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Made in LASpread the Word

Food Inc and Immigrant Workers

A couple of weekends ago I saw Food Inc on its opening weekend. The film (edited by one of Made in L.A.'s editors, Kim Roberts!) is about the food we eat, and the corporations behind it, but the reason I bring it to this blog is to comment on a particularly relevant question explored in the film. Who are the men and women working in the meatpacking plants? As one might guess from the news, they're almost all immigrants. What's less clear from the news is why they're here, and how.

Food Inc delves deep into the reasons for the exodus of hundreds of thousands of small farmers from Mexico, who are losing a way of life because of their inability to compete with low-cost imported U.S. corn, often subsidized by the U.S. government and flowing freely as a result of NAFTA. (Read more here) The cycle continues as large meatpacking companies post ads in their destroyed towns assuring good wages in the U.S., even setting up bus lines to help workers come illegally to the U.S., so they work at meatpacking factories. According to the film, this practice was frequently ignored by Immigration authorities. And, despite the well-publicized, high-profile raids in places like Postville, an organizer in the film explains that the major agribusiness companies only experience "occasional small raids": 10 to 15 immigrants being detained everyday in their trailers, in what he describes as possible complicity between the company and the authorities to avoid bigger crackdowns that could slow or stop production.

I thank the producers of Food Inc for being brave enough to connect the dots, and to link the food we all eat with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been turned upside-down (back in Mexico and now in the US) so that we can eat meat everyday.

Hillman Prize Ceremony

We wanted to share a couple of photos from the Hillman Awards ceremony, where we were presented with the Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism for Made in L.A. The winners in the other categories are all journalists with long track records of work in the service of social and economic justice, and it was tremendously inspiring to hear their acceptance speeches: in some cases explaining how they became journalists, in others sharing their vision around the work they do, most often delving deep into the human stories they helped bring to light. Our heartfelt congratulations to all of them!

Robert and Almudena receive the award


Alexandra Lescaze, executive director of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, Robert and me,
and Hillman Awards judge Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of the New Yorker.


At the Reform Immigration for America Campaign Summit

In the first week of June I presented Made in L.A. at the Reform Immigration for America Campaign Summit, where 800 organizers converged to launch a national campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Poster of Made in L.A. at the Summit
The Summit followed more than 40 local and regional kick-off events around the country earlier in the week, and included a national town hall meeting and numerous visits on Capitol Hill. Following the closing dinner on Thursday night, Made in L.A. was screened, and a number of organizers took copies home to use as a tool for outreach in their communities.

Made in L.A. to tour the world with American Documentary Showcase

It's now official! We're happy to announce that Made in L.A. will be among the 30 documentaries selected to be part of the American Documentary Showcase, a curated program of contemporary documentaries that is offered to US Embassies for screening abroad. Funded by, and as a cooperative program with, the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State, the Showcase is designed to promote American documentaries and their filmmakers at international overseas venues, including US Embassy-organized events and/or US Embassy-supported international documentary film festivals.

The goal of the Showcase is to offer a broad, diversified look at life in the United States and the values of a democratic society as seen by American documentary filmmakers. The Showcase is intended to demonstrate the role documentary plays in fostering understanding and cooperation.

San Jose City College celebrates Made in L.A.

Last March, Dee Dee Kost called me from San Jose City College "We just had the most a amazing Made in L.A. screening and panel!" Apparently, the moderator, Bayinaah Jones, had created T-shirts with quotes from the film, and had also put quotes on banners throughout the entire auditorium! You can see a little of their event in the short video on the right:

With Chancellor Rosa Perez, wearing her T-shirt with a quote from Made in L.A.

"It'd be awesome if you could come next time!", she said. And so next time came, and I attended what I though would be a traditional screening of the film, organized in collaboration with the Chancellors Office, multiple departments and the Reel Work Film Festival. When I arrived, people were again wearing T-shirts with quotes extracted from Made in LA ("When people start to organize they stop being victims" or " I armed myself with courage") and students had created the most beautiful poster and panels inspired by Made in LA. to showcase their school papers. Word had gotten out, and I was bombarded by an army of photographers, posing for pictures with President Michael Burke, Chancellor Rosa Perez, and all the teachers who had brought their classes to the screening including History, Ethnic Studies, Labor Studies, ESL, Psychology and Math. (I remember thinking, "this must be one of the best math classes they'll ever have!")

