The documentary follows the different waves of Cuban emigration, beginning with the mass exodus of the 1960s all the way to the modern day Cuban Lottery, where hopeful Cubans submit their names for the chance to leave the island.
Since hosting his summer fundraiser last year, Salas managed to raise enough money to finish his aspiring documentary, which ended up being a completely different animal than what he first perceived.
"I changed the whole perspective of it," said Salas. "I was trying not to make it as political as possible, but it's so hard to do that because that was the reason why people left."
A first generation Cuban-American, Salas' idea was to depict the struggles and ambition of his community without focusing on the political reasons. However, as he found out, it was completely inevitable.
"I was interviewing people trying to stay away from those types of questions, but it would steer right back to politics," said Salas.
After wrapping the New Jersey portion of his production, Salas traveled to the Cuban-American haven of Little Havana in Miami, Fla.
"I spoke to an artist named Xavier Cortada, who changed my whole perspective," said Salas. "He always steered his way back to politics and told me that as much as I tried to look at it as an outsider, I am still involved as the child of an exile."
Salas added, "He said, 'If you think this hasn't affected you, then why are you here 500 miles away from your apartment in my house.' "
From that point on, Salas suddenly saw a whole new side that he had not anticipated, and looked at his project with fresh eyes.
"It really put my father's story into a different light; any immigrant's story," said Salas.
Salas goes through the six different waves of the Cuban exodus, from the widely recognized 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, where 200 Cubans arrived in Miami daily, to the CIA operation known as the Pedro Pan Project, which was the largest exodus of children ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.
He leads to the present day emigrants attempting to leave their island home in any way possible for the United States.
"You see the transitions of different people from when they first arrived here to those who have been in the country [30 plus years]," said Salas.
One of the interviews shines the spotlight on Mercedes Garcia of Miami, who came over with the mass exodus of children during Operation Pedro Pan. As Garcia tells her story, her American-born daughter sits at her side and listens in amazement.
"People my age don't really know about these things," said Dania Garcia.
Also added to the documentary is a trip to present day Cuba courtesy of Salas' cousin, who brought back footage on a recent visit with family whom Salas has never met.
"This is family I have never seen," Salas said. "Only heard their voices."
Sailing to the shores
Salas also interviewed Miami resident Raul Sanchez, who went on a hunger strike last January after the immigration officials deported a group of 15 Cuban refugees who made it to an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys.
"I think he's a very courageous man for doing that," said Salas.
By law, any Cuban immigrant that makes it onto U.S. soil is given immediate asylum; however, they argued that since the bridge was abandoned it did not count.
The group was ultimately sent back, but was allowed to return to the U.S. about a month later.
Salas also includes extensive information about Cuba's history, from the reign of Batista and Castro to the celebrated patriots such as Jose Marti.
The documentary includes stories of immigrants who currently reside in New Jersey, Miami, Orlando, and Houston.
"Every major wave is represented by people who lived through the actual experience," said Salas. "They are grateful to the U.S. and for the rights they have here."
There is also animation to portray examples of each wave of immigration.
Filming wrapped in January, and Salas has been going through the editing process over the last few months, but is now ready for its screen debut.
"I'm not sure of the response I'm going to get in places like Miami," said Salas.
Salas said that the documentary is critical of many things, including the U.S. embargo on Cuba, which at this point he is convinced does not exist.
"America is the number one exporter to Cuba, and many exiles send money to their families in Cuba, which [the government] takes half of," said Salas. "Forty-seven years of this embargo and where have we gone; it hasn't brought him down."
Many exiles who don't have family left in Cuba, are very critical of the embargo for this reason, because despite efforts to ban trading, money is still going into Castro's regime.
However, for those with numerous relatives still on the island, they could never stop sending some form of support.
"It's a double-edged sword because you can't turn you back on your family, but there's a very different point of view for people who don't have family over there," said Salas. "They don't like it when people send money to Cuba."
Salas added, "I don't want to divide the exile community; I'm just trying to say, 'I'm a Cuban-American' and this is what I'm getting from it."
The documentary ends with some of the experts' opinions about what could happen for Cuba down the line.
"Lejos de la Isla" (Far From Home) will have its first screening on May 20, Cuba's Independence Day from Spain, at Union City's Jose Marti Middle School, 1800 Summit Ave., at 7 p.m. The screening is free to the public; and doors open at 6 p.m.
Screenings to follow will be held in Miami, Orlando, and additional screenings in New Jersey. Salas will also be submitting the documentary to film festivals.
For more information on the film call (201) 981-1899 or visit www.exile2005.com.