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Study Guide | Film

Coming Home

The Story

The feature documentary Coming Home tells the story of Angel Cordero, who on May 16, 1999, at the age of 25, was arrested and charged with attempted murder following a stabbing in the Bronx. Despite inconclusive evidence, Angel was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in New York maximum-security prisons. Seven years into Angel’s sentence, Dario Rodriguez, a man whom Angel knew from the neighborhood, confessed to the crime. While Angel hoped the confession would exonerate him, the courts deemed the evidence unreliable and Angel served six more years until he was released on parole. Coming Home picks up the story days before Angel’s release and follows his reentry into society as a free man, where he confronts the man who took away his freedom, and faces an even bigger challenge—rebuilding a relationship with his estranged daughter.

As Angel steps back into his life 13 years after his arrest, he finds a different world—a world of cell phones, texting, and social media. It’s a world where his daughter Sarah, three years old at the time of his conviction, is confused and reluctant to let him back into her life. While his devoted wife, mother, and family welcome him back with open arms, Sarah struggles, unable to reconcile with the past and find a place for Angel in the present.

When Sarah returns home to Florida where she lives with her mother and stepfather, Angel decides to break his parole in order to fly to Orlando and wish her a happy 17th birthday in person. He hopes this risk he is taking to prove his love to Sarah will help build a bridge between them.

Director's Notes

Coming Home is a film about a man who returns home after spending 13 years in prison for someone else’s crime. It’s about the hope that kept him sane and the forgiveness that keeps him human.

This is not about the crime or the system. It’s not about the issue of wrongful convictions or the oppressions of American prisons—although these things make up the underlying gravity of the project. This is about Angel Cordero, the person, and the exploration of what awaits him when he comes home.

This isn’t investigative journalism or a quest to clear his name. This is a portrayal of a compelling character whose goals are simple, human: to thank his mother for her support. To forgive the man who put him there. To win his daughter back.

Ultimately, I didn’t want to make a film about a man clearing his name. I want the film to instigate clearing his name. The greatest goal for Coming Home would be to serve as a catalyst for exonerating Angel Cordero. This film may or may not reopen the case, but what it will do is portray the man behind his case. Angel is not just a number.

Coming Home is about the universal theme of a man living with hope. Hope that one day, he won’t be considered a criminal. Hope that he can carve a life for himself after 13 years in prison. Hope that his daughter will once again call him “Dad.”

—Viko Nikci, Director

Watch an interview with Viko Nikci and Angel Cordero from the DOCNYC festival explaining the process of filming Coming Home.

“BAM Education study guides are supported by the Frederick Loewe Foundation.”
Related Content
Q&A with Viko Nikci and Angel Cordero
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