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Four years later: back in Santa Barbara

Prof. Eileen Boris walking on stage with a copy of the invitation to the houseparty that she hosted for Made in L.A. 4 years ago.

While Almudena flew to Spain for DocumentaMadrid, I went to present Made in L.A. at the University of California at Santa Barbara. This event had special significance: almost exactly 4 years ago, Almudena and I held a houseparty at the home of Professors Eileen Boris and Nelson Lichtenstein, to raise funds for the film. This was one of several houseparties that we did during our first four years of production, and these events were not only one of our most important sources of funding in those years, but also served to provide much needed emotional support. When people hug you, crying, to tell you "you must finish this film", you know that you are on to something and that you really MUST finish the film. These were our very first audience members and supporters, and Made in L.A. would not exist without the support of over 300 individuals that came to our houseparties.

Four years later, there I was, back in Santa Barbara with Eileen, and now with the finished film doing educational screenings just as we had promised we would at that houseparty! And it was an amazing evening. What had been planned as a 150-person screening soon overflowed to 200... and then 300. Two more rooms had to be opened at the Multi Cultural Center so that the film could screen simultaneously. And, in addition to my talking about the making of the film at the Q&A, Aidin Castillo, an organizer from Santa Barbara's PUEBLO, was there to talk about the issues that workers are encountering in communities near campus, which really brought the message home.

I called Almudena to let her know -it was 3am in Spain and she was still partying after the second full day of screenings in Madrid. How amazing that, thousands of miles apart, Made in L.A. is able to move and impact people at the same time!

Special thanks to event organizer (and Ph. D Student in Sociology) Veronica Montes, to Rebekah Meredith, Programmer for the Multi-Cultural Center, to Professor Elizabeth Currans, and of course to Professor Eileen Boris for her faith and support for Made in L.A. for so many years!

Made in L.A. receives Henry Hampton Award!

In a moving ceremony in Washington, D.C., Made in L.A. just received a Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film and Digital Media from the Council on Foundations. It's a great honor because the prestigious award is named for Henry Hampton, the prolific founder of Blackside, Inc., and producer of the legendary historical tv series "Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965)". The event is part of the Council on Foundations' national conference and, when we got to the hotel, we were immersed in a sea of 3000+ participants who where there to attend the conference!

Lupe holds one of the clever centerpieces, which she nicknamed an "Oscarito". Out in the hall people looked at us as though it was a real Oscar!

The first night, Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media (GFEM), held a special dinner and screening of Made in L.A., with support from Hispanics in Philanthropy and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees. Lupe, one of the stars in the film, had also been invited to attend, and she, Robert and I led a long Q&A (beautifully moderated by Alyce Myatt!), which focused on the outreach efforts and the continued impact that Made in L.A. is having in the US and abroad. There was also an interesting discussion about the funding process for Made in L.A. (which, like many independent documentaries, struggled for years before breaking through), and it was of course beautiful to see one of our funders, Patricia Boero from Latino Public Broadcasting, in attendance lending her support!

While at the conference, we had the opportunity to attend several panels and events, and Monday's plenary luncheon was especially powerful. Titled "Philanthropic Partnership: Improving the Lives of our Fellow-citizens", it explored the state of human rights sixty years after the Universal Declaration. Moderated by Gara LaMarche, this was a passionate two-hour conversation among three extraordinary panelists: Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, Kumi Naidoo of CIVICUS, and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland. You can view much of the discussion here (the panel actually starts in "Part 2").

The entire experience was a rare opportunity to peek into this world, and we were deeply inspired by what we saw. Just as we, as filmmakers, strive to change the world through filmmaking, and its unique emotional power to make an impact, so very many of the executives and program officers that we met during the conference are striving to change the world through philanthropy. It's inspiring to know that we are all on this quest together.

Made in L.A. receives "Certificate of Appreciation" from the City of Los Angeles

At the reception held in my honor at the Raices Gallery in Tuscon, with the wonderful organizers and Ruben Reyes, who programmed the film.
Less than a week after we retuned from the East Coast, we had a 5-day sprint that took us across the southwest to do 5 screenings of Made in L.A. in 3 different states! We started at Pitzer College in Pomona, at an event organized by Maria Soldatenko (one of our wonderful advisors) and featuring Maria Pineda (one of the “stars” of the film), who then joined me at another event at Cal State LA. Then I flew to Tucson for the Arizona International Film Festival and to Santa Cruz for the Reel Work Film Festival.