As part of the opening remarks, in front of an auditorium packed with more than 300 people, the Latina Leadership Network, presented me (and Robert, in absentia) a beautiful Certificate of Appreciation, and the Chancellor, wearing a Made in LA T-shirt herself, presented a plaque that reads "for bringing the film Made in LA to San Jose City College and sharing the story of strength, triumph and courage". I was moved, very moved by all of this care, passion and recognition...

Our deep gratitude to all the sponsors, organizers and teachers who made this possible, and to Dee Dee Kost for single-handedly spearheading this event!

Detail from one of the panels they created -isn't it really beautiful?


With some of the teachers, sponsors and organizers of the event
This event was sponsored by: Labor Studies, San Jose City College, Office of the Chancellor -San Jose Evergreen Community College District, Office of the President - San Jose City College, Latina Leadership Network, San Jose Chapter, 9 to 5, Bay Area Chapter San Jose/Evergreen Faculty Association, AFT 6157.

Parents, High School and College students come together at Scripps Screening

I just received very beautiful comments from several students who helped plan a recent event at the Scripps College, which I attended with Maria Pineda (one of the stars of the film). The screening was organized by Bright Prospect, an amazing organization working with high school kids to get them to college, and the Community Tutoring Program, where Scripps students tutor Bright Prospect students. Tim Sandoval, Director of College Counseling at Bright Prospect, also serves on the Board of the Diane Middleton Foundation, which has generously supported both the production and the outreach work around Made in L.A.

The room, which was packed with parents, teachers and students of all ages, was full of energy and, when I introduced Maria, everyone rose to their feet and gave her a standing ovation as she approached the stage. On the drive home, Maria confided "I truly felt like a star...!" The Q&A was emotional and powerful, with parents and their children sharing their thoughts about each other and the journey towards accomplishing their dreams. Afterwards, with our hands full of presents and flowers, the Bright Prospect students asked us to sign the very T-shirts they were wearing! Here are some of the comments they just sent me:

"The experience of watching the movie with my parents changed my relationship with them. It got me even closer to them and it helped me appreciate them more for all their efforts and sacrifices." -Ana Soto

"Made in LA was very emotional. Watching the film meant a lot because after watching it, my life changed in certain ways. The film reminded me of the many family members I have that are immigrants. It changed my point of view by helping me decide to be more determined and focused on my education and most of all to work hard and to be the best I can be in this beautiful life that was given to us." -Christopher Elguea

"...It proves that minorities should never be underestimated and that united, we can conquer! I came to appreciate my parents' efforts to a greater extent. It was an enlightening experience." -Elizabeth Zamudio

"Made in LA was an awesome documentary. It was inspiring because it shows the importance of humbleness and hard work in order to achieve a dream." -Juana Rodriguez

Lara Colvin, Program Coordinator for the Community Tutoring Program, shared her thoughts as well: "It was so incredible to see the turnout of people... I felt the unity that formed that night in the room, a deep sense of appreciation for the struggles people go through and recognition of the injustice of the conditions of immigrants and women and the working class... The Q&A and people's comments were really revealing and powerful. Is it always like that? Amazing." Don't miss these other thoughts from a Scripps College student blog.

Since then, the Women's Union and Centro Latino Student Affairs have shown the film again on campus and it continues to reach new audiences. And we've heard that some of the Bright Prospect students and parents are organizing to show it to community members... "It really does create a snowball effect," exclaimed Lara.

This event was sponsored by: Community Tutoring Program, Bright Prospect, Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment, Motley Coffeehouse, Scripps Investment Fund, Center for California Cultural and Social Issues at Pitzer, Scripps Department of History, Scripps Department of American Studies, CMC Modern Languages Department, Chicano/Latino Student Affairs Center, Asian American Student Union, Scripps Associated Students.

DC Screening Brings Together Human Rights, Civil Rights and Faith Leaders at NCLR

We just returned from a beautiful screening of Made in L.A. that was held at NCLR, the National Council of La Raza, in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by NCLR, Amnesty International and Sojourners, it was a rare opportunity to link civil rights work, human rights work, and faith-based organizing. And it was as moving as the best Made in L.A. screenings can be, as both the audience and the panel were able to connect on a deep personal level with the experiences of the women in the film.

Robert and I with NCLR's President and CEO Janet Murguía

We were honored that NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía introduced the event. As she said, "This truly inspiring film beautifully depicts the courage and dignity with which immigrants face the consequences of our broken immigration system. By delving deeply into the struggles of Latina garment workers in Los Angeles, the filmmakers speak volumes to the powerful human stories behind the immigration debate".

