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.