Estamos Unidos


TYPE
: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production

LOGLINE

Hundreds of Central American migrants form a “caravan” and must navigate the pains and joys of unity along an arduous journey across Mexico and towards the United States.

SYNOPSIS

Estamos Unidos (2020) tells the story of a migrant caravan’s journey from Honduras to Mexico City in early 2019. Their odyssey began amidst government interventions from Honduras, Mexico, and the U.S. aiming to halt the normalization of caravans as a new immigration route. Forming at the end of a year that saw the first wave of “migrant caravans” that received substantial press coverage and aid from the public, NGOs, and government agencies, this caravan represented a turning point: it was left to fend for itself. Estamos Unidos, which begins at the bus station where the caravan was formed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, is a collection of stories and testimony from the migrants’ journey. This approach treats the caravan as the main protagonist facing herculean internal and external struggles.

Initially stuck on a bridge between Guatemala and Mexico, the caravan broke through after one of its members died of a heart attack—which lead to protests because he did not receive adequate medical attention. With little media coverage to protect them against federal authorities’ abuses, the migrant caravan welcomed the Estamos Unidos filmmaking team. Nevertheless, the film captured the tactics employed to break up and deport the migrants as well as the migrants’ resistance and ultimate strategy to stay together for safety. This visceral, immersive, and verité work accompanies the migrants from the moment they cross the border into Mexico to the moment they start breaking up, from the moments where they infight to the moments where they pool their money together to eat, from the moments they evade capture to the moments where they play, laugh, and rejoice.

Estamos Unidos illustrates the stakes and human toll of migrating to the U.S., as well as the courage of those seeking opportunity and refuge. With a U.S. election looming, Estamos Unidos provides an unparalleled look into the immigrants that will be the main scapegoat employed by the politicians fueled by anti-immigrant rhetoric.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

My expertise and interest in immigration were born out of survival, as opposed to the chase of a “hot button” issue. Unlike the often-told narrative of finding out about a lack of papers when applying to college, I knew I became undocumented the very day my family’s tourist visa expired. I was ten years old.

For the next 16 and 1/2 years, I had to negotiate a life confronting the U.S. immigration system. In my childhood years, I grew up with a misguided notion that, if I kept my immigration status secret and behaved and succeeded in a certain way, this country would accept me as one of its own. This line of thinking began to change only after a wave of brave activists came “out of the shadows” to claim their right to be in the U.S.

As a DACA recipient, I was effectively barred from leaving the country starting in September 2017, when Trump terminated the DACA program. By early 2018, I was able to start the process of getting my papers, a process only a miniscule number of people are eligible for, around the same time the first caravan that gained notoriety formed. So throughout 2018, as I was waging a bureaucratic battle to be accepted by this country, I looked to the migrant caravans and saw their struggle mimic the "DREAMer" youth immigrant movement a decade prior. The caravans were “coming out of the shadows” and claiming their right to migrate.

The caravans were turning upside down the traditional migrant passage through Mexico. They were taking a journey that typically occurs in the shadows, and they were making it as visible as possible for safety and political leverage. With this in mind, I saw an important role filmmakers and allies had to play in the caravan movement. And given my previous work and personal history, I firmly believe this allyship requires the following conviction. At a time when immigrant communities are being pursued, bashed, and intimidated by the state, it is urgent that the resiliency of migrant communities, not the trope of “helplessness,” be at the forefront of advocacy and storytelling efforts.

KEY CREW

Alvaro M Morales - Director / Producer

Rooted by his immigration history, Alvaro is a visual artist working at the intersection of media, tech, and activism. Alvaro has focused his work exclusively on immigration themes, starting with founding the Family Reunions Project (FRP), a VR project immersing undocumented immigrants to the places they can’t physically return to. Alvaro directed and produced Home with América (2019), an award-winning room-scale interactive VR documentary around one of the families that participated in the FRP. The project was supported by the Oculus Launchpad Prize and premiered at the 2019 edition of the Atlanta Film Festival before screening at various festivals and events in New Orleans, Amsterdam, New York City, Seattle, Tacoma, Camden, among others.

