Idea: La Lucha Sigue: a film that will feature stories of immigrant justice activists through animation.
Primary artistic medium: media arts
I am a Philadelphia-based documentary filmmaker and cultural producer whose work focuses on the intersection of social justice, media arts, culture, and policy. Since 2010, I have collaborated with artists and grassroots organizations, with my work focusing on storytelling, resource mobilization, and communications. Some of these grassroots and media arts organizations include Taller Puertorriqueño, Scribe Video Center, Movement Alliance Project, Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, BlackStar Film Festival, ¡Presente! Media, iMPeRFeCT Gallery, Spiral Q, and more.
My artistic practice focuses on building a documentary film body of work that uplifts racial and immigrant justice by using media as a tool for cultural organizing. As an artist, I believe that visual images and film have the power to create social change in order to resist the injustices that immigrants, people of color, and marginalized groups face. As the daughter of an Uruguayan immigrant, I have seen how the U.S. immigration system has drastically impacted families such as my own. Through family histories and my own experiences, I learned that media and communications could be utilized by those in power for propaganda purposes, to spew false narratives about marginalized communities, and to center uncritical perspectives. I became passionate about using media to highlight this, while also subverting the form to use media as a tool for social change. I combined my passion for media making with my background in social work and activism. Through this intersection, I have produced countless projects that focus on building awareness around issues, creating counter narratives, and movement building.
My activism in the immigrant rights space led me to want to produce a body of work that shows how immigration policies in the U.S. are purposefully created to hold power over people of color, while simultaneously relying on their labor. I also wanted to produce a film that didn’t rely on the same tropes about immigration reform such as the American Dream, nor on extractionary practices. Thanks to my history with local media/activist work, I became connected to organizers that are part of the immigrant justice movement. We had shared goals of how media could be utilized to highlight these stories, and they connected me with several of the protagonists of this film. I have built relationships with the people featured through attending their events and supporting their own activism. Through my unique access, I have been able to gain trust with the characters and approach them as collaborators.
Just outside of Philly sits the Berks Detention Center—one of only three prisons in the U.S. that detains immigrant children and families. La Lucha Sigue (The Fight Continues) will follow the story of four activists—all with their own immigration stories—in their tireless efforts to close down Berks once and for all.
The idea consists of producing an animated documentary to creatively tell these stories. Through the use of animation, the activists’ own culturally significant art forms will be featured, including photography, traditional embroidery, storytelling, and more. Engagement is central to this project, as the characters’ own art works will be woven into the stories. Animation has the power to reach wide audiences, including youth who are just starting to learn about social justice topics.
In the first story, Maria, the matriarch of an immigrant family from Mexico, weaves art, traditional embroidery, and oral history into her activism. She tells her own immigration story, which will be colorfully animated in a style reminiscent of the embroideries she creates.
The second story features Hiro, an activist and elder, and a long-time leader with the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). Hiro is a passionate amateur photographer who documents many of the JACL and Shut Down Berks events. His own story about being detained in a Japanese internment camp as a young boy will be animated through a collage of photos, newspaper clippings, and government propaganda.
In the third story, Steve, co-founder and organizer with Haitian-American Voice, will recall his own harrowing immigration story as a young child. Steve advocates for immigrant rights of Haitian refugees in the United States, and his story of immigration and activism will be illustrated in a traditional Haitian watercolor style.
The final story features chef Juan. Juan and his family live in South Philadelphia, and use their Mexican taco restaurant as a hub to advance immigrant rights and social justice, as well as preserve their culture. Juan’s family’s story will be recounted through a food stop motion tabletop animation.
(Documentation description for video below: A sample from a research interview conducted with Maria, the main protagonist, in 2018, which showcases her story and my access but not our animation or visual style).