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Northern California Tour - Davis

Right after Sac State we headed to UC Davis for the closing night of the tour. It was another success and a packed house! Interestingly, a huge part of the organizing was done via facebook -within 2 days of sending the invitation, the event had already 100 confirmed attendees! (We've now set up our own facebook page for Made in L.A. -Check it out here!)

It was also very interesting to connect with student issues on campus, in particular because one of the sponsoring orgs was Speak, a student group fighting for the rights of undocumented students. After the long and super interesting Q&A, we had another long line of students waiting to sign their DVDs!

Afterwards we went for a fun bilingual dinner with Prof. Almerindo Ojeda (second in line in the photo), director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas (who gathered all the support from the rest of sponsoring organizations), with Neta Borshansky (first in line in the photo), who put flyers all across campus,  and with new-made friends!

(Moises Park, who made the flyers and helped with the event, had drum practice and couldn't join us...).

It was the perfect closing event!

(This event was presented by the UCDavis Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas and co-sponsored by the Hemispheric Institute in the Americas, the Law School, The Department of Spanish, Women and Gender Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and Scholars Promoting Education Awareness and Knowledge -SPEAK.)

Northern California Tour - Sacramento

On Wednesday, our 5th day on the road, we had a lunchtime screening at Sacramento State University. This event is a testament to the kind of grassroots organizing that the film can incite: last October we received an e-mail from a student named Devin Yoshikawa, who had seen Made in L.A. on PBS and loved it. Devin was a business student at Sacramento State, and when I told him that there was a possibility we could come there as part of our tour, he moved heaven and earth to make our SAC state visit a reality! He gathered support from other campus organizations, including the Multi Cultural Center and Professor Eric Vega, he contacted local newspapers, got the event listed in the Sacramento Bee, made flyers and posted them across campus. As a result, we had a full house and a marvelous event! In addition, a UNITE-HERE representative was able to join the screening, which resulted in a very interesting discussion around issues of fair labor and sweatshops...

With organizers Devin Yoshikawa and Professor Eric Vega

One of the attendees who had heard about the event in the Sacramento Bee was a retired college counselor who is still very involved - within minutes we arranged for the film to screen at the upcoming Latina Leadership Conference in San Jose!

(This event was sponsored by: The Multi-Cultural Center, M.E.Ch.A., The Serna Center, The Campus Progressive Alliance, TeamTeca, La Rosa Network, Ethnic Studies Department and Womens Resource Center.)

Northern California Tour - Stanford

On Tuesday, our 4th day of the tour, we visited Stanford. We met with different student groups throughout the day, and had a big screening at night. Our schedule was busy indeed: we had lunch at the amazing Casa Zapata, then we did a guest lecture at (Professor and Filmmaker) Jan Krawitz's "Documentary Perspectives" class, had a meeting with the students at El Centro Chicano, and then a reception with the different student and campus organizations that had sponsored the event. It was moving to see the reaction to the film from a very diverse group of students, especially from groups that have been so active around anti-sweatshop issues. Last year the Stanford "Sweatfree" campaign and their sit-in gained so much publicity that our broadcaster, PBS POV series invited students from the campaign to write something about the film on the POV website!

This event was sponsored by: The Riddell Fund and Residential Education. Collaborators: Okada, Casa Zapata, Asian American Activities Center, El Centro Chicano, Film Studies, Sweatfree Campaign, Stanford Asian American Activism Coalition, MEChA, and CSRE.
Robert talks to Anne Takemoto, Resident Fellow at the Okada House, who put all the event together! 

Northern California Tour - Santa Cruz

On Monday, our third stop, we went to the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Lupe was able to join us for the day! The organizers had gotten an article in the university newspaper, and had created special postcards and posters for the event, so when we arrived on campus students spotted Lupe and approached all of us as if they had seen a celebrity!

There was a beautiful reception before the screening at the Chicano/Latino Resource Center, where we met with students and where the organizers gave us nice presents as thank you gifts... After heading to the screening venue, we were amazed to see groups of students keep arriving and arriving ... By the end, the organizers counted 450 students!!! Imagine that many students laughing at the same time, crying at same time and experiencing the film together. As the credits rolled, Robert and I went on stage with Lupe, and were welcomed with a long, emotional, standing ovation!

