The following films have been screened at Indocumentales events:
FILM: AL OTRO LADO (Natalia Almada, US/Mexico, 2005, 66 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) Like many in Sinaloa, the drug capital of Mexico, 23-year-old Magdiel faces two choices to better his life: trafficking drugs or crossing the border into the United States. Yet Magdiel has a special talent that could be his ticket out: composing corridos – ballads about the narcotics underworld and undocumented immigrant life. For over 200 years corridos have been Mexico’s musical underground newspaper and the voice of those rarely heard outside their communities. From Sinaloa, Mexico, to the streets of South Central and East L.A., Al Otro Lado explores the world of drug smuggling, immigration and the corrido music that chronicles it all.
FILM: SUBTERRÁNEOS: MÚSICA NORTEÑA IN NEW YORK (Gaspar Orozco and Karina Escamilla, US, 2010, 26 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) Five musical groups from south-center Mexico survive playing music in the subways of New York. For them, Mexican Norteña music is more than a way of life –it is an expressive vehicle that reflects their experience as immigrants in this country and gives them a sense of identity in a radically new society. Caught between a yearning for the country they left behind and the hope of building a new life in a new society. This small community of norteña musicians is the manifestation of an identity in transformation.
FILM: LOS QUE SE QUEDAN / THOSE WHO REMAIN (Juan Carlos Rulfo, Carlos Hagerman, Mexico, 2008, 96 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) “Those Who Remain shines a light on the families left behind by loved ones who have traveled North for work, while also illuminating the rich glow of the Mexican spirit. With great balance and sensitivity, this intimate documentary follows a number of families who each share their stories, ranging from the American Dream to heartbreakingly tragedy. Examining the emotional cost of long-term estrangement, directors Juan Carlos Rulfo and Carlos Hagerman find rich cinematic metaphors in the deserted, newly constructed homes on the highway, their empty rooms a powerful reminder of the absence of loved ones at otherwise joyous occasions like communions and graduations. Despite this void in their communities, many of those profiled emerge as colorful characters with boundless vitality and wonderful senses of humor.” – L.A. Film Festival
FILM: MI VIDA DENTRO / MY LIFE INSIDE (Lucía Gajá, Mexico, 2007, 120 min. In Spanish and English with English subtitles) “In January 2003, 21-year-old Rosa Estela Olera Jiménez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico working as a nanny in Austin, Texas, is brought to trial for the homicide of 21-month-old Bryan Gutierrez, a young boy who died under mysterious circumstances while in her care. The prosecution is relentless in its demonization of Jiménez, a soft-spoken mother of two who was working to one day buy her mother a house and build a better life for herself in the land of opportunity. With a sweeping, lyrical focus, the film encompasses the obstacles, prejudices and Sisyphean struggles faced by many Mexican migrant workers who leave their lives behind to pursue the American dream. A powerful and heart-wrenching documentary, My Life Inside alternates between tense courtroom drama and moving personal profile, providing a cautionary tale about the experience of outsiders in the United States.” – Hotdocs.
FILM: FARMINGVILLE (Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini, US, 2004, 78 min. In Spanish and English with English subtitles) The shocking hate-based attempted murders of two Mexican day laborers catapult a small Long Island town into national headlines, unmasking a new front line in the border wars: suburbia. For nearly a year, Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini lived and worked in Farmingville, New York, so they could capture first-hand the stories of residents, day laborers and activists on all sides of the debate. This timely and powerful film is more than a story about undocumented immigration. Ultimately it challenges viewers to ask what the ‘American dream’ really means.
FILM: SIXTH SECTION (Alex Rivera, Mexico, US, 2003, 29 min.). The Sixth Section is a groundbreaking documentary that blends digital animation, home video, cinema verité, and interview footage to depict the transnational organizing of a community of Mexican immigrants in New York State. The small town of Boquerón is located on a dusty road in southern Mexico and is comprised of five neighborhoods, or sections. But perhaps its most prominent citizens live more than 3,000 miles north in Newburgh, New York—in the so-called sixth section. “Grupo Unión” started as a gathering of immigrant men in search of friendship and a connection to their culture as they labored in small jobs far from home. But it turned into a far more enterprising endeavor. Working long hours to earn extra money, the members huddle in coats in their makeshift tent every Saturday evening to plan philanthropic projects for their hometown, such as a 2,000-seat baseball stadium and a new well. Challenging widely-held assumptions about disempowered immigrants, Grupo Unión’s unique contributions are testament to the tremendous potential for immigrant communities to effect social change across borders.
FILM: WHICH WAY HOME (Rebecca Cammisa, 2009). As the United States continues to build a wall between itself and Mexico, Which Way Home shows the personal side of immigration through the eyes of children who face harrowing dangers with enormous courage and resourcefulness as they endeavor to make it to the United States. The film follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call “The Beast.” Director Rebecca Cammisa (Sister Helen) tracks the stories of children like Olga and Freddy, nine-year-old Hondurans who are desperately trying to reach their families in Minnesota, and Jose, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran who has been abandoned by smugglers and ends up alone in a Mexican detention center, and focuses on Kevin, a canny, streetwise 14-year-old Honduran, whose mother hopes that he will reach New York City and send money back to his family. These are stories of hope and courage, disappointment and sorrow.
