By Anthony J. Machcinski
It’s no secret that violence in America has risen in the past few years, and because of it, police officers across the nation have been thrown into the line of fire. One woman is determined to give a true look into the tragedy behind the deaths of the men and women who serve on the front lines at home.
“Fallen Blue Heroes,” produced by Donna Roman Hernandez of Belleville, honors and remembers police officers who have given their lives in the line of duty.
“The pivotal point I can say with candor is a female police officer friend of mine, Mary Ann Collora, was gunned down in the line of duty,” explains Hernandez, a retired police captain who served with the Essex County and Caldwell police forces. “When I went to her funeral, it was different than the other funerals I had attended and I saw the distress on the faces of everybody that was there because I knew, like me, they wouldn’t have anyone to really talk to about it.”
Hernandez, who had been involved in law enforcement for 27 years, transitioned into film as a rebirthing after her retirement.
“I like to say that film discovered me,” she explained. “I went to a meeting of the New York Cinema Women and after that meeting, I was filled with something; there was a calling for me, like I knew I should have been a police officer all those years.”
Her new calling has come with great success, winning a total of 25 independent film awards in the last four years.
“When I was working (as an officer), I started my first film and I wanted to make sure that I was good at what I was doing before I retired,” Hernandez said.
On Saturday, Hernandez premiered “Fallen Blue Heroes” at the Downbeach Film Festival/Atlantic City Cinefest, held at Resorts Casino/Hotel. The film won two awards: for Best Short Documentary and Best of Fest Documentary.
Hernandez chose Atlantic City because of her desire to show the film in her home state.
“I decided I was going to wait for a large venue, someplace like Atlantic City to enter ‘Fallen Blue Heroes’ into a New Jersey film festival because I wanted my colleagues and fellow officers to see it in the home state where I lived,” Hernandez explained.
While Hernandez appreciates the awards she has won, that is not her ultimate goal for the film. Her overall intent is to educate others.
“ For police officers, it’s a reminder to them that our lives are on the line in the moment we’re on the job,” Hernandez said. “For civilians, non-police, or non-first responders, it’s a reminder that police work is a very dangerous profession. We are the ones in the forefront right on the battlefield . . . Whenever I’m called to serve, I show my films to groups hoping to bring better information to the dangerousness of law enforcement.”
As for her future goals, Hernandez is in the process of continuing another passion, writing. Currently, she is writing a book to accompany her award-wining film “Ultimate Betrayal,” which is about domestic violence.
“It’s the version of how I survived all those years of violence in my own family and why I hid the secret,” Hernandez said. “It’s important for the public to know that what’s portrayed on TV isn’t necessarily true. I’m going to debunk a lot of myths referring to my own story and hopefully to empower other women that there is life after victimization.”