The Graduates / Los Graduados

The Graduates / Los Graduados

October 28, 2013

by

Bernardo Ruiz, Pamela A. Aguilar, and Katia Maguire

The Graduates / Los Graduados explores pressing issues in education today through the eyes of six Latino and Latina students from across the United States.

EXPLORE THE FILM

About the Documentary

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

Bernardo Ruiz is a two-time Emmy®-nominated documentary filmmaker and member of the Academy. He was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. His directorial feature debut, Reportero (POV, 2013), about attacks on the press in Mexico, premiered at Full Frame (U.S.), IDFA (Europe) and Ambulante (Mexico). New York Magazine called it "a powerful reminder of how journalism often requires immense amounts of physical and psychological bravery." His second feature documentary Kingdom of Shadows (POV, 2016) premiered at SXSW in the U.S. and IDFA in Europe. The New York Times called it "unforgettable." In the fall of 2015, Ruiz was a filmmaker in residence at the Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) at the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Previously he created and executive produced the two-part bilingual PBS series, The Graduates/Los Graduados (Independent Lens, 2013). Ruiz also wrote, directed and produced Roberto Clemente (American Experience, 2008) which was awarded the NCLR “Alma” Award for “Outstanding Made for Television Documentary."

Pamela A. Aguilar

Pamela A. Aguilar is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with over ten years of experience producing innovative and informative programming for 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

Katia Maguire recently produced Participant Media’s Kingdom of Shadows (SXSW, Full Frame, DocNYC, IDFA 2015), a documentary about the US/Mexico drug war that aired on PBS’s POV September, 2016. She also produced The Graduates/Los Graduados, a bilingual series about Latino high school students that premiered on PBS’ Independent Lens in 2013. Previously she was senior associate producer on Women, War & Peace, a five-part PBS series about women and modern conflict, and co-producer on Quest for Honor, a documentary about violence against women in Iraq that was short-listed for the 2010 Academy Award and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Full Credits

Learn more about the documentary

Join the Discussion

Share your own stories of overcoming obstacles as a student, or as a parent of a child who has struggled to finish their education. How did you handle it? Which student's story in the film did you relate to?

Comments

Connect with the Documentary