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Drag Racing Wars From Queens' Past Inspire New Movie

By Katie Honan | September 17, 2015 5:01pm | Updated on September 18, 2015 3:25pm
 A still from
A still from "Franny Lew," which has been greenlit for a feature production.
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Franny Lew

Nearly 30 years ago, a drag racer from East Elmhurst was killed on Francis Lewis Boulevard after a neighbor — fed up with what some said was constant racing behind his house — allegedly poured oil onto the street.

Twenty-year-old Kenneth Miret was racing another driver when his 1987 Ford Mustang convertible hit a slick of oil, according to a New York Times report at the time. His car hit a tree after spiraling out of control, and he was pronounced dead on the scene.

That deadly act inspired a fictional pitch film by a Queens-born and bred actor and producer, Gino Cafarelli, who filmed “Franny Lew” last year after thinking about it for five years, he said.

The area's drag races, which he would attend as a teenager in Whitestone, helped create tension in his coming-of-age story of a “simpler time,” he said in an email.

“Listening to music, cruising, picking up girls, just by putting a few bucks in the gas tank and having fun,” he said of his time on “the boulevard” in the 1980s.

Cafarelli, who has been working professionally in film and television for 15 years, wrote and directed the pitch film, appears briefly in the beginning and narrates the story — filled with old muscl cars, freestyle music and references to the 1986 Mets.

“Every neighborhood has a story,” he begins, setting the scene for the summer of 1986 in Whitestone, Queens.

His goal for the pitch was for it to get picked up for a feature-length film. And this week he announced it had been greenlit for production, with a new name — "Cruise" — and two stars, Emily Ratajkowski from "Gone Girl" and Spencer Goldman from "21 Jump Street," in the leading roles.

It’ll be written and directed by Robert Siegel, who wrote “The Wrestler” and worked with Cafarelli in “Big Fan.”

What’ll be missing from the feature-length film, though, is the drag racing story.

It didn’t move the coming-of-age story along, Cafarelli said, adding that the film is about a man realizing he can’t race cars forever.

“Being ‘King of the Boulevard’ is getting old,” he said of a central plot to the upcoming film, which will begin shooting in Whitestone next month.

Entertainment Weekly said it may be “American Graffiti” for a new generation, describing Gio, who loves cars and women, and Jessica, a Long Island girl who “ventures into Gio’s seedy neighborhood for fun.”

Carafelli said the movie is the fulfillment of a dream to honor his beloved summer nights in Queens.

“I'm just a kid from Queens,” he said, adding that, with his movie getting made and the Mets in first place, “life is great!!!!!”

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of the story, quoting other news reports, used the incorrect name for the victim. His name is Kenneth Miret.