Here’s how director Andrew Porter describes The DJ Is Here on Vimeo: “A ‘ghostly’ portrait of disk jockey Rene Sanchez. An ex trucker who finds solace by playing roller disco music for free at a local park in upstate, New York.” The seven-minute short blew up on Reddit twice, 15 months apart. The first time was March 22, 2020, and it’s precisely the kind of feel-good human interest story to garner thousands of upvotes in early quarantine.
Long, slow, panning shots show Sanchez sitting at his big PA, staring into the middle distance and smiling sheepishly to camera over an ambient soundtrack. He describes his glory days rollerskating, growing up to become a semi-truck driver, and the accident that put him on his ass for two years. Then, one day, he went to the park at lunch to play tunes like Nu Shooz’ “I Can’t Wait” and Mariah Carey’s “Someday” off his computer louder than he could at home. And he kept going. He talks about DJing as therapy and service, and, in a roundabout way, escape. “I’m glad I could take you back to a better time in your life,” he recalls telling one grateful parkgoer.
Sanchez cuts a solitary figure, even amidst kids’ parties, dogs frolicking, and families gathering. His eyes are nervous as he scans the scene in front of him. But why does he stay apart? Porter never shows us. Instead, he relies on the same instincts that inspire him to describe his own film as “ghostly” in quotes. He increases Sanchez’s disconnection by relegating all of his words to voiceover. Ultimately, it’s a portrait that obscures rather than reveals.