The Hand That Feeds

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


Twelve undocumented immigrant workers face long odds, unemployment, betrayal and the threat of deportation when they take on a powerful New York City restaurant chain.


The Hand That Feeds tells the David and Goliath story of 12 undocumented immigrant workers who go head to head with a powerful New York City restaurant chain—and win. The film focuses on three employees, charismatic sandwich-maker Mahoma, extroverted cashier Diana, and strong-willed dishwasher Margarito, following their emotional journey through a year-long campaign that tests the limits of their resolve. As they confront long odds, betrayal, unemployment and the threat of arrest and deportation, we visit homes, strategy meetings and industrial kitchens to explore what it takes for these underdogs to summon the courage to stand up for their dignity. In the end, their historic victory sets a precedent for the rights of immigrant workers in the service sector throughout the country.



We’re making this film first and foremost because it’s a classic underdog story and we’re inspired by the courage of our protagonists. Beyond that, we want to understand how ordinary people can find that courage in themselves, and to humanize the broader issues of immigration and labor with a character-based, plot-driven story.

Our predominant visual style is gritty, observational vérité enhanced by intimate interviews, invoking an emotional range from fear and despair to triumphant joy—peppered with unexpected humor. In our remaining work, we plan to expand the story with stylized B-roll for scenes that couldn’t be vérité for legal reasons.


Rachel Lears - Director, producer, principal shooter

 Rachel Lears is a filmmaker and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her award-winning feature documentary Birds of Passage (2010) was supported by grants from Fulbright and the National Film Institute of Uruguay (ICAU), and has been broadcast nationally throughout Latin America. Her video art piece Ethnography of No Place (2008, with Saya Woolfalk) has screened at numerous galleries and museums worldwide. With director Robin Blotnick, she recently wrapped post-production as writer/producer on a new feature documentary, Gods and Kings. She reports on US politics and culture for Telesur and In These Times magazine. She studied documentary production, history and theory at NYU's Culture and Media Program, and also holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and an MA in Ethnomusicology.

Robin Blotnick - Director, producer, principal editor

 Robin Blotnick has worked in film for over ten years, in motion picture development, and as a professional film and video editor. His first documentary, Chocolate Country, about the work, lives and music of Dominican cacao farmers, received a Grand Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival, was a winner in LinkTV’s ViewChange competition, and is used as a teaching tool by educators and Fair Trade advocates around the world. His feature documentary debut, Gods and Kings, tells a story of masks, magic and mass media in the highlands of Guatemala and premiered in Fall 2012 at the Morelia International Film Festival (Mexico) and Miradasdoc (Spain). He has also worked on creative activism projects with the Yes Men.


Connect With The Hand That Feeds:


- IFP Fiscal Sponsorship Program 2014


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