Define American‘s mission is to engage people in the immigration debate using the stories of those being impacted. As a way of carrying the conversation, the immigration advocacy organization is hosting a film festival May 11 through May 13 in Charlotte, N.C. The festival will showcase different documentaries that touch on the myriad aspects surrounding the immigration and race debate in the U.S. Here are a few of the documentaries that will be shown at the Define American Film Festival.
“Residenté” follows Calle 13 rapper, René Pérez, a.k.a. Residenté, as he travels the world to discover his roots. After having a DNA test, Residenté plans a trip around the world to trace where his family is from and tell the stories of locals in the places he visits. The experience is deeply connected to an album he created that incorporates all parts of his ancestry including languages, instruments, and folklore to tell a complete story about who Pérez is as a person and the connection shared by all people in the world.
2. Forbidden: Undocumented And Queer In Rural America
“Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” explores the intersectionality of being both queer and undocumented in a rural community in North Carolina. The documentary follows the life of Moises Serrano as he juggles life on the fringe through the Real ID Act of 2005, getting accepted to college and figuring out his finances to afford school, love, and the fragile balance as a DACA beneficiary. The Real ID Act of 2005 came when Serrano was about to graduate high school with a hope of going to college. The act made it so undocumented people were not allowed to have driver’s licenses or government issued ID’s which effectively blocked undocumented people from going to school, getting work, and driving a car.
There isn’t a trailer for this documentary but the title kind of gives you all you need to know. “Dolores” documents the life, fight, and experience of one of the most iconic activists among Latinos, Dolores Huerta. The documentary dives into her time with the farm workers in Delano, Calif. as well as her teaming up with the iconic women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. The documentary also gives viewers a look into her personal life including loves, children, and her home life.
4. White People
Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder of Define American, is also having a film showing during the film festival. Titled “White People,” Antonio Vargas along with MTV made a documentary exploring race in America from the young, white perspective. The provocative documentary makes people uncomfortable as they tackle the issue of race in America during a conversation with young white Americans and how they navigate the touchy subject.
Walter Mercado was a source of wisdom. His horoscopes eased many Latinxs into New Years, months and days full of new possibilities and opportunities. Equal parts Oprah, Liberace, and Mr. Rogers, Walter was a celebrated daily part of Latino culture—until last November, when he sadly passed away. But his legacy lives on, and this year, he’s getting his own Netflix documentary. Here’s everything we know so far about “Mucho Mucho Amor.”
Late television personality and astrologer Walter Mercado is the subject of a Netflix documentary.
MUCHO MUCHO AMOR, which premieres at Sundance, is coming to Netflix this summer! From documentarians Cristina Costantini & Kareem Tabsch, it follows Walter Mercado, the iconic, gender non-conforming astrologer who mesmerized millions of viewers, then vanished from the public eye. pic.twitter.com/ezgvZvNAxq
Extravagant Puerto Rican astrologer, psychic, and gender nonconforming legend Walter Mercado charmed the world for over 30 years with his televised horoscopes. And this summer, a the feature-length documentary based on the life and work of the iconic astrologer, “Mucho Mucho Amor” will stream on Netflix. And it’s scheduled to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film was selected to premiere at the 2020 Sundance Festival.
The independent-film festival announced its lineup earlier this month, and Miami is well represented among the 118 films selected. Although Mucho Mucho Amor might seem timely in light of the astrologer’s passing in November, Tabsch and his codirector and coproducer — Cristina Constantini and Alex Fumero — have been working on it for more than two years.
The film explores Walter’s complex story.
El documental #MuchoMuchoAmor tendrá su estreno mundial en el Festival de Cine de Sundance y llegará a Netflix este verano.
Este largometraje abordará la vida Walter Mercado, el icónico astrólogo que cautivó a millones de espectadores y luego desapareció del ojo público. pic.twitter.com/d3fPKg3CuV
“Mucho Mucho Amor”, follows Mercado’s story, from the rural sugarcane fields of Puerto Rico to international astrology superstardom, rising above homophobia and the heteronormative beliefs of the Latino society with a message of love and hope. “If you think about the way he came on television, starting from 50 years ago,” said one of the film’s directors, Kareem Tabsch in an interview with WLRN, “he blended gender expressions — the masculine with the feminine on Latino television, which is very macho-centric.”
The film was directed by two Latinx co-directors.
Kareem Tabsch and Cristina Costantini (Science Fair, Festival Favorite Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival) both set out to create “Mucho Mucho Amor” as a love letter to Walter Mercado. “He was uniquely his own. In a very macho Latino culture, he presented his nonbinary gender expression, and it was so brave,” Tabsch said to Miami New Times.
“Mucho Mucho Amor” unpicks how Walter Mercado became an icon of gender-fluidity for an entire generation.
