No More Sweatshops
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Made in LASpread the Word

Northen CA Screening Leads to Student Action!

Last January I traveled with Lupe (one of the women in Made in L.A.) to show the film at the Castilleja School, an all-girl 6-12 school in Palo Alto, CA. It was an electrifying experience, and very moving for us and for them. In the little video we just posted on our Youtube channel, you can see the audience's reaction, including the standing ovation they gave us at the end -the organizers later explained they had never seen something like this before, and they've had superstar guests in the past, including Al Gore and Madeleine Albright!


Some days later, I got an e-mail from one of the students, age 13, named Malaika, She wanted to create a club in her school to help support issues in the film. Lupe had mentioned the girls' uniforms during the presentation, and I told her that the best way to help was to work towards sweatfree apparel in her school. And she did. She sent me these words for the blog, as well as a copy of the letter that the students sent to the school administration. Read on as you see a young organizer emerging:

"I saw Made in L.A. as part of my school's Global Week. As I watched the film I remember wondering: who had made my sweatshirt? And what about my powder blue uniform skirt? Where was that from?

Lupe talking to some students after the screening

The film takes us to the heart of the L.A. Fashion District where we are introduced to three women working in sweatshops to feed their families on a day-to-day basis. The most upsetting aspect though, was that for many of us this was something we had never considered. The idea that a starving woman had sat up late into the night sewing my skirt seemed almost unreal to me. Yet, for someone, somewhere, this was their reality.

The whole experience was very emotional for me. There I was, a thirteen-year-old, freshman, in Palo Alto, California and for the first time I felt utterly and completely helpless. I am so used to being able to voice my opinion when I don't agree with something, and to keep pushing until someone finally gives in. But this time, there was nothing I could do to help. Or so I thought.

The movie ended, and I left the auditorium, in tears, to go to lunch. My advisor, Ms. Spanier, noticed my red eyes and pulled me aside. "What's wrong?", she asked, concerned by how upset I was. I told her about this movie I had just seen, and how distressed I felt by the conditions these women had to work under. Ms. Spanier... then told me about the potential to make change. She encouraged me to start a group and raise awareness.

Today, I will attend my fourth Sweatshop meeting. We will be composing a letter to the administration at school, asking them to switch our uniform manufacturer to a fair trade one. Made in L.A. opened my eyes to a world I didn't know existed. It gave me the potential to make a difference, and to encourage others to do so as well. It has opened doors to a cause I am passionate about, and one that I will pursue until working conditions begin to change."


We thank the Castilleja school for bringing us to the school, for helping us show part of the event to the world by sharing their recording of it, and for encouraging Malaika and her fellow students to start this club and effect change on campus!

MASS MoCA screening and Working Films Residency

We just returned from the 2009 Content + Intent Documentary Institute, also known as the Working Films' Residency at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), in North Adams, MA. It's always so invigorating to meet other filmmakers committed to making an impact with their films, and it was wonderful to share our journey and experiences with them as we work to make change with Made in L.A.

On Saturday night MASS MoCA held a public screening of Made in L.A. as part of the Working Films Forum. Workers from the ADP Worker Center/Casa Obrera in Springfield MA joined us for a Q&A. The worker center had actually just screened Made in L.A. a few weeks earlier (see blog posting about their event) so it was great to meet them and share the panel with them.

With the filmmakers of the Working Films Residency and the workers and organizers from ADP worker center, after the screening of Made in L.A. at MASS MoCA

Low-Wage Work, Migration and Gender Conference

Last week I went to Chicago (chilly Chicago!) to screen Made in L.A. at the Low-Wage Work, Migration and Gender Conference, organized by the University of Illinois at Chicago's Department of Sociology with the sponsorship of the Ford Foundation.

Made in L.A. was the only film screened as part of the conference, and it was wonderful to meet so many scholars working on these issues (so intricately linked with Made in L.A.!) to be able to -humbly- contribute with Made in L.A. to the important conversation and analysis at the conference.

Many years ago I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and I was appalled by the conditions that immigrants workers faced in the meatpacking factories of early 20th century Chicago. Even though things have changed, it saddens me to see that a lot of the pain and suffering still continues for immigrant workers...

Special thanks to Conference co-chairs Nilda Flores-Gonzalez and Anna Guevarra, to Pallavi Banerjee who coordinated the conference, and to Hector R. Cordero-Guzman, program officer at the Ford Foundation, for his support of the conference, the screening, and of all of the causes represented in Made in L.A.

