Migrant films tell stories of struggle and triumph
An emotional series of short films featuring the stories of immigrants and the obstacles they have to face on their journey to the U.S. were screened as the San Diego Latino Film Festival presented the 15 finalists of the “Migrant Voices Today” film challenge this week.
The cross-border video contest, co-sponsored by The San Diego Union-Tribune, was intended to give voice to individual migrants, rather than the broader media stories often told of thousands of Central American migrants walking hundreds of miles to the Mexican northern border.
Nearly 300 entries received from all over the world were reviewed by a jury of professional filmmakers, journalists, and academics.
They selected two winners, Julie Holtzhuizer (“The Border Wall Doesn’t Stop the American Dream”) in the best “Emerging Artist” category for filmmakers under 25, and Mo Morris (“Tomorrow We Carry On”) as best “Professional Media Maker.” She earned a cash prize of $5,000. Holtzhuizer received a prize of $1,000.
The Border Wall Doesn’t Stop the American Dream
Morris, a former immigration attorney turned filmmaker based in the Bay Area, was puzzled when she first heard about Dulce Garcia, an undocumented immigrant and DACA recipient, with a license to practice law in California. Garcia was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Trump administration over the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The short film documents Garcia’s efforts to lead a law firm and a Dreamer’s organization as well as the everyday lives of immigrants and deportees at a south-of-the-border shelter.
Morris captured Garcia’s story as part of a larger documentary project. Her intention, she said, is to create a feature film portraying activists that are in their communities trying to pursue justice.
“Whether it is in the legal system or trying to flip a seat in Congress, there are Dreamers and other activists throughout the United States that are using their power, the power of their voice, of their story, to make a change, and even though they can’t vote, they can have a loud voice and make a change in people’s minds,” Morris said.
Garcia explained that as part of her legal battle against the federal administration she was able to renew her DACA permit and now is safe from a deportation order for two more years. “But our lives are still in limbo, and until we have a comprehensive immigration reform, a pathway to citizenship, I still fear that my parents can be taken to a detention center, it had happened in my family before,” she said.
For Garcia, the posada, a traditional holiday celebration in Mexican culture, was presented on the short film with an additional meaning: it was used as a fundraiser to finance the San Diego Border Dreamers organization she leads.
“I am very excited about the way the story was told this time, even though it was in three minutes I think it made an impact and (sent) a message across, that we can’t travel here, but we can have an impact across the border,” Garcia said.
After being undocumented in the country for more than 30 years, Garcia now tries to find a way to celebrate in the U.S., whether is a birthday party, a friend’s gathering, or a posada during the holidays. Every time that she has the ability to set aside her struggles, she celebrates even just for a minute, dancing, laughing, or breaking a piñata.
“We have to select those good moments because the following day we kept adding, and we keep on pushing, and we are still fighting for a comprehensive immigration reform, and we are still fighting for our livelihood, and unfortunately everything is still in limbo.”
That is why the celebration is only a pit stop for Garcia, who closes the short with this phrase, “There is no rest for those of us who believe that this is an endless struggle.”
The collection of 15 short films can be seen online at sandiegouniontribune.com.