Finally, I returned to L.A. to go to straight to the Port of San Pedro, where Made in L.A. was screening as the closing night film of the LA Harbor International Film Festival. The screening was sponsored by ILWU (thank you!) and we received a memorable Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles, which was presented by LA Councilmember Janice Hahn. I got home exhausted from so much activity, but quite invigorated!!!

City Councilmember Janice Hahn, a big fan of the filmSmile, with Joann Lo, Robert and me, after presenting the Certificates of Appreciation.

New England Tour- Mt. Holyoke and Smith

With Desiree Garcia and Bernadine Mellis
We left New Haven very early to drive to Mt. Holyoke for a 3-hour presentation in Bernadine Mellis' (filmmaker of The Forest for the Trees) class on Film and video production. It's always so invigorating to talk to students, and to have the opportunity to revisit our whole filmmaking process, from beginning to end! Bernadine joked to the class: "look at these guys, they're exhausted and have slept little, and yet look at their passion!". Yeap, passion is not lacking! It was great spending time with Bernadine as well as Mt. Holyoke Fellow and Visiting Professor Desiree Garcia, who had also facilitated our visit, and whom I had also met a few years back at Brown...
From there, we headed to Northampton, to present the film at Smith college. We were kindly invited by Elisabeth Armstrong at the Program for the Study of Women & Gender (thank you Lisa!) and the screening was supported by other departments and local groups, including Liana Foxvog from Sweatfree Communities, and student organizer extraordinaire Alisa Kowal. Local organizers attended, and an organizer from the Western MA Coalition for Immigrant and Worker Rights (check it out their blog!) stood up to talk about their work in the community around undocumented immigrants, and the May 1st events. We encouraged her to write that information on the huge chalk board in the auditorium... and very soon there was a line of organizers patiently waiting for the one chalk to post the information about their organizations and events!

With Alisa Kowal and Liana Foxvog

We went to dinner afterwards with some of the organizers, and it was a beautiful finish to the tour, full of new people, new places, and new experiences... Wherever we go, we want to think that the film leaves a mark -and its circle of impact expands day by day...




This event was sponsored by: SSJIC, Nosotras, Sweatfree Communities (one of our outreach partners - to find out how to become a partner, click here), the Program for the Study of Women & Gender, and the Film Studies program (Mt. Holyoke).

New England Tour - Yale University

Following two wonderful days at Brown, we drove down to New Haven to screen Made in L.A. at Yale University. The event was sponsored by the Initiative on Labor and Culture and the Program in Ethnicity, Race and Migration, whose director Prof. Stephen Pitti was our wonderful host (despite the fact that he was on sabbatical -thank you Steve!).

The moment I entered the screening room, I received a huge hug from Unidad Latina organizer Fátima Rojas, who had seen Made in L.A. on PBS in September. That was moving, and it was a beautiful reminder of how many people may have seen or been impacted by the film without our even knowing...

The panel discussion following the screening was moderated by Professor Jennifer Klein and included Fatima and Juan Granados, from Unidad Latina en Acción, and Elizabeth Breton from the UNITE-HERE Joint Laundry Board. It was moving to be able to hear a deep discussion of the human and local issues that stem from the film, and I wrote down a few sentences that touched me, to share here:

"Many times we feel very small but when we are organized we lose our fear" - Juan
"I was waiting for the American dream to come knock on my door and say ‘come join me', but it never happened" - Elisabeth.
"Everyone living in a community, all of us, at the end of the day, we are all workers" -Fatima.

Fear. Unity. Hope. These are the three words I wrote on my pad to remember from that night.


This panel was a great example of how the film can help bring together students, academics, community members, activists and workers! As a result of the event, Unidad Latina has shown the film in New Haven today, May 1st, during the day of action "La Unidad hace la Fuerza. In Unity there is Strength". For more info click here or write

We also just heard from Professor Klein about a successful union organizing drive at a laundry plant near New Haven (click here for more info). Exciting news!

Here's a group photo of everyone involved, with Made in L.A. flyers: Left to right, bottom to top: Alfonso Santiago with little Ambar, a student, Juan Granados, Fátima Rojas, Elizabeth Bretón, Michael Denning, me, Jennifer Klein, Steve Pitti and Robert.

