Wednesday, October 7, 2009

La Americana

Last night I went to see a wonderful documentary about immigration called La Americana as part of the Center for American Progress's Reel Progress series. The film examines the issue of immigration reform through the eyes of Carmen, an undocumented immigrant from Cochabamba, Bolivia, who has come to New York to work a series of menial jobs to make enough money to pay for her paraplegic daughter's medical care. While her mother is in New York, Carla is back in Cochabamba being cared for by her grandmother.
The film has already won Best Documentary in the 8th New York International Latino Film Festival and both Audience and Jury Awards for Best Documentary Feature from the 11th Cine Las Americas Film Festival. It is not yet available in DVD for home use but nonprofit groups can obtain copies in order to host public screenings by filling out the form on Peoples Television's Web site.

Nicholas Bruckman, the film's director and producer, spoke after the screening. He updated us on Carmen and Carla's situation and told us that some of the proceeds from the film have already gone to help with the family's medical expenses. Carla has received a new wheelchair as a result.

Bruckman said he got to know Carmen at an immigration reform rally in New York in 2006. He was moved when she told him that she had never been to the Statue of Liberty and what started out as a short film documenting Carmen's trip to see Lady Liberty turned into a full documentary shot in three countries -- Bolivia, Mexico and the United States.

This very emotional film shows the invisibility of this immigrant workforce and shines a light on one of its members, a women who becomes a symbol of the ongoing debate about the nation's immigration policies. Bruckman said that as he has screened his film, he has noticed that immigrant audiences identify with Carmen while middle-class Americans sympathize with her plight. The film is an excellent tool for generating support for immigration reform.

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