Major League Baseball has been transformed by the influx of Cuban players like Aroldis Chapman, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu. But they owe a debt of gratitude to two half-brothers whose courage almost 20 years ago paved the way for their stardom.
“Brothers in Exile” tells the incredible story of Livan and Orlando Hernandez, who risked their lives to get off the island. Livan left first, banking on his status as the hottest young prospect in Cuba, to defect via Mexico and sign with the Florida Marlins, for whom he became one of the youngest World Series MVPs in history in 1997. Staying behind was Orlando, who was banned from baseball for life because he was suspected of having helped Livan escape. Then, on Christmas 1997, an increasingly frustrated and harassed Orlando left Cuba in a small boat. He was stranded on a deserted island for days before being picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard. Less than a year later, “El Duque” was helping pitch the New York Yankees to a world championship, completing a most unlikely journey for a pair of brothers who rode their arms to freedom and triumph.
Mario Diaz is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and editor who has directed four feature-length sports documentaries, including “The Clemente Effect” (ESPN Deportes), about the lasting impact of baseball legend Roberto Clemente; “Bazooka: The Battles of Wilfredo Gómez” (HBO Latino), which chronicles the life of three-time world champion boxer Wilfredo Gómez; and “Viva Cepeda!” (HBO Latino), about Hall-of-Fame baseball player Orlando Cepeda. He also directed and edited the popular Grantland short “The Fastest Man in Rugby: Carlin Isles.”
In addition to directing documentaries, Diaz also has an extensive background in television. He was the Senior Producer of the nationally syndicated newsmagazine “American Latino TV,” Supervising Producer of Season 2 of the Oprah Network relationship series “Unfaithful,” Senior Producer of the CBS online business show “Wallstrip,” and Entertainment Producer for Associated Press Television News (APTN).
As an editor, Diaz’s film credits include the documentaries: “Unspooled,” “Generation Meds,” and “Leap of Faith.” His television credits include “Worst Cooks in America” for the Food Network, two seasons of “Design Star” for HGTV, and four seasons of “Ink Master” for SpikeTV. Diaz was also the documentary programmer for the San Diego Latino Film Festival from 2011-2013 and a producer/editor for the Gotham Independent Film Awards from 2007-2012.