Karen Castillo Farfán’s very short film Escaping Cycles tackles the question of why young girls get caught up in gangs and the consequences that inevitably arise from their involvement. It’s a tough eight minutes to endure.

A particularly harrowing segment is ex-gangster Javie’s recounting of how he prostituted out a girl in need of money to dozens of men at a migrant labor camp. Though he made well over a thousand dollars doing so, Javie gave the girl only $40.

“All the females that come into the neighborhood, they think that they’re going to be doing something right, but they’re getting themselves in a trap,” he said. “I say, if they have a way out,  to stay out.”

Sisy Mohorko, founder of the HopeGirlz youth outreach program, which works with high-risk youth in the city of Oxnard, explains that most of them never see the jaws snapping closed around them.

“The girls don’t realize that they’ve fallen into a trap until it’s too late, because they’ve been so deceived by that attention that they’ve gotten,” she said. “Sometimes, it really is too late.”

Mohorko introduced Farfán to the subjects featured in her film. Once she’d heard their stories and shared in their pain and suffering, making Escaping Cycles became a project of necessity.

“Their stories helped me learn the ‘why’ of a dangerous culture I didn’t understand,” she says. “I felt people needed to hear their stories and, hopefully, empathize and become outraged enough to want to do something about it.”

The Ventura resident is expected to receive her bachelor of arts in visual journalism from Brooks Institute later this year, and Escaping Cycles has earned her a full scholarship to the Aurora Multimedia Workshop.

As a Mexican immigrant from Sacramento, life was not always so favorable for Farfán; she learned the harsh taste of prejudice early on. Rather than let these experiences leave her dejected or defeated, she grew from them, using the emotions they wrought to fuel a growing passion for provoking change.

“These experiences taught me the value of empathy and communication and is what helps me create stories of sensitive issues in an impacting way,” she said.

For Farfán, her subjects are real-life heroes, and she is inspired by the injustices happening in the corners of society that are often casually disregarded.

“I admire those who selflessly help and put themselves in danger but never get recognized for their work,” she said, adding, “and the men and women who’ve endured so much horror and hardship yet found the courage and wisdom to break away and find hope, even become positive role models.”

Escaping Cycles
might be a tough film to watch, but every second is substantial, and the brutal truths it reveals demand to be heard. 

Escaping Cycles will be presented at the Oxnard College Performing Arts Building on Wednesday, Mar. 6, at 1 p.m., as part of the college’s Literature, Arts & Lecture Series. Farfán will give a talk immediately following the screening. Events are free for the community and are interpreted for the hearing impaired. Parking is $2. Escaping Cycles can also be viewed by visiting www.karenfarfan.com.