home after serving a 20-year prison term, he must learn to navigate familial and emotional terrains he hardly recognizes, eventually leading to a cathartic encounter with Leo, the high school friend with whom he had a closeted relationship.


Ashes tells the story of Ray, a 40-year-old gay Chicano who’s just been released from prison after 20 years. His mother picks him up from prison and drives him down the cost from Lompoc Penitentiary to their home, a working-class neighborhood in Oxnard, California. As Ray struggles to adjust to his new life, his childhood home brings back painful memories of his recently deceased and homophobic father, who never visited him in prison. Though his mother and sister attempt to provide the support he gravely needs, his insomnia aggravates his shocking new reality and proves to be more than he can handle.

As the story unfolds, Ray yearns to reconnect with Leo, a friend with whom he had a closeted relationship when they were teenagers. At their first meeting, the love they still have for each other is undeniable, but soon Ray learns that Leo, still closeted, is now engaged to a woman and has two children. As their conversation deepens, the reasons for Ray’s imprisonment come to light; Leo’s internalized homophobia, self-shame, and fear ultimately contributed to Ray’s years-long prison sentence.

In the end, Ray finds the courage to cut ties with the man he still loves and empowers himself as he forges a new life.

Meet the Filmmakers

Miguel Angel Caballero – Writer/Director/Producer
Miguel Angel Caballero, son of Mexican immigrant farmworkers, is an award-winning queer Chicano/Mexican American writer, producer, director. He’s a graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. His latest short film, Acuitzeramo, premiered at the Morelia International Film Festival and won 21 awards, including ‘Best Short’ at the Imagen Awards and ‘Best LGBTQ Short’ at the American Pavilion’s Emerging Filmmakers Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival. His previous film, Broken Sunflower Hearts, was named by Remezcla Magazine as one of the year’s Best Short Films by US Latino Directors. Miguel Angel co-wrote and produced the PSA Know Your Rights for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). Most recently, he was selected to take part in the 2022 inaugural Accelerator Program by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in partnership with the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF). He is an Outfest Screenwriting Lab Fellow, a Film Independent Fellow, recipient of the 2021 Warner Bros. Discovery 150 Artist Grant, and co-founder of Cabaldana Alchemy, an independent production company whose mission is to develop and produce working-class Latine stories from an LGBTQ perspective.

Luis Antonio Aldana – Writer/Lead Actor
Luis is a Queer Chicano with a BA in American Literature and Culture from UCLA and is a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. He later joined the Latino Theater Company’s Laboratory, where he co-wrote the play Melancholia, which had a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and received a nomination for Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award. Luis produced the feature film Cry Now (Urbanworld Official Selection). He also produced the short films Acuitzeramo (Morelia International Film Festival), Broken Sunflower Hearts (Outfest), and The Invitation (Showtime Network). He received Best Supporting Actor for his role in the award-winning film Acuitzeramo. Luis is an Outfest Screenwriting Lab Fellow, recipient of the Warner Bros. Discovery 150 Artist Grant, and co-founder of Cabaldana Alchemy.

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