"I felt like I had to trust somebody in order to be heard," Lucky Torres said after the world premiere of "Lucky," a documentary by Laura Checkoway that chronicles Torres' life. "That was the only way for others to know why I am who I am and what's happened to me in my lifetime. And it's going on out there everyday. You just don't hear about it and you just don't see it."
What you don't hear about and don't see -- at least from their perspectives -- are the lives of Lucky and the people she represents. She's a impoverished young gay woman abandoned by her parents who moves from shelter to shelter in inner city New York. She dabbles in prostitution with men because she has to survive and provide for her children. Her life has been far from what her name suggests, but she continues to dream of stardom and success and finds solace in the many loved ones she surrounds herself with.
Lucky's story makes for a powerful documentary, one first time filmmaker Checkoway premiered at Hot Docs in Toronto last night. It's an individual tale of survival that very much speaks to more universal themes of pain and suffering that too many have experienced. And it helps that its protagonist -- with her sharp tongue and a face covered with tattoos (which she started doing in her youth to mask her pain) -- is ridiculously charming and charismatic, often a joy to watch even through her tough times.
"I thought Laura showed me more love and was more of a friend than just taking this on as a job or a subject or a project," Torres explained as to why she let Checkoway film her story. "She treated me like I was something special to her. So I had to trust her in order to be heard. And I'm here now."
Checkoway was sitting on the Christopher Street pier in New York City one night
in 2007 when she met Torres. She was waiting for someone else, but ended up speaking to a group
of young women. Lucky was one them.
was there to interview someone else," Torres explained on stage. "And since I'm very well known down
in Greenwich Village. I'm very popular down there so what I say goes.
Once I speak everybody shut the hell up. So when I saw Laura
interviewing with the camera I was like 'and who are you and what's
going on here?' I basically took the spotlight off of that individual."
"Lucky came up to me and put her phone number in my hand and said 'you're not paying enough attention to me and you need to call me,'" Checkoway added.
Checkoway was journalist at the time she met Torres so it started as a magazine story.
"The first six months to a year I followed her for a written piece I published and then it blossomed into a film," she explained. "The film spans nearly six years. As a journalist there are a lot of ethics. But for me I just always led with my heart and for me there was always an unspoken bond between Lucky and I. She let me into her world, and I went."
"Once I get a hold of you and I consider you my family, you ain't going anywhere," Torres said in response. "That's just it."
Their relationship has culminated -- so far, at least -- in last night's screening, which should hopefully be the beginning of a considerable life for "Lucky" on the big screen.