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The Protagonists in the Film
Lupe Hernandez says she feels very shy about seeing herself in the film. But, she adds, “Then I feel proud to be there, I feel happy I participated. My grandchildren, if I have children one day, will know me. I can now say that I didn’t just pass through life quietly. I left a mark!” And she laughs.
“It’s funny, because when you enter the theater no one cares about you, but after the screening everyone wants to talk to you. I think they recognize the courage it takes to allow others to enter your life, and they want to thank you for that. And for being strong . . . I have had immigrant workers come and tell me how they identified with the stories in the film. That feels really cool,” says Hernandez.
Hernandez says she hopes that people don’t forget the movie when they wake up the next day. She hopes it helps them think differently about immigrants and helps them stop to think about who makes their clothing and who does the many invisible jobs around them.
After working at the Garment Worker Center for several years, Hernandez left to “take a break” from organizing. After working in a good garment factory, she’s now considering working as an organizer again. Eventually, she says she’d like to open a cosmetics store, because she “likes make-up.” She thinks that women sometimes forget to take care of themselves and thus may feel bad about themselves, or forget how beautiful they really are. She feels that a cosmetics store could attract immigrant women and that owning one would give her a place to hold workshops for women on self-esteem.
Since the premiere of Made in L.A., Hernandez has been actively engaged in doing outreach connected to the film and has attended dozens of presentations, where she always galvanizes audiences. Young women seem particularly moved by Hernandez, as her journey reflects many of the themes and issues running through their own lives. You can read the filmmakers’ blogs about several screenings that Hernandez attended, including the film’s San Francisco Premiere and a presentation at SAJE (Strategic Alliance for a Just Economy), a community center in cowntown Los Angeles. Made in L.A. was also screened at the Council on Foundations Film Festival, where it received the Henry Hampton Award. And don’t miss this video of Hernandez speaking at the Castilleja School in Palo Alto, CA, where students gave her an enthusiastic standing ovation!
Maura Colorado still works in garment factories, although she continues to look for other kinds of work. She’s studying to get her citizenship and hopes one day to bring her kids to this country.
Colorado was able to go to El Salvador to see her children and has shown the film to her oldest son. She was incredibly moved to see him cry, because, she says, “Finally he could understand what I went through and why I had to leave him in El Salvador and come work here.”
Of the experience of being in the film, Colorado says, “It feels weird, like it isn’t true. Something incredible. How could I even think that one day I’d be in a movie! It didn’t even cross my mind! . . . I feel proud that my story can serve other people, so that workers who are not paid well don’t let others exploit them. So they speak out and don’t stay quiet.”
Colorado has also participated in Made in L.A. events. She hopes to save money so that in the future she may leave the garment industry and open her own business.
Maria Pineda still struggles to make ends meet. Shortly after the boycott campaign ended, her husband stopped drinking, got a job and returned home. He tried hard to help support his family and to turn things around, but a few months later he was tragically killed, leaving Pineda the sole provider for her children once again. Despite this traumatic loss for the family, she’s continued to work hard to help her children get ahead.
Pineda says that seeing the film makes her feel sad. “I constantly ask myself, ‘Why did I put up with all of it?’ So it makes me feel very sad to relive the things I went through. But then, at the same time, I feel good that other people can see that you can do it, that you can move forward and change if you want to. Just open your eyes and be strong.”
Pineda has also been quite active in the outreach connected to Made in L.A. and has enthusiastically attended screening events throughout Los Angeles. At a recent event at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., Pineda was received like a true star by the students!
Pineda’s kids often accompany her to presentations. Her son, Freddie, says, “The movie is good, because in the end everything turned out as it should have for them, as women, as workers and as immigrants. But as a son of immigrants, I feel kind of sad because everyone looks down on immigrants and treats them as though they have fewer rights than everyone else. Because our parents were immigrants they couldn’t complain about anything because they were always fearful of being deported. But I think we can fight. Like the movie says, ‘united we can make it.'”
