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Made in LASpread the Word

New York, New York

It was snowing in New York when I arrived. For a madrilian (it seldom snows in Madrid) who lives in LA, snow is like a present -cold, but exotic. I went to give two presentations of the film, each different, each fascinating.

On Tuesday December 4th Made in L.A. screened at Columbia University as the closing film of a series on Latino Migration at Columbia's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. Curated by filmmaker and Columbia professor Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the series included five of the best films documenting the immigration experiences of Mexicans, Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Central Americans to the U.S. The series' hope was to contribute to the on-going debate on immigration, citizenship, and globalization, and it was indeed an interesting debate on these and other topics.

One student questioned current assumptions about immigrants' upward mobility, and the frequent omission of the root causes that force people to come to the US in discussions about immigration. It was a serious conversation and I have to say that, like that student, I don't believe in the universality of the "American Dream" narrative, i.e. that everyone has an opportunity to "make it" here as long as they work hard and have the necessary determination. I believe it to be a myth -sustained, like other myths, by reinforcement and repetition. Of course there are many cases where that narrative applies. But what I have seen in the five years of making this film is that great sacrifices are made by each new generation of immigrants in the hopes that they can provide a better future for their children, often giving up everything - their happiness, their country, their loved ones - for that promised future. And that even for their children that better future is only sometimes achieved. Many of these children will see themselves absorbed into the same cycle of poverty and low wage work Some will get out, especially if they find ways to access to a good education, fulfilling the dreams that their parents once had for them...

One of the most fascinating parts of the evening came after the class - my long conversation with Frances Negrón-Muntaner, in a Cuban restaurant near the University. Frances is an amazing storyteller (and an extraordinary writer and filmmaker) and I, who love to talk and tell stories, could only listen and listen. We stayed there in front of our Pollo con Arroz, our Camarones al Ajillo and Frances' Negra Modelo until midnight, when the restaurant closed and pushed us outside into the cold.

It is beautiful to see people being moved at each presentation of the film, and equally beautiful to be able to discuss this work and to learn from friends and colleagues who share this path.

Check out the article by Frances Negrón-Muntaner at New York's El Diario La Prensa (In Spanish)



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