As you spend time with family and friends this holiday season, consider watching a movie about the migrant experience and border life together. These stirring films allow us to see ourselves in others, inspire discussion, and urge us to act and advocate on behalf of those who seek family reunions and better lives.
Over the past two decades, many films have addressed the trials and struggles, hopes and dreams of families and individuals who cross the U.S.–Mexico border to seek a better life and to be with loved ones. In addition to the titles listed below, there are also My Family (1995), Sin Nombre (2009), and A Better Life (2013).
- Now a classic and one of the first movies about the struggles and hardships facing those who choose to migrate to the U.S., El Norte (1983) by Gregory Nava relates the experience of a teen-aged brother and sister who flee the violence of their home in Guatemala for the promise of a better life in Los Angeles.
- Among the four narratives Alejandro González Iñárritu includes in Babel (2006), one details the interwoven lives of a San Diego family and their undocumented Mexican nanny and how crossing the border to attend a family wedding can result in painful and irreparable consequences.
- Under the Same Moon (2007), directed by Patricia Riggen, makes palpable the dire and complicated decisions faced by separated families. An adolescent boy leaves Mexico after his grandmother dies to seek out his mother who works as a maid in the U.S.
- In Who Is Dayani Cristal? (2013), actor and activist Gael García Bernal retraces the journey of a migrant who died along the stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death,” providing a rare view of what migrants experience on el camino. Each year 400–500 migrants lose their lives during the crossing. For more information about the tragedy of migrant deaths in the desert, please see this article from the KBI July issue of Passages: kinoborderinitiative.org/deaths-in-the-desert/.
- Documented (2013), a film by Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist José Antonio Vargas, recounts Vargas’s experience of migrating to the U.S. at the age of 12 from the Philippines to live with his documented grandparents. Vargas speaks out about his undocumented status in the hopes of illuminating the challenges of mixed-status families and advocating for policy change.