The screening was followed by a panel on immigration reform featuring me; Made in L.A.‘s producer Robert Bahar; Adam Taylor, Senior Political Director at Sojourners; Folabi Olagbaju, Director of Amnesty International's Mid Atlantic Office; and Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Director of Immigration at NCLR.

Robert, me, Folabi, Adam and Clarissa during the panel

As Folabi Olagbaju explained, Amnesty International is increasingly looking at immigration issues through its human rights framework, and recently launched a report entitled "Jailed Without Justice" which explores problems that exist throughout the U.S. immigrant detention system. In connecting AI's work to the film screening, Folabi said, "It is critical to raise awareness about the plight and courage of millions of undocumented immigrants in our workforce, many of whom are discriminated against and unable to affirm their basic human rights. The story captured in Made in L.A. makes a poignant and compelling case for more just and humane immigration policies in the US."

Adam Taylor talked about the amazing work that Sojourners and other faith communities are doing towards immigration reform. He also cited scripture and outlined some of the fundamental Christian principles that relate to immigration, including the deep-rooted idea of "welcoming the stranger". In addition to his work at Sojourners, Taylor is an Associate Minister at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington D.C., and he emphasized, "In order to transform hearts and minds we must highlight the personal and moral consequences of our broken immigration system in America. This film helps remind us of the human face and real stories of our immigrant brothers and sisters and the urgent need to unite organizations, churches and leaders from across the theological and political spectrum to bring about comprehensive immigration reform."

Clarissa Martinez de Castro spoke with passion about NCLR's long history and leadership around issues of Latino civil rights, and about the need for immigration reform. Audience members shed more than a few tears as she explained her personal connection to the issues, bringing the stories from the film off the screen and into the hearts of all those present... And as Folabi pointed out, the issues of immigration reform and immigrants' rights are not issues of race or background. Rather, they are core issues of basic human dignity.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the panelists, to the sponsoring organizations, and to everyone who was involved in making this happen. We want to extend a special thank you to NCLR's Patricia Foxen, whom I had met at a conference in Chicago, and who spearheaded this event with the conviction that it could be something very special. We're grateful to all of the collaborators and humbly feel that it achieved that vision!

Made in L.A. to receive the Hillman Prize in Broadcast Journalism

We're thrilled to announce that Made in L.A. will receive the 2009 Hillman Prize in Journalism, in the category of Broadcast. The Hillman Prizes are among the most prestigious awards given to journalists, photographers, writers and public figures whose work fosters social and economic justice.

Here's an extract from their press release:

Since 1950, the Sidney Hillman Foundation has celebrated the legacy and vision of union pioneer and New Deal architect Sidney Hillman. As founder and president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, and a founder of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Hillman is considered one of America's greatest labor leaders. His tireless efforts to bring dignity and respect to working people left a lasting legacy for the American public.

These awards give recognition to journalists and public figures demonstrating a similar sense of social responsibility, investigating and telling the difficult stories that need to be told. In an era when serious journalism is being threatened and newspapers are folding, these writers and photographers seek out stories that change lives. The awards go to practitioners in traditional and new media. Past winners include prominent figures in their field, as well as young journalists or publications that have yet to receive adequate recognition. Murray Kempton was the first recipient in 1950....

This year's distinguished panel of judges consists of Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor, The New Yorker; Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large, The American Prospect and columnist for the Washington Post; Katrina vanden Heuvel, executive editor, The Nation magazine; Susan Meiselas, Magnum photographer and author; and Rose Marie Arce, senior producer, CNN.

"The Hillman Foundation is dedicated to promoting the role that journalism and the world of ideas play in making a difference in the lives of ordinary people. These awards are proof that journalism, at its best and most professional, can change the world," said Bruce Raynor, president of the foundation.

The award ceremony will be held May 27, 2009, 5:30-8:00 PM, at the Hudson Theatre at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City.

For more info about the Hillman awards and the winners click here.

New Made in L.A. Web Video -Go Sweatfree!

Check out our new web video: "Go sweatfree", the second in a series that will highlight the many issues that intersect in Made in L.A. The video links to our newly remodeled Get Involved page, with specific actions you can take towards a sweatfree world and immigration reform!