Pineda’s daughter Araceli is starting fifth grade and doing well. She takes every opportunity to watch the film again and again and she says, “It’s beautiful for people to see you in a film.” She still wants to be a doctor and now a teacher as well, because, she says, “Teaching is fun.”
Pineda recently became a U.S. citizen. She studied hard. She says, “I listened to the questions daily! I had to know who was the first president of the United States. It was George Washington!” Her hope for the future is to be able to provide for her children so they don’t lack anything and are happy.
August 2009 — We caught up with the Made in L.A. filmmakers Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar to learn what’s been going on with the film and with them over the past two years. Here’s what they had to say.
POV: Can you summarize what has happened with Made in L.A. since its PBS broadcast premiere in 2007?
Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar: When Made in L.A. premiered on POV in 2007 we wrote, “We know this film can make an impact… and we suspect that our journey with Made in L.A. is only beginning.” Little could we have guessed then that the film would lead to a little movement of its own, that we would spend two years on the road traveling with the film and doing outreach, that so many people’s hearts would be touched and that Made in L.A. would be honored with a national Emmy Award! It’s now been two years since we finished Made in L.A. and we are still working full time to make sure that Made in L.A. makes an impact and serves as a tool for social change.
POV: Tell us about Made in L.A.’s film festival life. How has the film been received at festival screenings?
Carracedo and Bahar: Made in L.A. premiered in June 2007 at the Silverdocs Documentary Festival in Silver Spring, MD (just outside Washington, DC), and then, one week later, premiered on the West Coast at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Even 400- and 600-seat theaters were packed, and, in addition to the film festival’s regular audiences, immigrant workers from worker centers and community groups attended the screenings in force. It was inspiring to see diverse crowds who don’t necessarily speak the same language and who might normally never meet each other sit in the same theater, laughing and crying along with the women in the film… The audience response was just incredibly emotional! We also suspect that people really didn’t expect to have so much fun watching the film, and at the same time to be so emotionally affected by the stories of each woman’s empowerment and transformation. While we had always believed that the film would be beautiful, it was thrilling to see how much it touched people as it began to make its way out into the world!
These first two screenings helped us understand the power of Made in L.A. to put a human face on so many issues, and encouraged us to explore the film’s full potential to make change. Following these screenings, Made in L.A. began to receive invitations from festivals all over the world. Like a snowball, Made in L.A. has now screened at over 80 international film festivals, including the Havana International Film Festival (Cuba), Morelia International Film Festival (Mexico), Docaviv (Israel), Valladolid International Film Festival (Spain), São Paulo Mostra Internacional de Cinema (Brazil), DocumentaMadrid (Spain) and MARFICI (Mar de Plata Independent Film Festival, Argentina). It has also screened at numerous human rights film festivals including the One World International Film Festival (Czech Republic) and the Amnesty International Film Festival (Canada). Numerous women’s film festivals have also embraced Made in L.A. including the Barcelona Women’s Film Festival (Spain), Women Make Waves Film Festival (Taiwan) and Seoul International Women Film Festival (Korea), among others. And, Made in L.A. has toured through France with the Paris International Human Rights Film Festival, through Poland with the Traveling Refugee Film Festival, and soon in the Slovak Republic with the One World Film Festival. We’re excited to say that it is currently touring as part of the “American Documentary Showcase,” a program of the U.S. Department of State that brings documentary films to U.S. embassies for public screenings around the world!
When we have had the privilege of attending international festival screenings, we’ve been impacted by the emotional response of international audiences. From Moroccan immigrant men crying in Paris, to fashion students geared up for action in Madrid, to Chilean labor right activists embracing the film, we have seen that there’s a level of emotional engagement that transcends cultures and countries. When we see audiences around the world laughing or crying at the very same moments (really!), it serves as a powerful reminder of the universality of the struggles and the search for dignity represented in the film.
For a full list of festivals and other screening events visit www.MadeinLA.com/screen
POV: You’ve spent a long time – more than two years – doing outreach and community engagement with your film. How have you been using Made in L.A. to engage audiences?
