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Month of November, 2007

Morelia the beautiful


If you haven't gone to Morelia you cannot understand how beautiful this little town is. Robert and I visited this town in Mexico's Michoacan state, along my parents, two years ago for the Day of the Dead. The Morelia International Film Festival had just happened and there were tons of signs everywhere. I told Robert: "next year we will come with the film". Well, it took two years, and it was only me, but yes, I did return with the film last October 5. Shannon Kelley (Morelia's Artistic Director and former Sundance Documentary Fund Director), who invited us to the festival, gave it a special privileged spot within the festival: Cine sin Fronteras, "Cinema without borders".


This was the first screening outside the US and I was a bit nervous. It was packed and I was shocked to hear EVERYONE talking during the screening! I was about to go to the "talkers" and tell them to shut up when I asked someone from the festival "is this normal!? They don't stop taking!". He said "oh, that's very good, that's what normally happens when they like it -they talk about it!". Uh? OK, then that was good. What followed was an intelligent, fascinating discussion about the film, international politics, global labor, and the future of Latin America.

The second screening was actually an open air screening FOR the people of Morelia: the festival closes a street next to the cathedral, and neither the cars with music going by, or even the fireworks that went on during the screening (!) distracted this crowd of over 250 people from watching the film. 90% of the people stayed for the Q&A- if the first Q&A was interesting, this one was mind blowing: people kept clapping in ovation to my answers (despite my disclaimers that I was not an "expert" in international economics). Michoacán is a state with a very high percentage of migrants, and as people explained, there are whole villages where the men have all left. Here's a selection of the questions I was asked, which I managed to write in a napkin during dinner afterwards: "What's the solution so that people don't have to leave our land?" "How did people in the US respond?" "With some many political prisoners in the US, was there a political backlash against the protesters?" "How's the situation in the film similar to other countries in Europe with their immigrant population?" "Is it a coincidence that most of the people and organizers in the film are women?" "Do Americans understand us?" "How can we prosper in Latin America?" "How can we use the film here in Mexico?"

The festival added a 4th screening... After this, I left with the determination of retuning to Mexico and distributing the film across the country.

The film received a lot of attention and our second La Jornada article. What was funny is that our first screening happened at the time than the premiere of Mexican director Carlos Reygadas's Silent Light (Special Jury Price at Cannes) so the press didn't even see us that day. So next day I went to the press room and just sat there! Then it all came fast and I spent two days non-stop, getting into other publications, on-line magazines, radio and local TV.

And the rest? Well you can imagine: good movies, and good parties. Here's a selection of people and parties that I did not miss!:




One of the best of the festival was the amazing presence of Steven Frears and Bertrand Taverier, who I met, but whose presentations I missed while waiting to meet a TV journalist for an interview. I was conflicted : do I go to the screenings and lectures, which I simply love doing, and advance my film knowledge and "career", or do I "take care of the film", and do the best I can for it? Sometimes I feel like the mother of the creature, giving (even giving up) everything for it. It's just so hard to choose, because the film has become such an integrant part of my life...

When one day, some time ago, while visiting my parents in Madrid, Robert and I returned home tired and complaining after a whole day walking and visiting Madrid, my father said with irony: "Aahh.. difficult life of a tourist!" So now I remember his words and I cannot help but exclaim: "Aahh... difficult life of a filmmaker"...

And Off To Washington!

I left Morelia at 3am (of course from a party), got in a festival van to Mexico city (4 hour ride), waited 4 hours, took a plane (3:30 hours), and arrived in DC at 5pm, just on time for the presentation of the film at the DC Labor Film Festival. Wow! I REALLY wanted to be there! ? It was a special presentation organized by Active Voice in collaboration with the Center for Social Media at American University, and sponsored by Inclusion, Center for Community Change, National Council of La Raza, DC Lawyer Chapter of American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and POV. What an honor -we're grateful to Active Voice for bringing all of these groups together!

