Fundraiser screening of ‘Love, Cecy’ remembers the legacy of slain teen girl

Film hopes to raise awareness on gang violence, domestic abuse through the story of San Pablo resident Cecilia Rios’s rape, murder

John and Jean Knox Center for the Performing Arts will host an anticipated premier of “Love, Cecy,” a film based on the murder of San Pablo resident Cecilia Rios on Feb. 2, 3 from 7 to 10 p.m.

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

A red carpet will line the entrance of the John and Jean Knox Center for the Performing Arts for
the anticipated premier of “Love, Cecy,” a film based on the murder of San Pablo resident Cecilia Rios.

The screening and fundraiser to be held Feb. 2 and 3 from 7 to 10 p.m. is being organized by
local writer, director and producer of the film Jay Francisco Lopez.

“I began this project eight years ago and it’s been a journey into post-production and finally to the screen,” Lopez said. “This is exclusive for the community because they have been waiting so long for the film.” The film is hosted by “American Me” and “Boulevard Nights” actor Danny De La Paz and the evening will begin with light appetizers before the premier of “Love, Cecy.”

A live performance by musical artist Fego Navarro of his original song “I Feel Good” will follow the film.

The evening will conclude with an audience involved Q&A session with Lopez and other actors.

“I grew up in San Pablo and was nine years old when she (Rios) was murdered. I remember the community coming together and leaning on one another,” Lopez said. “We want to give her the legacy that she deserves —  and the community wants to see that.”

Adding a special touch, the lobby of the Knox center will be transformed into a mini museum with memorabilia celebrating the life of Cecilia Rios.

Items will include her Richmond High School I.D. card, newspaper clippings of the actual event, as well as the movie replica of her (15th birthday) quinceañera dress.

All proceeds from the $15 ticket price will go toward getting Cecy’s story to reach more people and toward keeping her memory alive.

“Her story never left Richmond,” he said. “It’s still relatable today and will touch the lives of others.”

The film is based on true events ripped from the headlines of 90s gang violence and follows 15-year-old Rios who dreams of being a lawyer as she struggles to keep her gangster boyfriend off the streets.

While taking a shortcut home one evening through a deserted elementary school, Rios was brutally raped and murdered.

Last October, “Love, Cecy,” had its world premiere at the HBO Latino New York Film Festival, where it received admiration.

Lopez, who is an independent filmmaker has relied on his own money as well as personally fundraising to support the film so far.

“I’m the only one doing this. I don’t have a team like in Hollywood with movie companies,” he said. “I can no longer support the cost of the film, it’s too expensive for me to do it alone.”

Lopez said the money from the fundraiser screening will help further distribute the film. He hopes to hold screenings at other film festivals, develop a website, hire a publicist and other expenses.

Navarro, who not only composes music for “Love, Cecy,” but portrays, Flako, a character from the film, said he has worked with Lopez on his other film “Sin Pandre,” but with “Love, Cecy,” the film is based on a true story.

“We are shedding light and resurfacing the story, the family is reliving it,” he said, “So things are
a little more heavy.”

Themes in the film are relevant today, Navarro said, “Struggles, broken homes and how we find our way. It tells the story of Richmond.”

Performing the theme song for the film, “I Feel Good,” a catchy summer jam that captures the feel of 90s music, Navarro said he really had to study the esthetic of the era.

“I’ll do some acapella, get the crowd on their feet and energized after watching the film,” he said. “Take them back to the 90s.”

Karen Gonzales, who plays Cecilia’s mother Eva Rios, said she is glad that she took the role after originally rethinking the decision.

“It was the story that caught my attention,” she said. “This story is a part of the Bay Area and it
raises awareness to gang violence, and domestic violence.”

Gonzales said she is looking forward to the Q&A session because it shows that the audience is
paying attention and wants to go further with us into the story.

“It’s always exciting when people ask questions. How did you prepare? Did you talk to the family?” she said. “Whether its gaps that want filled or kudos on the performance, it’s great.”