New England Tour- Brown University

Last week we returned from a mini-tour of screening Made in L.A. in the New England area. The tour came about as a result of Professor Matthw Garcia's invitation to visit Brown, but it soon expanded, thanks to Matt's"booking powers" and to interest from professors at Yale, Smith and Mount Holyoke.

With Monica Pelayo and Prof. Matt Garcia
I had visited Brown a few years ago, back when Made in L.A. was just a ten-minute trailer. I had met Prof. Garcia at the Berkshire Conference where I did a presentation called "Documenting Latina Immigrant Workers". Matt, who wrote a great book (called "A World of its Own. Race, labor and citrus in the making of greater Los Angeles"), invited me to visit Brown then to talk about the process of making the film. So it was a wonderful "closing of the circle" to be back at Brown, a few years later, this time with a finished film to screen and with my producer Robert by my side. The discussions in Matt's classes were fascinating: we explored how his students see organizing fitting into their lives, and we dissected the many themes and concepts that are intertwined with the film's narrative arc, including issues of race, class and gender, and how their interplay with US history and economic globalization. It reminded me of how much you can learn from the students, and how much I miss teaching!

A huge thank you also goes to student leader Monica Pelayo, who coordinated the entire event, and to the event sponsors Semana Chicana and The Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity!

Made in L.A. wins Ecumenical Jury Prize in Mexico City!

Last weekend at the Voces Contra el Silencio Film Festival in Mexico City, Made in L.A. was awarded the prestigious Ecumenical Jury Prize (SIGNIS) in the category of Fronteras, Migraciones y Exilios (Borders, Migrations and Exiles).

SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, is a non-governmental organization that includes members from 140 countries: professionals in radio, television, cinema, video, media education, Internet, and new technology. Each year, SIGNIS organizes Ecumenical or Interfaith Juries at more than 30 prominent Film Festivals around the world, including Cannes, Berlin, Locarno and Venice.

Made in L.A. in Paris!

Two weeks ago we screened Made in L.A. at the Paris International Human Rights Film Festival, and Robert and I were both lucky enough to be able to attend. I had lived in Paris for a year when I was a senior at University, and it was a nice reencounter with the city - which is not the city of light, but rather the city of rain! Besides the vagaries of the city itself, it was just an incredible experience to screen the film in Paris and to see so many moved to tears.

Europe is indeed experiencing many of the issues reflected in Made in L.A., and I was shocked to learn recently about the scandal in Italy where they found Chinese immigrants working for no money in underground, illegal shops in Tuscany that produced cheap bags and shoes bearing fraudulent Prada, Fendi and Nike insignia (read the LA Times story here). But as we were reminded by the audience, garment shops and other businesses that rely on low wage immigrant labor are everywhere, and I wonder how long it'll be before there is another big "sweatshop" scandal, this time in Paris, Madrid or Berlin.

People coming into the theater in the neighborhood of Saint Michel in Paris

On the brighter side, we were amazed to see, once again, that the film is able to resonate in other countries and that our little story about Lupe, Maria and Maura is able to convey a universal truth about the dignity of the human spirit, which knows no borders and certainly no boundaries.

To listen to a great radio interview in Radio France International (in French), click here.

Governor Bill Richardson comments on Made in L.A.

Governor Bill Richardson wrote a nice piece on Made in L.A. for POV website, and, since he's been in the news lately, we wanted to take the opportunity to share it here with you:

"Immigration - under any guise - is one of the defining issues of our age. With "Made in L.A.," Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar show in vivid detail that, at a fundamental level, this is not simply an issue of competitive intermingling of people, but that it is also an issue of the assault on universal human dignity in the face of enormous global economic pressures. Ultimately though, they show that despite the political or economic vices twisting down upon the planet, the elementary human spirit remains the most powerful force at work."

Read more reactions to Made in L.A.!

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Upcoming US screenings

Don't miss all the other screenings happening in the country! Besides a large number of community screenings that are taking place, Made in L.A. will have a "Special Feature" screening at the San Diego Indie Music Fest, and it will screen at the Chicago Latino Film Festival, at the Arizona International Film Festival, at the Reel Work Film Festival, and finally, it'll be the closing night film of the LA Harbor International Film Festival in a special event sponsored by the ILWU!

