For Marisol Carrere, this trip to the hospital was supposed to be nothing more than a routine procedure to remove a fibroid, and the life-threatening diagnosis she soon received wasn’t even a thought for the award-winning actress (she called it a “fluke discovery”).
Procedural chest x-rays before the surgery revealed stage-3 lung cancer, which, according to the National Cancer Institute, carries a median life expectancy of 13-15 months.
“I wondered, ‘Is this it?’” Carrere said.
Unsure if she was healing or dying, Carrere lay in Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, where haunting, harrowing nostalgia sunk its disgustingly-contorted nails through her artistic, unfulfilled mind.
She was told throughout her life by her family, art is for dreamers, and she painfully remembered the life-long tension that it caused between her and her family and the subsequent tug and pull on her identity.
“I would always fight with my family because I wanted to be an artist, and everybody said I should go into business or do something else,” Carrere recalls “I was struggling with myself.”
More unwanted memories crept in and slithered about in her mind, memories of herself as a frail, 7-year-old girl being pushed around by bullies, memories of eating lunch in the bathroom with her sister to survive unsolicited beatings.
“I came to PS 166 in Queens [from Colombia]…I didn’t have schooling before I started first grade, I didn’t speak the language and there were a lot of very mean girls there and…I was a target,” Carrere said. “I was in the class with the kids that were considered mentally retarded and all the kids from that class were bullied…My sister and I would eat our lunch in the stalls and close the doors…They were really nasty. They would hit us and take our lunch and make fun of us.”
The cancer diagnosis was back in 2008, before she wrote and produced the international short film “I am Julia…trapped in the bully’s lair,” before the award for filmmaking and before she started her own production company.
“I still haven’t accomplished what I wanted,” said Carrere, referring to the time she was ill, “…and there are a lot of things in my heart that I need to do.”
She went through chemotherapy, changed her diet and took an eclectic handful of supplements, and a year later she was given a second chance. Her health returned, and, with her passion for the arts still intact, a fiery determination to succeed as a writer was born, a determination that began with an inspiration in 1991, when she was the lead role in the late filmmaker and director Paul DeSilva’s “Crack Down Big City Blues.” Carrere said DeSilva was the one who planted the seed of film making in her mind.
After chemotherapy and recovery, Carrere and her friend Gloria Zelaya took out a grant from New York State Counsel of the Arts to create the women’s writing lab, where they hired professional writers to teach them to write.
For the next 8 months, Carrere wrote the play “Attack of the Bullies,” which was the fetus of her international hit film “I am Julia…trapped in the bully’s lair.”
Carrere, along with John Remaine, co-wrote the screenplay and used her son, Adrian, to help with the dialogue of the young students.
At the end of 2009, Jay Emmanuel Morales introduced Carrere to David Capurso, the future director of her short film, who became an important character in Carrere’s life story; pulling her dream from her subconscious and filming in reality (“They were the push that I needed,” said Carrere, referring to Capurso and Morales).
Preproduction began on early Spring 2011, shooting began in early June then resumed in August of the same year and post production ended late fall 2011.
While shooting the film, money became scarce, and Carrere bet all her chips on her film.
“I used all my credit cards. I borrowed all the money that I could. And I had to finish the film,” Carrere said. “It was halfway there, and I didn’t have a penny left.”
During the interview, her gaze fell upon her husband, Christian Carrere, and said, “I pulled in my savior and said I need help.”
Christian pooled his money together with borrowed money from two of his friends that invested in the film, who Marisol referred to as angels as she touched her heart, aided in the postproduction of the film.
But the cast and crew were paid and the film was made, Christian said.
And Marisol and Capurso walked a small-scale red carpet later that year during the Big Apple Film Festival in Tribeca, where “I am Julia…trapped in the bully’s lair” debuted. The film was shown later in 2011 at the Columbia Consulate.
“I am Julie…trapped in the bully’s lair” won the 2012 Golden Palm Award during the international film festival in Mexico (2012), honorable mention at the Broadway Film Festival in California (2012) and nominated at the World Film Festival in Queens (2012) and Williamsburg International Film Festival (2013).
But the award-winning filmmaker said she still defines herself as an actress, which dates back to her college days, where she received her associates at Borough of Manhattan Community College, studied abroad at the University of Reims (France) and graduated from Hunter College.
During her stay in France, she visited Paris and said she fell in love with the art and romantic atmosphere of the city and still frequently visits.
At Hunter College, Marisol was a part-time student (because of expenses) and spent six years sandwiched between marriage in 1986 and her son’s birth in 1994. She acted in productions of Oedipus Max (written by a professor at Hunter College Michael Elliot Rutenberg), where she was the lead role, and Roosters, written by , among others.
As an actress, Marisol won an award for excellence in acting at Hunter College along with the “ACE” award in 2011 for the play “Oh! Yantay!” and the “HOLA” award in 2010 from the Latin theater community for the play “You Always Forget Something/Siempre Se Olvida Algo.”
Marisol beat the odds. She adjusted to a new culture and a new language with no prior education. She beat the bullies’ torments. She beat the 77-82 percent fatality rate of stage-3 lung cancer patients. She made a successful movie despite lack of funds. And she’s one of the few female Latin filmmakers.
Now she is a married woman living with her husband and son, Adrian, running her production company Carrere Films International alongside her husband. Her current projects include an education program that uses “I am Julia…trapped in a bully’s lair” to teach students about bullying and actively involves them as well as pursuing the creation of a full-length feature film called “Julia and Julian” based off of “I am Julia…trapped in the bully’s lair.”