Update: Made in L.A.'s May Day campaign

Just last week, we launched the May Day Community Screening Campaign and we've been thrilled by the response that it's starting to have!

The Campaign has already been featured in numerous newsletters from national organizations, and numerous prominent blogs, and was just profiled on Laura Flander's GritTV! And the Media Consortium just launched a new Immigration Headlines Wigdet featuring Made in L.A.!

And, in addition to working with America's Voice, Interfaith Immigration Coalition and Immigration Policy Center around our Capitol Hill screening, a number of national organizations are working to spread the word and/or organize screenings: American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International, Breakthrough, Enlace, Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), Interfaith Worker Justice, Latino Public Broadcasting, Media Consortium, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), National Immigrant Solidarity Network, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Sojourners and Sweatfree Communities, among others.

More and more organizations are joining the campaign each week, so stay tuned at for more exciting updates and new short web videos coming up soon!

Al dia: Campaña del 1 de Mayo de Made in L.A.

Apenas la semana pasada hemos lanzado la Campaña del Primero de mayo de Made in L.A. y estamos encantados con la respuesta que está empezando a tener!

La campaña ya se ha resaltado en numerosos newsletters de organizaciones nacionales y numerosos blogs prominentes, y acaba de destacarse en GritTV de Laura Flanders! Además, el Media Consortium acaba de lanzar su nuevo widget con Noticias sobre Inmigración destacando Made in L.A.

Además de las organizaciones con las que trabajamos en torno a nuestro evento en Capitol Hill (America's Voice, Interfaith Immigration Coalition y Immigration Policy Center), un gran numero de organizaciones nacionales están trabajando para pasar la voz y/u organizar eventos y proyecciones: American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International, Breakthrough, Enlace, Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), Interfaith Worker Justice, Latino Public Broadcasting, Media Consortium, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), National Immigrant Solidarity Network, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Sojourners y Sweatfree Communities, entre otros.

Más y más organizaciones se unen a la campaña cada semana, así que estate atento/a para estar al día y ver los nuevos vídeos web que lanzaremos pronto!

New Immigration Headlines widget featuring Made in L.A.!

We're happy and proud to announce the cool new Immigration Headlines widget, created by the Media Consortium, one of our wonderful outreach partners in our May Day Campaign. The Widget features Made in L.A. and will keep you up-to-date with the latest immigration headlines from across the country!

Get the Widget now!

Tax Dollars Linked to Sweatshops

Sweatfree Communities, one of our Outreach Partners, has just announced the release of their new 60-page report on sweatshop conditions in factories making products for federal, state and local governments, using our tax dollars.
Sweatfree Communities is encouraging people to take action by e-mailing their Governors. To learn more and download the report, visit

Laura Flanders highlights Made in L.A. May Day Campaign on GritTV

We're thrilled that Laura Flanders highlighted Made in L.A. and our May Day Community Screening Campaign as her Doc of the Week on GritTV. Here's the clip!

Made in L.A. screens in Capitol Hill to put a human face on immigration

Frank Sharry, America's Voice; Congresman Luis Gutierrez; filmmaker Almudena Carracedo; Congreswoman Diane Watson, filmmaker Robert Bahar; and Bill Mefford, United Methodist Church/ Interfaith Immigration Coalition
We just went to Washington DC last week for a screening of Made in L.A. on Capitol Hill. For the last year and a half, since we had our broadcast premiere at PBS's POV series POV the day after Labor Day 2007, we have been traveling with Made in L.A. in order to put a human face on the many issues that intersect in the film: immigration and immigrant workers, labor rights, "sweatfree" organizing and women's empowerment. In recent months, as immigration reform has returned to the national dialogue, we have put special emphasis on providing Made in L.A. as a tool to humanize immigrants' stories. This Congressional screening was part of this effort -in the midst of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus's Historic Family Unity listening tour, congressional leaders and community leaders came together to discuss the current state of the immigration debate and groundbreaking grassroots work happening across the country.

Sally Jo Fifer, ITVS; filmmaker Almudena Carracedo; Congresmember Diane Watson; filmmaker Robert Bahar; and Simon Kilmurry, American Documentary | POV.
This event included comments and conversation with Congresswoman Diane Watson, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Chair of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus' Immigration Taskforce, Frank Sharry, Founder and Executive Director of America's Voice, Bill Mefford, Director of Civil and Human Rights for the United Methodist Church and a leader of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, and Angela Kelley, Director of the Immigration Policy Center at the American Immigration Law Foundation, with brief opening remarks presented by Ted A. Garcia, Senior Vice President, Television Content, Corporation For Public Broadcasting, and Sally Jo Fifer, President and CEO of ITVS. Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director of American Documentary, Inc. | P.O.V., was also in attendance.