We're also planning a mini-tour in New England! More info coming soon!

To see details on these and other events, check our screenings page!

Made in L.A. continues its international festival tour!

April will be the most international month for Made in L.A. yet, as it continues its international festival tour!

It will premiere in France at the prestigious Paris International Human Rights Film Festival, and Robert and I will be in attendance!

Made in L.A. will have its Israeli premiere at the prestigious Docaviv Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival!

The German premiere will be at the touring CineLatino Filmfestival, which travels to the cities of Tübingen, Stuttgart, Fráncfort, Heidelberg y Friburgo in Germany!

Our Italian premiere will be at the Rome Independent Film Festival!

Made in L.A. will play for the second time in Korea at the wonderful International Women's Film Festival in Seoul and for the second time in Mexico City at the Voces Contra el Silencio Film Festival!

Finally, to close the month, the Gdansk DocFilm Festival "Dignity and Work" will premiere Made in L.A. in Poland!

Almudena wins Estela Award!

At the recent NALIP (National Association of Latino Independent Producers) conference Almudena was awarded the Estela Award in Documentary, which "honors talented Latino/a filmmakers who, either through a stunning debut or a steady rise in a relatively short period of time, have distinguished themselves through their work to date. This award is for filmmakers whose achievements reveal leadership, creativity, and tenacity, as well as vision and passion for their craft."

It was a very beautiful ceremony, and it was an honor to receive the award from the hands of Mexican director Luis Mandoki, whom I admire so much. (His film Innocent Voices broke my heart...) This award means a lot, especially because NALIP has played such a wonderful role during the development of the project. I still remember the first NALIP conference I attended, back in 2004, where I started to understand what it takes to make this kind of doc. After that, the project was nurtured at the Latino Producers Academy (and it was so beautiful to go again 4 years later, last July, to show the finished film to the new fellows!). NALIP is an amazing community and I am humbled and grateful for all of their support!

Believe it or not, NALIP put together a tribute reel for the awards ceremony! Hats off to the creators Sixto Melendez, Javier Gomez and Marcos Najera (narrator):


Closing thoughts on our Northern California tour

Our Northern California tour was an intense and invigorating experience. Without doubt, it exceeded our expectations, and the expectations of the organizers of each of the events as well! Each screening was its own unique experience, and it was amazing to see students moved to tears as they explained what the film meant to them. Some actually said that they've never seen anything like Made in L.A., that "it's better than films in theaters!", that Maria (one of the main characters) reminds them of their own mothers, and that, in Lupe or Maria, they have, for the first time found a role model to remember and to inspire them every time they feel like giving up...

After 5 days, 7 screenings and 1200+ miles on the road, we have learned a lot and we have been inspired by how many people and groups have come together for each event. It is a testament to how many layers the film has, and it reaffirms our belief that there's still so very much to do with Made in L.A. After five and a half years in the making, this is the most beautiful part, where we bring the film into the communities that need it, to help educate and empower people. This is, simply, the reason why we made the film - our mission.

To read more about how we organized this tour, check our blog posting at POV's website.

Here's a compilation of some photos from the trip. Enjoy!


Northern California Tour - Davis

Right after Sac State we headed to UC Davis for the closing night of the tour. It was another success and a packed house! Interestingly, a huge part of the organizing was done via facebook -within 2 days of sending the invitation, the event had already 100 confirmed attendees! (We've now set up our own facebook page for Made in L.A. -Check it out here!)

It was also very interesting to connect with student issues on campus, in particular because one of the sponsoring orgs was Speak, a student group fighting for the rights of undocumented students. After the long and super interesting Q&A, we had another long line of students waiting to sign their DVDs!

Afterwards we went for a fun bilingual dinner with Prof. Almerindo Ojeda (second in line in the photo), director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas (who gathered all the support from the rest of sponsoring organizations), with Neta Borshansky (first in line in the photo), who put flyers all across campus,  and with new-made friends!

(Moises Park, who made the flyers and helped with the event, had drum practice and couldn't join us...).

It was the perfect closing event!

(This event was presented by the UCDavis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas and co-sponsored by the Hemispheric Institute in the Americas, the Law School, The Department of Spanish, Women and Gender Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and Scholars Promoting Education Awareness and Knowledge -SPEAK.)



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