(It was great to see Larry Kirkman, Dean of the School of Communication at AU, mixed in with students in the audience! Larry has been a supporter ever since he was a member of the jury that gave my short doc the Sterling Award at Silverdocs in 2003...)

The screening was followed by a panel with Margy Waller, Co-Founder of Inclusion and Director of the Mobility Agenda, Rich Stolz from the Center for Community Change's Immigration Team, and of course Robert and myself. The students were boiling with questions, and it was actually one of the most interesting discussions we've had with the film so far. We were all able to bring to the forefront ALL aspects of the film and use the film to contextualize them and put a human face on issues of poverty, immigration, women's rights, fair labor, and the right to organize. Check out Inclusion's blog for more about the event! (We're working to put up a podcast of the panel -stay tuned or join our list for updates!)

Round up of news

Made in L.A. wins Corky Gonzales Righteousness Award at the East LA Chicano Film Festival
The award is an amazing plaque created by Jose Ramirez, the amazing Angeleno muralist…

For our screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival our motto was “Let’s bring East LA to West LA” (the festival is located in the west side of town), but this time the film screened IN East LA, at the amazing Plaza de la Raza. It was an honor to receive this award from the community the film represents, and a double honor given the name the award carries: Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales. (To read more about his life click here)

Made in L.A. Nominated for the IDA’s Pare Lorentz Award
The winner in the category is Spike Lee’s "When the Levees Broke: a Requiem if Four Acts." Hey, being nominated next to Spike Lee is already a triumph!
If you want to learn more about who Pare Lorentz was, click here.

Made in L.A. to screen at Seoul International Labor Video & Film Festival!
Made in L.A. premieres in Canada at the Amnesty International Film Festival in Vancouver and Toronto.
Made in L.A. to premiere in Tijuana at a Stellar Presentation at CECUT's IMAX as part of Bordocs!

To check screenings in your area, visit our screenings page, which I update weekly.

To stay tuned, join our list!

MADE IN L.A. wins Special Mention of the Jury in Valladolid!

We JUST returned from Valladolid International Film Festival (Seminci), Spain's most important festival after San Sebastian.

Besides the extra kilos we're bringing back (the festival gives you TONS of meal vouchers for the BEST restaurants in town...), we're also bringing back a wonderful award -a rare Special Mention of the Jury, which we were assured, last happened 30 years ago! It was indeed quite a blast: a red carpet for the winners and an awards ceremony broadcast life on national TV, with Sofia Loren, who was sitting just 5 feet from me backstage... The jury recognized Made in L.A. "because through its treatment of a specific story it ultimately deals with a universal conflict -that of immigration and cross-cultural relations- and with an eternal struggle -the exploitation of the weakest by the most powerful- as well as with personal dignity and its power to transform human beings."

It was beautiful to return to Spain with the film and close the circle. Funnily, a few of my family members dispersed throughout Spain got to meet Robert for the first time when they saw us giving our acceptance speech on TV... I also keep thinking that my PhD advisor, with whom I haven't had contact in two years, might have seen me on TV and might have found out why I haven't turned in my dissertation yet... (I came to the US to work on my PhD on border docs, and instead I ended up making... border docs!). Here're some photos of the Awards Gala (many of them courtesy of Cesar Minguela):




Besides the awards gala, the festival itself was beautiful and meaningful ( and delicious, if I may add). As we did at Silverdocs and at the Los Angeles Film Festival, we made a special effort to reach out to the immigrant community and 6 different organizations came to the screenings . This, which may seem easy, proved to be quite a task, since most of them are not regularly on e-mail... so while some filmmakers where taking naps after the long lunches, I spent hours on the phone locating the right people and making a point in having a diverse audience (read the press release, in Spanish). Our screenings were packed, and once again there was a thundering applause and an incredibly emotional response . Some people couldn't contain the emotion and cried during their questions. It was all very moving, and a testament that the film can cross borders and reach out to those of us who believe in the right to fight for human dignity.

Luckily, for the first time, a friend took a video during the Q&A, and we're working to put it up. Stay tuned for more info or join our list. In the meantime, here are some more photos of the festival...

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