450 students in a standing ovation!

Following a bilingual Q & A, a long line of students formed to talk to us and to get their DVDs and postcards autographed. Lupe was regarded a bit like a rock star, with a long line of young Latina students surrounding her for more than 45 minutes. It was all extremely beautiful and inspiring, and the event helped us begin to understand the power of the film to move young Latinas and Latinos, especially whose parents are immigrants, to make them feel proud of who they are, and to inspire them to action.

Lupe sorrounded by a long line of Latinas waiting to talk to her!
With some of the organizers of the event: Dana Frank, Robert, Almudena, Lilly Pinedo, Rocio, Lupe, and Rosalee Cabrera.

As a result of this screening, we received an invitation from the Reel Work Film Festival in Santa Cruz, so we will be back there in town on April 26th!!! (details to come -if you want to stay updated join our list or visit our screenings page periodically).

(This event was sponsored by: The Chicano Latino Resource Center (CLRC), Labor Studies, EL CENTRO: Chicano Latino Resource Center, Women of Color Research Cluster and Stevenson College)

Northern California Tour - Palo Alto

On our second day we went to Palo Alto for a screening with Progressive Jewish Alliance, which had organized this event as the kick off for their "Mid-Peninsula" chapter.

It was fantastic to screen the film within a faith community, and to reach an audience that included many retirees, as so many of our screenings have been for student groups. It was very emotional for a lot of people, who talked about their family experiences and especially how they related to the Tenement Museum scene in Made in L.A., which connects the story of today's immigrants to Jewish immigrants who came to the Lower East Side in the early 1900s. (To read a blog about my visit to the Tenement Museum last December click here). Many women were crying when they approached us afterwards... One of the organizers told us: "This film does half our work for us".

With organizers Sara Bolder and Zachary Lazarus (Michael Kahan had just left!)

Northern California Tour -San Francisco

We're on the road! We left Los Angeles yesterday to "tour" with Made in L.A. in Northern California.

The drive to San Francisco was extremely beautiful -I remember the road being dry and boring, but it is now March and the fields were so green that I felt we were traveling through Scotland! :) And, of course, all the fruit trees in the agricultural valleys of central California are in full blossom, which makes for an amazingly beautiful and colorful journey!

We drove straight from L.A. to the Brava Theater in San Francisco, in the heart of the Mission district. Charlotte von Hemert, from the International Latino Film Society, which had organized this screening, let us stop by her apartment where we changed and dashed over to the theater around the corner. The Brava is a gorgeous renovated art deco theater, and even the organizers were surprised at the turn out! More than 150 people were there, and it was one of the screenings where people laughed the most! When you make a film you know that some parts are kind of funny, and that some parts are kind of sad, but until you put it out there you don't know how different audiences will react to it. It's incredibly beautiful to see people so engaged and reacting to the film in such a way. The Q&A was varied, but we had a very nice conversation about ways of organizing and about how the organizing methods shown in Made in L.A. could be applied to day-laborers and to workers in other industries.

Afterwards, about 30 people from the screening went for drinks in the neighborhood filmmakers, organizers, friends, etc and had a great time. We got to the hotel at 2am!

Afterwards at drinks: Annelise Wunderlich, our wonderful Production Manager at ITVS,
Robert, Almudena and Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, fellow filmmaker from
NALIP's Latino Producers Academy and Director of ITVS-funded "Going on 13"

(This event was sponsored by the International Latino Film Society, with Global Exchange, Active Voice, Instituto Laboral de la Raza, and California Newsreel)

Made in L.A. Educational version now available in the US

We are very happy to announce that the educational version of Made in L.A. has just been released by California Newsreel, the oldest nonprofit, social issue documentary film center in the country!

As many of you know first-hand, ever since Made in L.A. was broadcast in September we have been receiving requests from educators who want to screen the film for their classes and include it in their libraries. From the beginning, we have been dedicated to making Made in L.A. a valuable educational tool, and we're very excited that it can now be shown in schools, libraries, colleges and universities!

