** Ray pays astronomical costs to serve the community. The month we are successful, we will buy Ray an urgently needed ice cream machine.**
Arya, a young Iranian filmmaker worried about deportation, walks into a New York candy store late at night seeking a milkshake. He chats up the owner, a kind-spirited, wild-hearted old Puerto Rican named Ray Alvarez - and in a strange twist of fate, Ray turns out to also be an Iranian refugee, living in disguise. So begins Arya’s new American dream, of making soft-serve for wayfaring drunks and 5am misfits - and a most unlikely friendship is born.
“The Candy Store” is more than a tale of exile, more than a love letter to the vanishing flavors of old New York. It is a poetic testament to resilience in the face of fear and loss. It is a transcendent story of finding home in the most unlikely of places.
When I discovered that the so-called “Ray Alvarez” is actually from the same town as my father - Tabriz, Iran - I began recording our conversations, and helping him work the ice-cream machines late at night, so Ray could get a chance to sleep.
Ray came to USA with the Royal Iranian Navy. Upon their departure, Ray jumped off his ship and swam back to Virginia.
He’s been running Ray’s Candy Store 24/7 since 1973 in New York City. We bonded inside a time capsule: not only was the Candy Store the kind of cheap all-night New York hang-out that Iggy Pop might have sung about, but it was secretly infused with frozen elements of Ray’s Persian past. Soft serve, still alive, and sprinkled with the poetry of Omar Khayyam.
My kinship with Ray became the catalyst for this film.
Though threatened by gentrification, at 85, Ray still brings the warmest hometown hospitality to the East Village. He feeds the homeless, takes in the strays, and tells stories with a boundless love that keeps me coming back. Ray believes we need to take care of each other. I was lucky enough to capture the joy he brings to so many. This film is meant to shine a light on the resilience of the human spirit that rises above pain and conflict.
Making this film has been a labor of love. It has received support from patrons of the Candy Store who cannot wait to see their local hero on the big screen.
With a travel ban in effect, and rising tensions between Iran and the West, I feel it’s imperative to show the potential of Iranian (and other) immigrants as resilient purveyors of beauty, poetry, and the American Dream.
With high rents washing away the soul of our cities, I also want to show the value of keeping small businesses like Ray’s alive. Without Ray’s, even great cities like New York lose their flavor. With Ray, we can all be family.
Four years ago, I turned on my camera, to understand how a man like Ray could survive decades of hardship and come out okay. Four years later, I turn off my camera deeply humbled. It is my hope that your spirit will dance like Ray’s. But first - we need your help to finish this movie.
We are close, but it cannot happen without community support. Your donation at this very moment brings us one step closer.
All contributions go directly to completion: hiring an award-winning editor, renowned composer, as well as paying for a sound mix, E&O insurance, color correcting, and licensing.
A place like Ray’s is the equalizer that brings people together from all walks of life. In launching this campaign, I invite you to find shelter inside Ray’s, where time stands still, and we are all kids again.
Any and all amount go towards bringing this story to light.
Thank you متشکرم
Arya, Ray, and The Candy Store team
The Candy Store team includes Ari Gold (Producer), Mario Ducoudray (Producer), J. Faye Yuan (Producer), & Carmen Anton-Garcia (Associate Producer).
Cover photo by Frank Sun, titles created by Mani Nilchiani
PHOTOS IN THE REWARDS:
LIMITED EDITION PRINTS FOR BACKERS WHO DONATE MORE THAN $1000 (From Arya's photo series called "Dreams of Another")
Risks and challenges
I’ve spent hundreds of hours with Ray, and have gathered a vast collection of material in form of videos and interviews. Making a film is arduous, and making documentaries even more so. It’s not easy to make it with no money.
I lived and breathed in his candy store along with hundreds of others whose lives he’s touched. With your help completing the film, we have the potential to touch thousands more.
Today Ray is 85 years young. I celebrated three birthdays with him, and there is a chance he will outlive us all. I want the world to hear Ray's message of happiness and freedom, and I want him to watch the film and bring him joy— the same way he brought it to us for decades.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (39 days)