FILM: MANHATITLAN (Felipe Feggo Galindo, 2000, 7 min.). The Manhatitlán Chronicles is an animated flight of fancy that transposes elements of Mexican culture onto the cityscape of Manhattan. A humorous view on how Mexican and American cultures playfully intertwine. The Manhatitlán Chronicles celebrates New York’s great ethnic diversity, paying homage to the people who constitute its ever changing population. The film consist of 5 humorous segments that underscore ethnic tradition in this era of multiculturalism and globalization.
FILM: EL NORTE (Gregory Nava, US, 1983, 140min. In Spanish, K’iche’ and English with English subtitles). Brother and sister Enrique and Rosa flee persecution at home in Guatemala and journey north, through Mexico and on to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life. It’s a story that happens every day, but until Gregory Nava’s groundbreaking El Norte (The North), the personal travails of immigrants crossing the border to America had never been shown in the movies with such urgent humanism. A work of social realism imbued with dreamlike imagery, El Norte is a lovingly rendered, heartbreaking story of hope and survival, which critic Roger Ebert called “a Grapes of Wrath for our time.”
FILM: ELVIRA (Javier Solórzano Casarín, 2009). As part of a series of post-9/11 country-wide airport raids in search of terrorists, Elvira Arellano, a Mexican woman working as a janitor at O’Hare International Airport, was arrested and convicted of Social Security fraud. On the date she was ordered to appear before immigration authorities, she took refuge at a Methodist church where she remained for 12 months, fighting to remain in the United States. She ultimately was deported to Mexico in 2007 and separated from her American-born son. ELVIRA narrates the drama of the undocumented mother who became an international symbol of the struggle of the rights of undocumented workers.
CESAR’S LAST FAST (Richard Ray Perez and Lorena Parlee USA, 2014, 100 min.) An official section at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, chronicles civil rights and labor activist Cesar Chavez’s 1988, “Fast for Life.” The thirty-six day water only fast was meant to raise awareness of the detrimental effects of pesticide use on farm workers. The documentary features never-before-seen footage along with interviews with those closest to Chavez, including co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, Dolores Huerta. The film is a compelling look at the impact of Chavez and the UFW’s legacy and the ongoing struggle to guarantee the humane treatment of America’s farm workers—a fight that remains as relevant as ever.
MARIA IN NOBODY’S LAND/MARIA EN TIERRA DE NADIE (Marcela Zamora Chamorro El Salvador/Mexico, 2010, 86 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) An unprecedented and intimate look at the illegal and extremely dangerous journey of three Salvadoran women to the US. Doña Inés, a 60-year old woman, has been looking for her daughter for five years and is following the same route her daughter took. Marta and Sandra, tired of the violence from their husbands and wanting to overcome poverty, decide to leave their families behind to travel to America – with only thirty dollars in their pockets. During their harrowing journey, the three women encounter prostitution, slave trade, rape, kidnapping and even death, in an unwavering quest for a better life.
OF KITES AND BORDERS/DE COMETAS Y FRONTERAS (Yolanda Pividal Mexico/US, 2013, 60 min.) OF KITES AND BORDERS tells the story of the daily struggle to be a child living on the US-Mexico border through the eyes of four working children in the city of Tijuana. Edie is a teen who smuggles immigrants into the United States while promising himself that he will never get worn-out working in the maquilas (assembly plants). Carmela is a nine-year old who knows more about work in the city’s dumps than about fairy tales yet every day at sunset she dreams of a better life while watching the kites that fly over her slum. And brothers Adrián and Fernando don masks to conceal their youth and perform wrestling matches at busy intersections in order to support their family – all the while dreaming of traveling the world as famous Mexican luchadores.
AbUSed: THE POSTVILLE RAID (Luis Argueta, 2011) The face of immigration is revealed through the gripping personal stories of the individuals, the families, and the town that survived the most brutal, most expensive, and the largest immigration raid in the history of the United States.
FREE LIKE THE BIRDS, (Paola Mendoza, 2016, 10 min) Precocious Sophie Cruz convinced her martial arts teacher to let her attend classes when she was just 3 years old. She is a luchadora, a fighter. So when her parents, who are undocumented immigrants, told her they don’t have papers and could be deported back to Mexico, Sophie vowed to keep her family together. On a trip to Washington, D.C., Sophie, then just 6, cleared a security barrier to deliver her message to Pope Francis. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which would grant protected status to Sophie’s family and thousands of others and let them live free like the birds.