Our educational distributor, California Newsreel, distributes cutting edge, social justice films that inspire, educate and engage audiences. For more details and to purchase the educational version of the film, please visit Newsreel's page for Made in L.A.!

(Home video, community groups and organizers can continue to purchase the film at

Thanks so much for your patience – the wait is finally over!!! :)

Electrifying screening at UCLA

Last Tuesday night we had an electrifying screening at UCLA. We were expecting around 100 students, but over 250 students showed up: literally, we had to open another lecture room in the building and do two screenings simultaneously! Even so, tons of student watched the entire movie standing up, and you could hear the cheers (and the tears) during the screening. It's hard to describe the feeling in the room... but it was really inspiring, and a good reminder of how much the film can touch young students and move them to action.

Afterwards we had great Q&A's. Because we had two lecture halls, we created two teams: Robert and I were Team A, and Joann, Maria and Julia (one of the workers' attorneys) were Team B. So we did simultaneous presentations, switching after a while so both rooms could get the best of both teams ?

A HUGE thank you to the UCLA Labor Center, which organized the screening (and to Liz Espinosa, who tirelessly coordinated everything) and to all the departments and student groups co-sponsoring the event: UCLA Institute for Research on Labor & Employment (IRLE), UCLA Law School Critical Race Studies Program, UCLA Law School David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy, Latin American Institute, Chicano Studies Research Center, Asian American Studies Department, MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan), Conciencia Libre & Student Worker Front, Student Activist Project, and Center for the Study of Urban Poverty.

This was one more beautiful example of true grassroots organizing, where an educational institution partnered with us and helped the film reach out to its constituency: the students! As a result, UCLA is already organizing ANOTHER event for the students at the dorms. Students: stay tuned for more info! Join our list!

Report condemns human rights abuses against immigrants

Most of my blogs so far have been related to our experiences with Made in L.A., but this information caught my attention and I wanted to highlight it here: the NNIRR (National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights) just released a report that "condemns human rights abuses against immigrant communities and calls for respect for civil, labor, and human rights".

The report was released at the beginning of the national conference, "Claiming Our Rights, Envisioning Our Future: Communities Organizing for Justice," that just brought together over 500 participants from across the country, and where Made in L.A. screened.

According to Catherine Tactaquin, NNIRR Executive Director, "Over-Raided, Under Siege" plainly demonstrates that systematic abuses are being perpetrated against immigrant and refugee families and workers by the U.S. government, including the Department of Homeland Security, as well as by the local and state police." "These abuses and anti-immigrant government policies are a form of 'collective punishment' that undermine our rights and make our communities even more vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous employers, elected officials and anti-immigrant hate groups."

To read or download an executive summary of Over-Raided, Under Siege, go here.
To read the full report, Over-Raided, Under Siege, go here.
To view or download NNIRR's immigration raids chronology, go here.


Forever 21 campaign reunion and Happy New Year!

To close 2007, Maria, Lupe and Maura reunited at Lupe's house to celebrate the 3-year anniversary of their settlement agreement with Forever 21. Organizer Joann Lo, Lupe's sister Esperanza, and attorney Julia Figueira McDonough (one of the attorneys who represented the workers, also featured in the film) were also there, and we all caught up and shared tamales and ice cream.

Afterwards, amidst laughter and cheers, we sat on the floor and signed copies of our new posters. We're sending signed copies of the poster to our outreach partners in recognition of their support (find out how to become an outreach partner!). We're also planning to put some of these posters for sale on-line! Check back soon for more info.

Joann Lo signs the poster

Maria too!

It was a beautiful moment to come together and bid farewell to 2007, which saw the long-awaited birth of Made in L.A., and to welcome in 2008, a year where we hope this little film will keep traveling the world. It's also an election year in the United States and we hope that Made in L.A. will help to provide a voice for the thousands of immigrants who toil here everyday. Perhaps we can even get candidates to see it as they develop policies that will shape immigration policy in the years to come...