Alvaro is currently developing an AR storytelling and memorial experience to protest the thousands of migrant deaths along the US-Mexico border in partnership with MacArthur “Genius” Jason De León and the Undocumented Migration Project. The project will be distributed alongside the 150 pop-up installations the Undocumented Migration Project is hosting in the Fall of 2020. Alvaro has received funding and/or support for his immersive media work from Verizon, IFP, Tribeca Film Institute, Oculus Launch Pad, Google, Open Society Foundation, the Fund for Undocumented Social Entrepreneurs, CultureStrike, and DepthKit.

His immersive media work has been profiled by Forbes, Upworthy, Telemundo News, NBC News, Univision/The Atlantic, CNN Español, CNET, VRScout, and others. His work alongside the collective Tierra Narratives is part of Moving Walls 25: Another Way Home, which is in exhibition in New York City until September 2020.

Jaiziel Hernández Máynez - Director of Photography

Jaiziel is a graduate from the Centro de Capacitacio´n Cinematogra´fica in Mexico. He is the co-founder of the production company Estacion Marte Films, which is currently post-producing the fiction feature called Días de Invierno (2020), Jaiziel’s first feature as a director. In 2014, Jaiziel shot Armed to the Teeth (2018), directed by Alberto Arnaut Estrada, supported by Foprocine in 2016 and by the Canadian Altercinema scholarship in 2015. Recognized as the most watched documentary in Mexico in 2018, the film documented the case of the Tec de Monterrey students killed by the Mexican army in early 2010. The project was awarded the Camera Justitia prize from Movies That Matter Film Festival in Netherlands and an Ariel Prize for best feature documentary in Mexico.

Jaiziel also shot the short fiction film Felipe (2009), winner of the García Bross-Studio 5 May prize at the Morelia Film Festival. He was also the DP for Florería y Edecanes (2011). The film has been shown internationally in more than 15 festivals as well as in the documentary tour Ambulante (2012) and the cycle of Mexican Documentary Cinema Summary (2013) curated by Cineteca Nacional of Mexico.

Matthew Echelman - Producer

For more than a decade, Matthew has listened to the stories of people facing different struggles: the stories of children seeing no opportunity in education; of women battling sex discrimination; of indigenous communities fending off persecution; of rape victims, war veterans, and former addicts all readjusting to normal life; of refugees too afraid to return to their countries, girls fleeing from female genital mutilation, gay men and women forced to hide their identity, and cancer patients coming to terms with death. These stories first drew him to the nonprofit sector and then drew him away from it. While he wanted to help put an end to these struggles, he felt that he could do more by sharing these stories with others and giving a megaphone to the causes moving them forward.

Today, Matthew applies this philosophy in producing documentary, narrative and branded content for both nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies, focusing on simplifying big ideas into relatable human stories. He’s created content for clients such as UBS, Artsy, Pearson Education, Libraries Without Borders, Elara Pictures, OPERA America, and IMG Media. His work has been featured in The Atlantic, the NYT Blog, the Boston Globe, Playbill, and Us Weekly.

Palu Abadia - Editor

Palu Abadia is a Colombian-born filmmaker and visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She has worked as a cinematographer, director and video editor for different international projects, including short and long documentaries, educational and corporate videos.

In 2016 she completed her first film, “Monologues in the Artist’s Studio,” awarded as a best documentary on architecture and design. She is currently working in two projects: her second film, "Nowhere to Fall", a story developed between New York and Colombia about music, tradition, identity and women empowerment, and a documentary series about kids and displacement during Colombian post-conflict. She also teaches video and editing workshops for immigrants. She has exhibited her work in festivals, galleries, and schools in the USA and abroad. Her personal work ranges from experimental video to stop motion animation and documentary films.

 

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Immigrants Rising Fellowship

 

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