Carracedo and Bahar: From the very beginning, our goal with Made in L.A. was to make a film that could become a tool for social change that would make an impact. Over these two years, we’ve focused on using the film to support the efforts of advocates for immigrants rights, humane immigration reform, low-wage workers, women’s empowerment and anti-sweatshop campaigns in the United States.
The film has been screened at hundreds of community and university events around the country, and we’ve attended as many of those events as possible! We’ve also done three invigorating screening tours, including a Northern California Tour, a New England Tour and a Pacific Northwest Tour in collaboration with Sweatfree Communities. Each of those events has been special and impactful in its own way. For example, Yale University held a bilingual screening for students, organizers, immigrant workers and professors. The panel included professors, ourselves and, perhaps most importantly, organizers from Unidad Latina en Acción, who spoke about supporting immigrant workers organizing in local restaurants and at Yale itself. Students have gotten involved with the workers’ struggle, additional screenings have been held by other groups in New Haven and the film has been incorporated into local activism. In fact, at a press conference for 12 Latina home care workers launching a lawsuit for unpaid wages, the plaintiffs stood proudly in front of a Made in L.A. poster. They explained that the film had given them courage and strengthened their campaign!
To see some videos of these presentations, check out Carracedo and Bahar speaking at a screening for hundreds of high-school students at the AFI Silver Theater in Maryland and at a screening at 92Y Tribeca in New York with local Chinese organizers.
In May 2009 we launched our “May Day to Labor Day” campaign. As part of this effort, more than 100 national organizations, grassroots groups, faith-based congregations and individuals across the country have screened Made in L.A. to put a human face on the issues of immigration, immigrant workers’ rights and supporting humane immigration reform. Several partnerships have emerged out of this campaign, including a national initiative with the United Methodist Church’s Task Force on Immigration and chapter-based screenings with the National Council for Immigrant Women’s Rights, among others.
POV: And you’ve also done some policy related work with Made in L.A., right?
Carracedo and Bahar: Yes, indeed! As filmmakers — and also as activists — we believe that well-told, powerful personal stories can help shape the thinking of leaders and policymakers around an issue. A film like Made in L.A. provides a window so that they can see first hand how other people live and what they experience. Thus, part of our journey with Made in L.A. has been to bring the film not just to regular folks, but also to policy environments, where it can make an impact. We’ve done several special events geared towards legislators, policymakers and thinkers including an event on Capitol Hill, a special screening at the National Council of La Raza with Amnesty International and Sojourners and a special screening at the Reform Immigration for America Campaign Summit, which brought together 800+ organizers to launch a national campaign for immigration reform.
POV: How do you feel about the awards that Made in L.A. has received in these two years?
Carracedo and Bahar: When you spend five years of your life making a film, of course you hope that it will do well. But we honestly never could have anticipated the awards that we would receive or the impact that Made in L.A. would make. At the Emmy ceremony, the first thing that went through our minds when we heard “And the winner is… Made in L.A.!“ was, “This is going to be a great way to reach even more people with the film!” We are thrilled that the film continues to receive recognition, and we were incredibly honored to recently receive the Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism. While such awards do honor our hard work, they also honor the struggle of the women in the film and, by extension, the struggles of millions of immigrant workers and women like them all over the world. If the awards that Made in L.A. has received actually help the story of this struggle reach more people, then that’s very exciting!
View a list of all the awards that Made in L.A. has received on the filmmakers website.
POV: Do you have any closing thoughts?
Carracedo and Bahar: We’re thrilled about POV’s encore broadcast this week on PBS, and are grateful to the entire team at POV for supporting films like ours! We’re optimistic that this new broadcast will bring the film to new audiences and that it will inspire more exploration or action around the film’s many themes.
All of our outreach and community engagement efforts have been inspired by the same passion that lead us to make the film in the first place. The last two years have been a beautiful and inspiring journey, taking Made in L.A. out into the world, and seeing it move people to make change in their lives, and to fight for the rights of others. We’re excited to see where this journey will lead us next…