At the Low-Income Immigrant Rights Conference

In December I also attended the Low-Income Immigrant Rights Conference. The convening organization, the National Immigration Law Center, was kind enough to bring me to DC, and to hold a beautiful and moving screening of Made in L.A. for conference participants on Friday night. At least 100 people from organizations across the country watched the film and engaged in an emotional dialogue after the screening, with Joann Lo and Victor Narro also there. It was so moving that I forgot to take pictures! It was an honor to screen the film for people who work day and night around the issues that it portrays. And it is great to see that the film is becoming a tool that they can show their co-workers and their constituencies, and that can encourage them to continue the struggle.

At the Tenement Museum

On December 5th Made in L.A. screened at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The museum is featured in the film, in a scene that took place during Lupe's visit to New York as part of an effort to take the boycott campaign national. It is actually on of the most beautiful scenes in the film, because it is when Lupe realizes that she's part of a continuum, a larger history of immigration and labor struggles in the U.S.

Yet visiting the museum again I felt that the film shows only the tip of the iceberg of what this extraordinary institution has to offer. Bai Tan, an educator and museum guide, led us through the cramped, poorly ventilated and dimly lit rowhouses which the museum has carefully researched and restored to recreate the lives of the immigrants who lived here from the end of the 19th to the mid 20th century. Personal details of their lives help us understand not just how these immigrants lived and worked, but also who they were and what they felt. (The museum features an amazing virtual tour on their website, and even though you cannot feel the humidity, the dust and the darkness of the rooms, it is an amazing experience --click on the big photos below to see the tour.)

Inside the Gumpertz' home, we see where Natalie worked, sewing and caring for 4 children after her husband tragically disappeared after the economic depression of 1890, which had resulted in bank and business failures and had caused many to lose everything. Our guide described it as a desperate time when there were no social "safety net" programs to keep people from the depths of despair. Even worse, German immigrants like the Gumpertzes faced Germanophobia: a fear that Germans would colonize the US with their language, their songs, their culture. (Check out the wikipedia). Any resemblance with the current backslash on Latino immigration and the fears of Mexican "reconquista"?

Last summer, the New York Times published an interesting op-ed that drew parallels between modern anti-immigrant sentiment and previous backlashes against previous newcomers to this country. It was called "The Founding Immigrants". It began with a quote:

"Few of their children in the country learn English... The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages ... Unless the stream of their importation could be turned they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious."

A recent proponent of the border fence? No, actually this quote is from Benjamin Franklin, written more than 300 years ago and refers to the Pennsylvania Dutch. The parallels are striking and the Gumpertz' home brought that all home.

As we continued our tour, I was even more deeply moved by the story of the Baldizzi family, who arrived from Italy in the 1920's. Unlike the European immigrants who had arrived just 30 years earlier and lived next door, the Baldizzis' had a harder time coming to the US. Immigration was starting to be "illegal" and quotas had been established. The Museum documents their story: the Baldizzi wife obtained fake papers, traveled to France, boarded a boat to Canada and lived there long enough to get papers and come to the US, where she joined her husband who was living here "undocumented".

In the kitchen the museum plays a recording of the Baldizzi's daughter exploring a litany of memories: the "ice coins" they used to put in the gas to warm the water without paying, the sink/bathtub where they would bathe once a week, the board games they played with their father at night after the world quieted down. And the radio, that old radio that kept her mother company, playing soap operas that made her cry and cry, remembering the family she left behind -mother, father, brothers, friends that she knew she would not see again. And there I was with tears in my eyes, too.

New York, New York

It was snowing in New York when I arrived. For a madrilian (it seldom snows in Madrid) who lives in LA, snow is like a present -cold, but exotic. I went to give two presentations of the film, each different, each fascinating.

On Tuesday December 4th Made in L.A. screened at Columbia University as the closing film of a series on Latino Migration at Columbia's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. Curated by filmmaker and Columbia professor Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the series included five of the best films documenting the immigration experiences of Mexicans, Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Central Americans to the U.S. The series' hope was to contribute to the on-going debate on immigration, citizenship, and globalization, and it was indeed an interesting debate on these and other topics.