Made in L.A. at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque

Made in L.A. was just screened in Israel at two special events. On March 8 at the Jerusalem Cinemateque in celebration of International Women's Day, and on March 11 in the Tel Aviv Cinematheque -as part of a lecture and film series organized by the Social Economic Academy (SEA), titled "Work and workers in the cinema". This screening was titled: "Change is possible, even today".

Dana Ron, who, along with Oded Goldreich, has been the driving force behind these screenings ever since she saw Made in L.A. at the Docaviv International Documentary Film festival, sent me a few words about Made in L.A.'s screening in Tel Aviv:

"The SEA is an Israeli non-profit organization whose goal is to promote alternative discourse on social economic issues. The activities of the SEA are directed to expand the knowledge of the public at large and social activists in particular. The SEA offers people both the theory and the critical tools needed to promote economic alternatives, as well as creating an opportunity for these people to engage in dialogue and to encounter different members of Israeli society. Furthermore, SEA encourages its students to become involved in actions that will lead to changes in social-economic policy.

The lecture that preceded the film was given by Sharon Avraham-Weiss. Sharon is a lawyer whose expertise are in social-economic rights. Until recently she worked for the Association for human rights in Israel, and she now teaches at the academic center for law and business. The lecture focused on the mechanism of indirect employment, which currently thrives in Israel. Parallels were displayed between the "rationals of abuse" in Israel and in L.A., and the demand for responsibility of those who benefit from the work of the (exploited) workers were discussed. In particular, it was noted that in Israel, the primary indirect employer of low-wage workers (mostly cleaners and security workers) is the government and its various agencies.

In the current gloomy social landscape in Israel, the depiction of the empowerment process that Lupe, Maura and Maria underwent in their years of struggle was inspiring and uplifting..."

ADP Worker Center thoughts on Made in L.A.

Some weeks ago the Alliance to Develop Power (ADP) Worker Center/Casa Obrera in Springfield MA screened Made in L.A. The event was followed by a discussion with Liana Foxvog of SweatFree Communities, one of our outreach partners and William Cano of the ADP Worker Center. He sent me a few thoughts that originated at that discussion:

"52 people participated in this event, mostly members of the center but also community leaders in close relationship with our members. During the discussion of this documentary, the member/leader Gladis Alfaro commented: "the documentary really makes you relive feelings that many of us immigrants have lived in this country and shows the daily struggle that we immigrant workers must face. This (mistreatment, abuse, exploitation) has existed in the past, exists now and will continue existing, as long as we don't face it together as a community no matter your color or origin."

Then member/leader Elodia Sánchez stood up and said: "let's not just meet when we have problems, let's stay together so that we can face whatever comes better." Member/leader Ricardo Cerna added: "what happens in the film also happened to me and my wife, and can also happen to any of our family members. The film is very accurate in the problems that it reflects with regards to the abuses that we immigrants suffer; let's not forget to continue fighting for our rights, since these problems originate from many different sources."

Finally, Adrián García, one of the member/leaders that most encourages his co-workers to fight for their rights, respect and dignity no matter the circumstance, added: "this documentary is very inspiring for the type of struggle that we face daily in our organization; to those who feel down when they don't see progress in the issues we're working on, the documentary tells you: ‘we can do it, don't get discouraged'. THIS DOCUMENTARY IS THE DROP OF STRENGTH THAT MOTIVATES US TO CONTINUE."

Hace unas semanas el Centro de Trabajadores Casa Obrera, de la Alianza para Desarrollar el Poder (ADP), localizado en Springfield MA, organizó una proyección de Made in L.A. El coloquio posterior contó con la participación de Liana Foxvog de SweatFree Communities, organización afiliada a la difusión de Made in L.A. y William Cano, del Centro, que me envió algunas ideas y comentarios que surgieron del coloquio:

"En este evento participaron 52 personas en su mayoría miembros y lideres de esta organización, pero también líderes comunitarios que trabajan en estrecha relación con nuestros miembros. Durante la etapa de discusión de este documental Gladis Alfaro, miembro y líder de ADP Worker Center/Casa Obrera manifestó: " El documental realmente revive sentimientos que muchos de nosotros los inmigrantes hemos vivido en este país y muestra la lucha diaria que debemos enfrentar los trabajadores inmigrantes". "Esto (maltrato, abuso, explotación) ha existido en el pasado, existe ahora y seguirá existiendo, mientras no lo enfrentemos juntos como una sola comunidad sin importar tu color u origen"

A su vez Elodia Sánchez otra importante líder de esta organización se puso de pie y dijo: "No nos juntemos únicamente cuando tengamos problemas, mantengamos juntos que así podremos enfrentar mejor lo que se nos venga"

