Before making Escuela, I made a documentary called La Boda which follows Elizabeth Luis — a 22 year old Mexican-American migrant — in the weeks leading up to her wedding. During the making of the film, Elizabeth and I became very good friends and she shared many stories about what high school life was like for her as a migrant student. Elizabeth talked about the pressures of working during the school year in order to help support her family, of having to leave school mid-semester when her family looked for work in the agricultural circuit and the toll all of this took, both on her ability to learn and on her ability to make and keep friends.
La Boda contains a "chapter" that focuses on Elizabeth's high school experience, but I felt that the stories she had shared could support an entire film that showed the pressures all migrant students experience. Liliana, Elizabeth's younger sister, was just about to start her freshman year of high school and I asked her if she would be interested in working with me on the film. Liliana, who is a bright, spirited teenager, readily agreed.
I wanted to document Liliana's personal journey — her rite of passage from adolescence to young adulthood as she braved the challenges of high school as a migrant student. I also wanted to illustrate the nuances and complexity of the educational system which all migrant students inhabit. Standing alongside Liliana, being there in the midst of the upheavals, I felt a deep empathy for her. I hoped Escuela would capture the details of Liliana's experience so others could feel that same kind of connection.