Congreswoman Diane Watson applauds Made in L.A. during her opening remarks.

It was quite impressive to be there and to listen to the comments of these community leaders and congress members. Congresswoman Diane Watson opened the event, which was sponsored by the Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus, which she chairs: "As we watch Made in L.A., I'd like you to take in the journey that these courageous women made staring directly into the face of adversity and remember one word: perseverance... You'll see that Lupe and Maura and Maria could have been any of us if born under different circumstances. And who among us would not fight for a better life, and a safe life, and fair working conditions for their family, our children and our community? These inspiring women found strength in numbers and fought until justice and equality prevailed. It is my hope that we as lawmakers and concerned citizens will take the information from today's film and discussion and apply it to our continuing fight for fair wages, for decent working conditions, and a safe place to work without the threats of abuse regardless of one's immigration status."

Congresman Luis Gutierrez speaks passionately about Made in L.A.

Luis Gutierrez, Chair of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus Immigration Taskforce spoke about the Historic Family Unity listening tour and how these experiences have shaped his views on the need for immigration reform. He commented how he cried when he saw Made in L.A. and later added: "Made in LA is a breathtaking and deeply touching depiction of the human cost of our immigration crisis. I'm thrilled my colleagues and I had the opportunity to screen this movie on Capitol Hill. I urge anyone who is uncertain about the need for humane reform to see this movie."

Frank Sharry, Founder and Executive Director of America’s Voice

Frank Sharry, Founder and Executive Director of America's Voice, framed the film with passion and humanity: "Those of you who get a chance to watch this film, many of you will have the same experience that I've had countless times. I get asked all the time why does some middle class white guy work on an issue that mainly affects working class Latino immigrants. And I'll tell you why, it's because I've had the opportunity through unusual circumstances to get to know thousands of people and their life stories. And once you know, everything's different. I love the title, "Made in L.A." cause it speaks to that "are they ‘them' or are they ‘us'." And I think this country will be so much better off when we realize that the ‘thems' are ‘us' in everything but paperwork and that when the ‘thems' become ‘us', ‘us' will become much stronger. Our hearts will be more open, our country will be stronger, and we will live true to ideals that we sometimes forget. So I think ‘Made in L.A.' is ... a beautiful film, and I think that it will challenge all of us to continue to stretch so that America becomes what it might yet be rather than what it's recently become. And when we do, I think the ‘stars' of the movie will make all of us feel proud that we were made in America."

Bill Mefford, Interfaith Immigration Coalition; Angela Kelley, Immigration Policy Center; filmmaker Almudena Carracedo; and Congreswoman Diane Watson during the panel discussion.

The panel that followed the screening explored some of the previous efforts to pass immigration related legislation, and highlighted the wonderful work of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Immigration Policy Center, America's Voice, and many other organizations that are working to facilitate a national dialogue around the issues of immigration and immigrant workers.

Senior Vice President of Television Content at the Corporation For Public Broadcasting Ted Garcia highlighted the story and mission of Made in L.A. and acknowledged the many partners that came together to make the film possible: "Made in L.A. highlights some of the reasons why public service media is so crucial... I'm so pleased that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting through our support of ITVS, POV and Latino Public Broadcasting has played a role in ensuring that this story would be told." We were also touched by Sally Fifer's comment that "Made in L.A. represents exactly that kind of deep, authentic filmmaking that breaks new ground and brings us new understanding."

We are happy and honored that Made in L.A. was able to contribute, even in a small way, to this national dialogue, and that both the event and the publicity around it helped get the film into the hands of lawmakers, and policy professionals.

Story Leads to Action: Video from 92Y Tribeca Screening

In February, we had a beautiful screening of Made in L.A. at 92Y Tribeca in New York, co-presented by Chicken & Egg Pictures and Working Films. As part of that event, they had invited organizers and workers from the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS) and the Chinese Staff and Workers' Association (CSWA) to speak, as they had JUST won a long campaign against the Liberty Apparel manufacturer (read the full blog about that event), and their stories had some parallels to Made in L.A...

Jeremy Levine filmed the event and created this beautiful short piece for Working Films, which they just posted on-line (thank you Jeremy!):



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