Ricardo Cerna, un gran líder de ADP Worker Center/Casa Obrera manifestó: "Lo que pasa en la película me pasó a mí y también a mi esposa, y mientras nada también le puede pasar a cualquiera de nuestros familiares"." La película es muy acertada en la problemática que refleja en relación a los abusos que sufrimos los inmigrantes, pero no nos olvidemos de continuar luchando por nuestros derechos ya que esta problemática viene en diferentes formas"

Finalment Adrián García, líder de ADP Worker Center/Casa Obrera y unos de los líderes que mas anima a sus compañeros de trabajo a luchar por sus derechos, respeto y dignidad ante cualquier circunstancia manifestó: "Este Documental es muy inspirador para el tipo de lucha que hacemos a diario en nuestra organización, aquellos que se sienten decaídos cuando no ven progreso en los asuntos en los cuales estamos trabajando, el documental te dice: Sí podemos lograrlo, no te desanimes" "ESTE DOCUMENTAL ES LA GOTA DE FORTALEZA QUE NOS MOTIVA A CONTINUAR".

Made in L.A. May Day Community Screening Campaign

Between April 15th and May 31st, 2009 we're inviting national organizations, grassroots groups, congregations and individuals across the country to organize special "May Day" screenings, houseparties and actions around Made in L.A. in a nationwide effort to put a human face on the issues of immigration, immigrant workers' rights, and supporting humane immigration reform.

In preparation for the launch of the campaign, we'll be releasing free easy-to-use tools including short web-videos and post-screening "conversation guides" that will make it easy to spread the word and to take action following your event. Stay tuned - we expect to release the first video right here in mid-March, just about a month before the screenings!

In the meanwhile, join the movement and start planning your own Made in L.A. event today! •••


Entre el 15 de abril y el 31 de mayo de 2009, invitamos a las organizaciones nacionales, grupos de base, congregaciones e individuos en EEUU a que organicen eventos especiales y acciones para celebrar el Primero de Mayo, en un esfuerzo nacional para poner una cara más humana a los temas de inmigración, los derechos de los y las trabajadoras inmigrantes y en apoyo a una reforma migratoria justa en EEUU.

En preparación para el comienzo de la campaña, vamos a sacar herramientas gratuitas fáciles de usar (incluyendo web-vídeos y guías de conversación para el coloquio posterior) para que sea fácil pasar la voz y tomar acciones concretas tras el evento. Estate atento/a; esperamos lanzar el primer vídeo aquí mismo en la mitad de marzo, un mes antes del comienzo de las proyecciones!

Mientras tanto, únete al movimiento y comienza a planear tu propia proyección de Made in L.A.!

March 09 screenings

Made in L.A. PosterA year and a half alter we finished it, Made in L.A. is continuing to make an impact around the world! Check out our March screenings: from San Diego to Chicago, and from Canada to the Czech Republic, there are tons of screenings all over this March. Happy International Women's Day!!!

Made in L.A. at 92Y Tribeca

On Thursday 2/19, our last day in the East Coast, we had a beautiful screening of Made in L.A. at 92Y Tribeca, co-presented by Chicken & Egg Pictures, and Working Films.

I had met Judith Helfand (who co-runs Chicken & Egg and Working Films) in September during the IFP market, and had left her a DVD of Made in L.A. Not long later, she called me - energized - and suggested screening Made in L.A. as part of a news series being co-presented with 92Y Tribeca (thank you Judith!)

Judith had invited the organizers and workers from NMASS (National Mobilization Against Sweatshops) and CSWA (Chinese Staff and Workers' Association) who had JUST won a long campaign against the Liberty Apparel manufacturer (workers were awarded nearly $600,000 in damages in a decision that will set a legal precedent for manufacturers to be held accountable to their subcontracted workers). But she surprised us all when she appeared with flowers for each of the workers, in recognition of their perseverance and victory! The workers spoke before the screening, and as the film rolled, I could feel their voices and struggle resonate with every person in the room. It was such a reminder to me that I was so lucky (so honored) to have captured the story of a struggle of workers in L.A., which ended reflecting the struggle of so many millions of workers across the globe...

Jeremy Levine shot the event and created this beautiful short piece for Working Films (thank you Jeremy!):

"Making Your Media Matter" Conference + Made in L.A. Field Report

The next day, after a round of meetings with potential outreach partners, we headed to the 5th Annual Making Your Media Matters Conference, organized by American University's Center for Social Media. It was a day and a half of interesting discussion around issues of social documentary-making, including an amazing keynote speech on documentary ethics, by Gordon Quinn of Kartemquin films.