One student questioned current assumptions about immigrants' upward mobility, and the frequent omission of the root causes that force people to come to the US in discussions about immigration. It was a serious conversation and I have to say that, like that student, I don't believe in the universality of the "American Dream" narrative, i.e. that everyone has an opportunity to "make it" here as long as they work hard and have the necessary determination. I believe it to be a myth -sustained, like other myths, by reinforcement and repetition. Of course there are many cases where that narrative applies. But what I have seen in the five years of making this film is that great sacrifices are made by each new generation of immigrants in the hopes that they can provide a better future for their children, often giving up everything - their happiness, their country, their loved ones - for that promised future. And that even for their children that better future is only sometimes achieved. Many of these children will see themselves absorbed into the same cycle of poverty and low wage work Some will get out, especially if they find ways to access to a good education, fulfilling the dreams that their parents once had for them...

One of the most fascinating parts of the evening came after the class - my long conversation with Frances Negrón-Muntaner, in a Cuban restaurant near the University. Frances is an amazing storyteller (and an extraordinary writer and filmmaker) and I, who love to talk and tell stories, could only listen and listen. We stayed there in front of our Pollo con Arroz, our Camarones al Ajillo and Frances' Negra Modelo until midnight, when the restaurant closed and pushed us outside into the cold.

It is beautiful to see people being moved at each presentation of the film, and equally beautiful to be able to discuss this work and to learn from friends and colleagues who share this path.

Check out the article by Frances Negrón-Muntaner at New York's El Diario La Prensa (In Spanish)

Made in L.A. awarded Best Documentary at Cuenca International Women Film Festival

Cuenca , a beautiful town in Spain, just celebrated Mujeres en Dirección's second successful year as one of Spain's most important womens' film festivals. I had just been in Spain for Valladolid and was in between travels, so I wasn't able to attend the festival. But the good news - that Made in L.A. won best documentary - came by e-mail, and my parents, who had arrived that same day from a trip to Argentina, went to Cuenca to receive the award on my behalf.
My mother looks out at the famous "hanging houses"

As it turns out my father kept making jokes throughout the speech (very much in the family style) so afterwards I received e-mails complementing me for having such great parents and wonderful ambassadors...

Here are a few photos:

My parents picking up award


My parents with the award winners
(note that my father is the only man holding an award...)

Left to right: Iciar Bollain (who received a special recognition for her professional career as a director, screenwriter and actress.), my mother, Marta Belaustegui (Actress and Festival Director), festival organizer and my father.

Para escuchar una entrevista con Almudena en el programa "De Pelicula" en Radio Exterior de España, pincha en el logo de la izquierda y ve a "escucha la segunda hora" (En castellano) (In Spanish)

Community Screening at SAJE

On Thursday Nov 29th the Los Angeles based organization SAJE (Strategic Alliance for a Just Economy) held a special community screening of Made in L.A. This screening partner was one of five organizations from the SPIN network that were awarded minigrants from Active Voice to organize community screenings with Made in L.A.

It's great to be screening the film in other parts of the world and to see how deeply it touches people, but it's just awesome to screen the film in the community it represents: they understand every little detail, every wink, every joke! It was a powerful, deep and meaningful event. Lupe and Joann came with me to talk with the community members who were present. The reaction was simply amazing.

One woman rose to speak. She was crying. In Spanish, she explained that for years she has been organizing with a group fighting for better housing, and that they are currently going through a difficult period in their campaign (as the workers experienced in the boycott of Forever 21 that is portrayed in Made in L.A.) Seeing the film gave her the strength to continue, and her words gave all of us another lesson of perseverance. Another woman stood up and, in between tears, she explained that she and her husband were garment workers and were left without jobs during the holiday season (garment work typically decreases in November and picks up again in February -for immigrants working on a temporary basis, this means no work and no salary). As a result, they didn't have enough to pay for X-mas presents for their children. She said she felt different after seeing the film: stronger. We gave her a DVD as a present...

It was one of those days where you really feel proud of the work you did and forget all you've gone through to make it...



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