The Graduates/Los Graduados

Trailer (3:11)
Promo ( :30)
Clip ( 2:31)
Clip ( 1:51)

About the Film

Chastity Salas looks out the window of a bus. Darlene Bustos smiles in the classroom. Gustavo Madrigal stands in front of his school. Darlene Bustos at work in the classroom. Juan Bernabe smiles with his dance partner after winning the school competition.
Photos courtesy of Quiet Pictures

The Graduates/Los Graduados 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.

Presented over two nights, the film follows six teenagers — three girls and three boys — each with their own unique obstacles to overcome. “Girls” features Stephanie, a daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, who despite attending a tough public school on the South Side of Chicago, fights through the distractions and worries about violence to become a good student, outspoken activist, and volunteer; Chastity, a Bronx teen whose family has become homeless but uses writing as a means of escape while keeping her eyes on the prize — college; and Darlene, a Tulsa student who dropped out of school after becoming pregnant and has to play catch-up when she dives back into her studies, all while trying to make a good future for her son.

“Boys” gives us three more teenagers who are just as distinct: Juan, a Dominican living in Lawrence, Massachusetts who was bullied as a gay teen until finding his own identity as a performer and writer; Eduardo from San Diego, who is steered away from the gang path when introduced to a special college prep organization that changes his outlook; and Gustavo, who came to America from Mexico to live in the very different environment of Georgia and whose dreams of college are blocked by his undocumented status.

A running theme throughout all of the stories in The Graduates/Los Graduados is the importance of civic engagement, of students becoming involved in their schools and communities, and — crucially — having a say in their own futures.

We hear from these students’ parents, many of whom have had to make great sacrifices in order to see their children graduate, and the film also interweaves engaging interviews with successful Latinos — actors like Wilmer Valderrama, activists, writers like Angie Cruz, politicians such as San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, teachers, and more — looking back on their own experiences as a student in the USA.

The Filmmakers

Bernardo Ruiz, Series Writer & Executive Producer

Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz

Ruiz founded Quiet Pictures in 2007 to produce independent documentary projects at the intersection of journalism and film. He is the director/producer of America Experience: Roberto Clemente (PBS, 2008) and more recently directed Reportero (POV, 2013), a gripping look at the world of Mexican journalists who cover organized crime and political corruption. Before starting Quiet Pictures, Ruiz worked for a variety of media outlets, including PBS, National Geographic, Planet Green and MTV, among others. He was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and grew up in Brooklyn in a household where education was a frequent topic of conversation — his mother has been a teacher of high-school Spanish for nearly 40 years. He studied documentary photography with Joel Sternfeld at Sarah Lawrence College. Before embarking on a career in documentary, he taught as an artist-in-residence in New York City public schools via Learning through an Expanded Arts Program (L.E.A.P.)

Pamela Aguilar, Producer

Filmmaker Pamela Aguilar

Pamela A. Aguilar is an award winning documentary filmmaker with over ten years of experience producing innovative and informative programming for public television (PBS). She co-produced the Emmy-nominated documentary The Longoria Affair (Independent Lens, 2010) about the racial divides in a South Texas town, that led to the uprising of the Latino Civil Rights Movement. She also produced two hours of the nationally acclaimed four-part PBS series Latin Music USA covering the contributions of Latin sounds in American music. Other public media credits include Beyond Brown, Matters of Race, and FRONTLINE. Theatrical documentary credits include Bigger, Stronger, Faster; Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead; and Shut Up and Sing, as well as the co-production of an investigative documentary on No Child Left Behind Legislation for the Emmy Award-winning series, CNN Presents. She’s a graduate of New School University, a CPB/PBS Producer’s Academy Fellow and currently resides in New York City.

Katia Maguire, Producer

 Filmmaker Katia Maguire

Maguire most recently worked with Bill Moyers as an associate producer on the public affairs news program Moyers & Company and for Bill Moyers Journal. She was the senior associate producer for Women, War & Peace, a five-part PBS documentary special exploring women’s strategic role in conflict and peace-building, and a co-producer on Quest for Honor, a documentary about honor-based violence in the Kurdish region of Iraq that was short-listed for the 2010 Academy Awards and premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. She is a recipient of ITVS Diversity Development Funding for her documentary Jessica Gonzales vs. The United States of America. Katia was a 2009-2010 fellow with the Union Docs documentary arts collaborative in Brooklyn.