Film by THHS alum Daniel Sotelo- Reiner featured in Times Square

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By Daniela Zavlun and Shabab Ahmed, Copy Editor and Staff Writer

In early October, Townsend Harris alum Daniel Sotelo-Reiner’s award-winning film FIRST Relations was broadcast at the AMC Theater in Times Square. His film, along with other high school cinema projects from around the world, was showcased as part of the All American High School Film Festival.

“If I could describe what it feels like to see a film you’ve spent hundreds of hours working on projected on a full size theatre screen, that word would be ‘surreal,’” Daniel explained. “This is an incredibly exciting time to be a filmmaker, as even for a high-school student there is the opportunity to see your work in a theatre.”

The film depicts a narrative fictional story largely influenced by Daniel’s experiences on the SteelHawks robotics team at THHS. Several members of the robotics team attended the event to support Daniel. Among those who went, students were impressed by Daniel’s success and the journey that his film went through to get to where it is today. “It’s really good that a Townsend alum was able to get their film featured in the Tribeca Film Festival and get chosen for the All American High School,” said current Vice President of the Robotics Team Joshua Tsai.

Head Robotics Coach Joel Heitman said, “He worked really hard… I think he felt that the support he was getting from the robotics coaches was also something that he didn’t want to give a lesser product of anything and so his character and his honor and all those things built into him wanting to be the best at what he did and give the best that he can give.”

Before becoming vice president of the robotics team in his senior year, Daniel was deeply involved in the team’s activities as their primary photographer for several years. While participating in a program at the Tribeca Film Institute, he was inspired by his team’s special camaraderie to produce this film, which later premiered in the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival. The film largely contributed to the SteelHawks’ advance to World Championships in 2017.

FIRST Relations delves into the unique environment fostered by FIRST Robotics during build season as a diverse group of teammates come together and form close, lasting relationships united in a common goal to build a winning robot. The drama focuses specifically on the growing bond between characters James and Ethan as the intensity of build season causes them to realize their feelings for each other. “The topics that FIRST Relations are a testament to [are] the openness of the Steel Hawks, Townsend and FIRST Robotics in general,” Daniel said. “It was the Townsend community that allowed me to create a film including members of the LGBTQ+ community and diverse ethnic communities. In today’s political climate, that is not always as easy and I hope this open acceptance of others is a message that inspires other artists at Townsend.”

Daniel now attends Emerson College and has just finished a film project for the Emerson 48-hour Film Festival, during which he worked with a group to create and submit a film in 48 hours. He looks forward to continuing to produce works of cinema and pursuing a career in film.

“To any current student at Townsend who may even think they have an interest in film or photography, it’s an intimidating industry, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying,” Daniel advised. “You may end up finding what you want to spend the rest of your life doing.”  

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