Earlier this month, Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar hit the road with Made in L.A. (POV 2007), visiting organizations and schools throughout Northern California. The film was received enthusiastically by standing-room-only crowds from Santa Cruz to San Diego. Almudena wrote in to share the experience with us and to encourage other filmmakers to tap into the strength of local community organizations.
We’ve just returned from an extraordinary week-long screening tour in Northern California with our documentary Made in L.A. It has been an intense and invigorating experience, and I wanted to share the story in case it can be helpful to other filmmakers and organizers.
The tour evolved organically — several groups in the area had contacted us after Made in L.A. was broadcast on POV on September 4th (the day after Labor Day) to invite us to come present the film in their community, university or school. The idea of a regional tour started to emerge as we heard from several groups in Northern California. In addition to the groups that had reached out to us, we contacted a few additional universities, and ended up with a five-day, seven-screening itinerary: in San Francisco at the Brava Theater, Palo Alto with Progressive Jewish Alliance, UC Santa Cruz, Stanford, Sacramento State University, UC Davis, and at the United Students Against Sweatshops High School Conference.
We wanted to use this tour as a “test” to understand where Made in L.A. might be most useful, to understand the reactions of the event organizers, audience members and students, and to use this experience to begin thinking about doing additional tours around other parts of the country.
Without a doubt, the tour exceeded our expectations — and those of the organizers, as well! Each screening was its own unique experience and was moving in a different way. One of the high points — and a great example — was the event at UC Santa Cruz. A number of different campus groups had come together to make the event happen, including The Chicano Latino Research Center (CLRC), Labor Studies, El Centro: Chicano Latino Resource Center, Women of Color Research Cluster and Stevenson College. 450 students showed up! It was amazing to see so many people laughing at the same moments in the film, and to see students moved to tears as they explained what the film means to them. It made us feel tremendously proud when students said that they’d never seen anything like Made in L.A., that “it’s better than films in theaters!”, that Maria (one of the main characters) reminded them of their own mothers, or that for the first time, they had found in Lupe or Maria a role model to remember when they feel like giving up… The university had made a special effort to fly Lupe in for the screening, and we all signed DVDs and postcards as if we were movie stars (!). We also encouraged each student to share the film with their families, friends, organizations, and churches.
Other university screenings were equally powerful, with children of immigrant parents being especially impacted. At UC Davis, we were reminded of the power of both students and new technology — just two days after a student group that works around “undocumented” issues announced the event on Facebook, we had over 100 confirmed guests!
On the other end of the spectrum, our afternoon screening at Progressive Jewish Alliance was also packed, but it reached an audience that connected deeply to the scene in the Lower East Side Tenement Museum where Lupe, an immigrant from Mexico City, recognizes her connection to Jewish immigrant garment workers who struggled in New York in the early 1900s.
After 1200+ miles on the road and several screenings, we have learned a few things. First, the film has incredible appeal to students, and especially to those who have a personal connection to immigration; students, in turn, have a real ability to organize and spread the word on their own. And second, we have learned that there is tremendous interest in the film on the part of many diverse organizations and university departments that are working around different facets, like Latino/Chicano studies, immigration, Asian American studies, law, human rights, and women. Some events have literally been sponsored by 10 different departments; these collaborations have impact in their respective communities and of course having multiple sponsors also helps to provide crucial financial support for the events, which enables us to continue the outreach campaign and do many other screenings at community centers that have no funding at all.
Seeing so many people and groups come together for each event is a testament to how many layers the film has, and it reaffirms our belief that there’s still so very much to do with Made in L.A. After five and a half years in the making, this is the most beautiful part — it’s an amazing experience to bring the film into the communities that need it, and help educate and empower people. This is, simply put, the reason why we made the film — it’s our mission.
To see detailed description of each stop in the tour, visit Almudena Carracedo’s blog at http://www.madeinla.com/blog.