SIN PAÍS / WITHOUT A COUNTRY (Theo Rigby, 2010, 20 min) In 1992, Sam and Elida Mejia left Guatemala during a violent civil war and brought their one-year old son, Gilbert, to California. The Mejia’s settled in the Bay Area, and for the past 17 years they have worked multiple jobs to support their family, paid their taxes, and saved enough to buy a home. They had two more children, Helen and Dulce, who are both U.S. citizens. Two years ago, immigration agents stormed the Mejia’s house looking for someone who didn’t live there. Sam, Elida, and Gilbert were all undocumented and became deeply entangled in the U.S. immigration system.
CHICAGO BOYS (by Carola Fuentes and Rafael Valdeavellano , 2015) The story of a group of Milton Friedman’s disciples that, backed by a military dictatorship, turned Chile into the first and most extreme neoliberal country in the world.
FOOD CHAINS (by Sanjay Rawal, 2014) There is so much interest in food these days yet there is almost no interest in the hands that pick that food. In the US, farm labor has always been one of the most difficult and poorly paid jobs and has relied on some of the nation’s most vulnerable people. While the legal restrictions which kept people bound to farms, like slavery, have been abolished, exploitation still exists, ranging from wage theft to modern-day slavery. These days, this exploitation is perpetuated by the corporations at the top of the food chain: supermarkets. Their buying power has kept wages pitifully low and has created a scenario where desperately poor people are willing to put up with anything to keep their jobs.
HABLA Y VOTA (by Alberto Ferreras, 2016) Latino celebrities encourage the Latino community in the U.S. to get out and vote in this installment in the award-winning series.
THE NEW LATINOS (1946 – 1965) (2014, 52 min. PBS. In English and Spanish with English subtitle) A documentary presenting the years when Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominicans seek economic opportunities in the U.S.
LA JAULA DE ORO (2015) Three teenagers from the slums of Guatemala travel to the US in search of a better life. Travelling together in cargo trains, walking on the railroad tracks, they soon have to face a harsh reality.
“EMPIRE OF DREAMS” / LATINO AMERICANS (From PBS / 2013) A documentary presenting how the American population was reshaped by Latino immigration from 1880 to the 1940s.
THE HAND THAT FEEDS (by Robin Blotnick and Rachel Lears, 2014) Sandwich-maker Mahoma López unites his undocumented immigrant coworkers to fight abusive conditions at a popular New York restaurant chain.
THE GRADUATES: PART II (Bernardo Ruiz, USA, 2013, 60min.) The Graduates explores pressing issues in education today through the eyes of six Latino and Latina students from across the United States. More than a survey of contemporary policy debates, the bilingual, two-part film offers first-hand perspectives on key challenges facing Latino high school students and their families, educators, and community leaders. It is the story of the graduates who will make up America’s future.
THE STATE OF ARIZONA (Carlos Sandoval, Catherine Tambini, 2014) The turbulent battle over illegal immigration in Arizona that came to a head with Senate Bill 1070 frames this riveting documentary tracking multiple perspectives as America eyes the results all the way to the Supreme Court.
TWO AMERICANS – (Daniel DeVivo, Valeria Fernandez, 2012) A documentary that follows the story of two Americans at the center of Arizona’s immigration battle- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and a 9 year old girl whose parents were arrested in one of Sheriff Arpaio’s immigration raids.
LA CIUDAD (David Riker, USA, 1998, 88 min. In Spanish, English, and Korean with English subtitles) Four gritty stories chronicle the Latino immigrant experience in New York City. In the first, desperate day laborers risk their lives working in unsafe conditions for low pay. Then, newcomer Francisco (Cipriano Garcia) gets a respite from loneliness when he meets a kindhearted woman. Next, homeless puppeteer Luis (Jose Rabelo) battles bureaucracy to register his daughter for school. Finally, garment worker Ana (Silvia Goiz) struggles for the paycheck that could save her sick daughter’s life.
EN EL SEPTIMO DIA (Jim McKay, USA, 2018, 92 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) En el Séptimo Día is a fiction feature following a group of undocumented immigrants living in Sunset Park, Brooklyn over the course of seven days. Bicycle delivery guys, construction workers, dishwashers, deli workers, and cotton candy vendors, they work long hours six days a week and then savor their day of rest on Sundays on the soccer fields of Sunset Park. José, a bicycle delivery worker, is the team’s captain – young, talented, hardworking and responsible. When José’s team makes it to the finals, he and his teammates are thrilled. But his boss throws a wrench into the celebration when he tells José he has to work on Sunday, the day of the finals. José tries to reason with his boss or replace himself, but his efforts fail. If he doesn’t work on Sunday, his job and his future will be on the line. But if he doesn’t stand up for himself and his teammates, his dignity will be crushed. Shot in the neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Park Slope, and Gowanus, En el Séptimo Día is a humane, sensitive, and humorous window into a world rarely seen. The film’s impact is made quietly, with restraint and respect for the individual experiences, everyday challenges, and small triumphs of its characters.