The depth of human character is rarely tested to such an extent as it was, and still is, for Alvaro Llanos and Shawn Simons following the Boland Hall fire nearly 10 years ago. For these two men, overcoming this catastrophe has meant healing on many levels and a reintegrating of themselves into a life they once knew; a life that was set ablaze on January 19, 2000.
The passionate struggle and heroism of these two burn victims has affected many people including film director/producer Guido Verweyen, who has made it his goal to retell their extraordinary story.
Verweyen is a prominent director with a seemingly eclectic résumé, working on shows for NBC and MTV and having a few Emmy awards to his name. When asked about his reasoning behind this newest project, his inspiration could not have been more heartfelt.
“As a director/producer, I have always chosen stories that inspire and make you think; stories about how ordinary people get transformed in extraordinary circumstances,” Verweyen said. “Rarely comes a story along that rattles and shakes you to the core and at the same time celebrates the power of the human spirit in a more memorable and gripping way.”
The idea for this film first came to Verweyen after reading the acclaimed seven part series “After the Fire,” written by Robin Gaby Fisher, which documented the life after the fire of the two severe burn victims Llanos and Simons.
Verweyen saw this as an opportunity to catch something truly beautiful on camera.
“It’s Shawn’s and Alvaro’s lives in “After the Fire” that makes this story extraordinary,” Verweyen said. “Their loyalty to each other, and their resolve to live their best lives, despite the tragedy, will hopefully touch a wide audience.”
The consequences of the Boland Hall fire have reverberated throughout Seton Hall’s community and further since the incident. The criminal proceedings, the increased campus safety, and the burdensome adaptations of the victims and their families have all been results of the fire.
Verweyen, however, has chosen to focus primarily on the latter in creating this documentary.
“The focus of the documentary won’t be the story of the crime and its victims, but the triumph of the human spirit over life changing events,”Verweyen said. “It is the story of healing emotionally, physically and spiritually.
According to Verweyen, this documentary will contain footage of the victims and their families. It will contain interviews with those who helped these people in their plight against ill-fortune, as well as interviews with those on the criminal end of it all, including the prosecuting attorney.
According to Verweyen, the cour age, love and growth seen in both Llanos and Simons since the tragedy will be the focal points in what promises to be a heartfelt production.
“To me they are heroes and living reminders of what’s human,” Verweyen said.
Patrick Wedlock can be reached at email@example.com.