It was an honor to share panel with Scott Kirsner, author of the CinemaTech blog, Maia L. Ermita, Director of Festival and Outreach at Arts Engine, Andrew Mer of Snagfilms. Wendy Levy, Director of Creative Programming of the Bay Area Video Coalition, was a wonderful moderator and kept us all in track! If you want to listen to the whole panel, Scott posted his audio recording of the panel on his blog -check it out!

Around the same time as the conference, the Center for Social Media released a Field Report that provides a "case study" of Made in L.A., from fundraising to distribution. Special thanks to the report's author, Kafi Kareem, and to Center Director Pat Aufderheide and Associate Director Alison Hanold for all of their help and for inviting us to be part of the conference!

And back at Georgetown too...

That night we headed to Georgetown for an event organized by MEChA de Georgetown (thank you Angie Bonilla!) and supported by the Georgetown Solidarity Committee and the Lecture Fund. A scene in Made in L.A. is actually set in a Georgetown class, when Maura visits DC to speak at several colleges about the launch of the campaign, and it was amazing to be back so many years later, now with the finished film...

The post-screening discussion was particularly fruitful, as many students in the room were doing organizing work on campus and were able to discuss the many issues that each organization is working on...

With the student organizers at Georgetown!


Made in L.A. back at the AFI Silver Theater

Robert and I just returned from a 10-day long trip to the East Coast. Our first stop was Washington, DC, where we met with a number of potential outreach partners and had two wonderful screenings...

The first event was at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center -where we had our world premiere at the Silverdocs Documentary Festival. This time we were showing Made in L.A. as part of their Educational Outreach Program, which is run by Matt Boratenski. Hundreds of high school students from three different high schools attended: Albert Einstein HS (ESOL), Rockville HS (AP English language) and Montgomery Blair HS (Social Studies). It was inspiring to watch as school buses arrived at the event...

The students asked wonderful, thoughtful questions, and the teachers gave really positive feedback. One teacher said: "Not only was the film incredible, but the reaction of the students (you could have heard a pin drop) was amazing...WOW!"

Special thanks to Matt (who moderated the event) and to Lynn Hughes, a friend and colleague who helped to get this event set up! Special thanks also go to the young and talented Gandhi Brigade, who videotaped the event -watch the video below!


An Unfinished Dream

I recently received an e-mail from a student at UCLA, Margarita Reyes, who embarked on her own production after watching Made in L.A. It was so moving, and her film is so needed, that I asked her to write a few words to share it with you all:

I am a single mother and had recently started as an undergrad at UCLA. I was touched by the stories of the women and mothers in your film. I was sitting in the audience of a screening with a friend of mine. My friend is an undocumented student at UCLA. We both grew up in the U.S.; the only difference is that I am born here and she is not. I know how difficult it is for her to attend school
financially and emotionally. I was so moved by "Made in LA", that once the film credits rolled, I turned to my friend and said, "I'm going to make a documentary about you."

I have a background in film as an actor for the past 10 years so I knew that I could pool my resources to produce our own project. I met our director, Andrea Ortega, soon after and we began production in April 2008. I talked about the inspiration of Made in LA at our trailer screening last night. We screened it to 4 different student organizations at UCLA last night and met with great praise and support for our students.

I can't thank you enough for making "Made in LA" because it inspired me to make our own "An Unfinished Dream" documentary for our undocumented students, coming Spring 2009!

Made in L.A. among top 10 films on poverty's blog, "Poverty in America", has released a list of the 10 top videos on poverty in the US, including Made in L.A.: "This collection of award-winning documentaries, news stories, and advocacy campaign videos illustrate the range of faces and issues of domestic poverty. Portrayals include Latina immigrants in Los Angeles organizing for worker protections; two New Orleanians recovering from the impact of Hurricane Katrina; gentrification conflict in Columbus, Ohio; and educational intervention in the lives at at-risk boys in Baltimore". Read more at blog.

Made in L.A. receives outreach funding!

We're happy to announce that Made in L.A. has happily received funding from The Fledging Fund and from The Diane Middleton Foundation to continue our audience engagement work. There's much, much work still to be done and we look forward to continuing to share all of the film's accomplishments with you. Thanks so much to our funders, and to everyone who has supported us all along the way!

Made in L.A. - more international premieres!

A year and a half after its completion, Made in L.A. continues to premiere at festivals all over the world. In the coming months Made in L.A. will have festival premieres in Czech Republic, Tunisia and Argentina, as well as new screenings in Spain, Mexico, Israel and Canada.

Made in L.A. has also been selected as part of the French our of the Paris International Human Rights Film Festival, which will stop in 5-6 cities in France.

Stay tuned - we're adding new screenings every week!



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