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Month of May, 2008

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!

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 ULAccion@yahoo.com.

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- 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).

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.

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.




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. makes a splash in Madrid / Made in L.A. encanta a Madrid

(Texto en Castellano más abajo)

While Robert was doing presentations in California, I was in Madrid presenting Made in L.A. at Casa de America as part of DocumentaMadrid. Originally planned as a single screening, Teresa Toledo (who is in charge of film programming at Casa de America) soon added a special 4-night run for a total of 5 screenings in 1 week! (thank you Teresa!)

With the wonderful press team of DocumentaMadrid: Marcela, Lucía and Sonia Uría, marvelous Chief of Press.

The screenings were announced in major newspapers such as El País Semanal (the largest newspaper in Spain), Público and Diagonal, in over 30 on-line publications, and I was also interviewed on 6 national radio programs including "De Película", "Hora America" "Otros acentos", "De Cine", and Radio "La Nuestra". Finally, the news was spread in dozens of e-mail list-serves and what started as a grassroots effort soon spread and became "the screening" to go to during Madrid's annual Fiestas de San Isidro.Laughing

The first night the film was scheduled to start at 8:30pm and it was sold out by 7:45! A big crowd gathered at the entrance and I tried to talk to everyone to encourage them to come to the other screenings. People protested: "but we want to hear the Q&A!" Originally we hadn't planned to do Q&As at the other four screenings, but in that very moment I agreed to it! As a result, we had an hour long Q&A everyday. Word of mouth brought more and more people each day, and we ended up with 5 full-house screenings, and with tons of people who (unfortunately) could not make it in! It was exhausting but so moving...

The success of the event was also a great example of effective grassroots work in reaching a wide audience, and our Q&As brought together very diverse people, from immigrants to fashion students, from activists to regular folk who were curious to see the film. The Q&As enabled a discussion among audience members, who linked the themes and the experiences of the characters in the film with what's happening in Spain at this very moment: precariedad laboral (precarious jobs), subcontracting, immigrant bashing, etc. It is interesting to see how Made in L.A. comes to fill a void in the representation of immigrants in Spanish society, which is trying to cope with a process of rapid changes that, over the last 8 years, have made this country much more multi-cultural, diverse and richer...


People in line waiting to talk to Almudena

Dozens of organizations have contacted us because they want to be part of a national effort to bring the film everywhere in Spain, and hundreds of people have signed up to receive news about the film. It is certainly a huge effort for Robert and I, who are at this point handling all of the distribution and the growing demand for the film (it's like a snow ball!)... But the response was so moving and amazing, that we feel an urgent sense of responsibility to work towards this goal. Many thanks everyone who was part of supporting and spreading the word about these screenings. Good things are in the works... stay tuned!

•••
Mientras Robert hacía presentaciones por toda California, yo estaba en Madrid presentando Made in L.A. en Casa de América como parte de DocumentaMadrid. Originalmente pensada como proyección única, Teresa Toledo (responsable de cine de Casa de América) enseguida añadió 4 proyecciones más, con un total de 5 proyecciones en una semana (¡gracias Teresa!).

Con las estupendas chicas de prensa de DocumentaMadrid: Marcela, Lucía y Sonia Uría, maravillosa jefa de prensa!

Las proyecciones salieron en varios periódicos de tirada nacional como El País Semanal, Público y Diagonal, en más de 30 publicaciones on-line, y me entrevistaron en 6 programas radio nacionales, incluyendo "De Película" (RNE1), "Hora America"(REE), "Otros acentos" (RNE), "De Cine" (RNE5) y Radio "La Nuestra". Finalmente la noticia se distribuyó por docenas de listas de correo y lo que empezó como un esfuerzo "de base" pronto se extendió y se convirtió en "la película guay" para ver durante las fiestas de San Isidro.Laughing

La primera noche la peli empezaba a las 20h pero para las 19:45h ¡ya se habían vendido todas las entradas! Yo trataba de convencer a la muchedumbre en la entrada de que vinieran otros días, pero la gente se quejó: "es que queremos estar en el coloquio!" Inicialmente no habíamos planeado hacer coloquio todos los días, pero en ese momento dije "por qué no?" y, como resultado, ¡tuvimos una hora de coloquio los 5 días...! El boca a boca funcionó y cada día vino más y más gente, así que acabamos con 5 proyecciones hasta arriba, y con cantidad de gente que (desafortunadamente) no pudo siquiera entrar. Ha sido super super cansado, pero realmente emocionante...

El éxito del evento es también un ejemplo de un trabajo de base efectivo para llegar a cantidad de gente; de hecho los coloquios atrajeron a una audiencia muy diversa, desde inmigrantes a estudiantes de moda, desde activistas a gente corriente que tenían curiosidad por ver la peli. Estos coloquios hicieron posible una conversación (a menudo muy emotiva) entre el público, que relacionó los temas y las experiencias de las protagonistas en la película con lo que está pasando en España en este preciso momento: precariedad laboral, subcontratación, odio al inmigrante, etc. Es super interesante ver como Made in L.A. viene a llenar un vacío en la representación y la imagen de la población inmigrante en la sociedad española, que está tratando de lidiar con un proceso de cambios rápidos que, durante los últimos 8 o 10 años, ha enriquecido a este país y lo ha hecho multi-cultural y diverso.

La gente hace cola para hablar con Almudena

Cantidad de organizaciones nos han contactado para ser parte de un esfuerzo para llevar el documental por toda España, y cientos de personas se han apuntado a nuestra lista para recibir noticias sobre futuras proyecciones. Es ciertamente un esfuerzo enorme para Robert y para mi, que en ese momento estamos prácticamente llevando toda la distribución y difusión en medio de un torbellino de peticiones (¡es como una bola de nieve!). Pero la respuesta ha sido tan increíble y emotiva, que sentimos una responsabilidad tremenda de trabajar en este sentido... Mil gracias a todas y todos que han apoyado y difundido estas proyecciones. Estamos manos a la obra... ¡estate atento/a!

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