In a Two-Part Hour, FRONTLINE Tells the Intimate Stories of Two Immigrant Families Whose Lives Are Upended by the Coronavirus

August 6, 2020

First, a mother’s fight to survive COVID and see her newborn baby; then, with The Marshall Project and the Pulitzer Center, a family’s struggle as their dad is detained in a facility where COVID is spreading

Love, Life & the Virus and Undocumented in the Pandemic
Tues., Aug. 11, 2020
Streaming at 7/6c at & in the PBS Video App
Airing at 10/9c on PBS and on YouTube | Twitter: @frontlinepbs
Instagram: @frontlinepbs | YouTube:

Across America, the continuing coronavirus outbreak is taking a disproportionate toll on Latino people — whom data suggests are three times as likely to catch COVID-19 as white people, and almost two times as likely to be killed by it.

On Tues, Aug. 11, in a two-part hour, FRONTLINE presents the intimate stories of two immigrant families whose lives have been upended by the pandemic.

First, in Love, Life & the Virus, director Oscar Guerra chronicles a 30-year-old mother named Zully’s fight to survive COVID and see her newborn baby, after giving birth on a ventilator and spending nearly three weeks in a coma — as her husband, Marvin, and older son, Junior, battled the virus as well.

The film tells the story of how, in the Guatemalan immigrant family’s moment of crisis, their community in Stamford, CT, stepped in to help. Just before giving birth and being put into a coma, and with nowhere else to turn, Zully reached out to her older son’s ESL teacher, Luciana Lira — an immigrant herself — who would ultimately offer to take in the newborn.

“This baby would have not [stood] a chance if he went home with his father with COVID-19 and Junior,” Lira tells FRONTLINE. “He’s just a preemie baby.”

“I would’ve turned into my son’s assassin,” Marvin says.

So Lira took the baby, Neysel, into her home: “I am willing to help, 100 percent,” she recalls saying.

As days become weeks, the film follows the struggle as Zully recovers, is released from the hospital, and as she, Marvin and Junior await the negative COVID tests that will mean it’s safe for Neysel to come home to them. With extraordinary access to the medical professionals who cared for Zully and her baby, and those around her throughout it all, the film is a heartwrenching and heartwarming look at one family’s quest to be reunited — and the community members who helped make it possible.

“Maybe if I would have been in Guatemala,” Zully says, “it is possible that I may not have gotten better and I wouldn’t be telling this story.”

In collaboration with FRONTLINE, a Spanish-language version of Love, Life & the Virus will air on Univision’s acclaimed newsmagazine program Aquí y Ahora on Sun., Aug. 16 at 7/6c.

In the hour’s second segment, Undocumented in the Pandemic, director Emily Kassie of The Marshall Project and FRONTLINE filmmaker-in-residence Ben C. Solomon team up to tell the story of another immigrant family’s struggle, with their dad detained by ICE in a facility where COVID is spreading. Undocumented in the Pandemic is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

Norma, along with her children, could no longer afford their apartment after her husband, Jesus, was detained following an argument. They moved in with Norma’s mother-in-law — but when she came down with COVID-19, the family could no longer stay with her.

“We have nowhere to go,” Norma says. “But we have to go.”

So begins Norma’s intense struggle to keep her children safe, housed and fed — while also working to get Jesus released as coronavirus cases rise at the facility where he’s being held.

“She’s the strongest person I’ve ever seen,” says Norma’s son Walter. “She wants to see us happy, together as a family.”

Filmed across several months, Undocumented in the Pandemic is a powerful window into how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting immigrant families.

“I believe that nobody deserves to live what we are living,” says Norma’s daughter Andrea.

FRONTLINE’s two-part hour featuring Love, Life & the Virus and Undocumented in the Pandemic premieres Tues., Aug. 11. Both stories will be available to watch in full at and in the PBS Video App starting that night at 7/6c. The hour will premiere on PBS stations (check local listings) and on YouTube at 10/9c. A Spanish-language version of Love, Life & the Virus will air on Univision’s newsmagazine program Aquí y Ahora on Sun., Aug. 16 at 7/6c.



Love, Life & the Virus is a FRONTLINE Production with Five O’Clock Films in association with Guerra Productions. The writer, producer and director is Oscar Guerra. The senior producer is Frank Koughan. Undocumented in the Pandemic is a FRONTLINE Production with Five O’Clock Films in association with The Marshall Project and the Pulitzer Center. The directors are Emily Kassie and Ben C. Solomon. The producers are Emily Kassie, Ben C. Solomon and Will Miller. The senior producers are Callie Wiser and Frank Koughan. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.

FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 93 Emmy Awards and 24 Peabody Awards. Visit and follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and YouTube to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, the John and Helen Glessner Family Trust and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.

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