It's official! Our documentary about Walter Mercado, MUCHO MUCHO AMOR, is going to Netflix! https://t.co/rHs700sonz
The filmmakers, who grew up watching him with their abuelitos, craft a film with levity and a playful spirit. Light-years ahead of his time, Walter has become a nostalgic cult icon of self-expression and positivity for the gender-fluid youth of today.
And indeed, Walter Mercado induces millennial Latinos into deep nostalgia.
For Latino audiences, Mercado also represents a form of warm nostalgia. “You think of Walter today, and so many of us think of our abuelitas,” the Cuban-American filmmaker says in an interview with Miami New Times. “The memory takes us back to childhood. It takes us back to sitting with our grandparents. In making this film, we realized that was a universal experience [for Latinos].”
The director also spoke about the significance of premiering their film at Sundance.
The fact that an international film festival of Sundance’s prominence has recognized a film such as Mucho Mucho Amor is an important win for not only Tabsch and his team but also Latino culture. “It’s a huge recognition not just for Miami film, but for film created by, for, and about Latinos,” Tabsch says. “We’re telling our own stories.”
The film premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24 and runs through January 31. It will be available on Netflix this summer.
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Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez are often considered the leaders in the farmworkers rights movement. The two have done a lot to better the lives of those working in the fields, but a new documentary is highlighting a forgotten hero in the farmworkers rights movement. “Adios Amor” is highlighting the work of Maria Moreno, who fought for their rights before Huerta and Chavez continued her work.
Before Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, there was Maria Moreno, the first female farmworker to lead a union.
Adiós Amor—The Search for Maria Moreno, is a feature film that examines the life and death of the obscure labor leader. Moreno was a migrant mother who sacrificed everything but her twelve kids in the pursuit of justice for farmworkers. During the late ’50s and ’60s, Moreno’s work led poor agricultural workers into a movement that would later capture the heart of the nation.
The discovery of forgotten photographs taken more than fifty years ago sparked the search for an unsung hero. A migrant mother haunted by a personal tragedy who rolled up her sleeves, collected signatures, and electrified audiences with her gift for public speaking for a cause she believed in.
Moreno was the first female farmworker in America to be hired as a union organizer. She was elected by her fellow Mexican American, Filipino, Black and Okie farmworkers to represent them. Her charisma attracted crowds, but it also got her into trouble with her labor bosses who fired her for being so outspoken.
The film’s director and producer Laurie Coyle found photos of Moreno tucked away in an archive.
Were it not for the Maverick photographers and journalists who captured Maria’s legacy, her story might have been lost. Coyle has said that the idea for the project began after she found the images captured by late farmworker photographer George Ballis. The photos depict Moreno speaking in front of crowds and meeting with workers in the fields of California, racing to events with her children and husband.
“She had this piercing gaze and always seemed to be surrounded by children,” Coyle told Shoot Online. “I couldn’t help but be captivated.”
Coyle began researching about Moreno. But the whereabouts of the activist later in life remains a mystery. The search for Moreno guides the documentary, where characters fade in and out like ghosts. From California’s Great Central Valley to the Arizona desert and U.S.-Mexico border, the journey tells Moreno’s story with passion and humor. The director soon discovered radio journalist Ernest Lowe, who had followed Moreno during her days as a union leader and had also been enchanted by her charisma.
Moreno and her family were traveling farmworkers following the crops.
Born to a Mexican immigrant father and Mescalero Apache mother, in Karnes City, Texas; Moreno and her family were nomadic farmworkers for years. Following the crops, their travels took them to Utah, California, Arizona, and Texas.
In April 1958, Moreno started her union activism following a flood that pushed many workers into starvation. Coyle found that one of her sons went blind temporarily due to extreme hunger. “How do you think that I feel … seeing my son blind only because we don’t got nothing to eat?” Moreno said in one passionate speech. “(Meanwhile), some other tables are full and wasting food.”
In a time of unprecedented abundance, farmworkers lived in dire poverty, and Maria Moreno set out to change that.
A deeply human drama is brought to the viewers’ attention, Mexican-American farmworkers living in dire poverty at a time of unprecedented abundance. An abundance sustained by impoverished peoples’ faith, family values, and working-class culture.
She gained support from Oklahoma migrants, Filipino American workers, and Latino pickers, and was active in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, a union that was sponsored by the AFL-CIO.
“It was so unusual for a woman like her back then to be in this position,” Coyle told Shoot Online. “The first time I understood that she was somebody different was when she went to (University of California,) Berkeley,” Martha Moreno Dominguez, her daughter, said in the film. “I realized who my mother really was … I said, wow, you know. Here’s my mother, a second-grade education doing this.”
Eventually, Moreno was forced out of the union and left California to practice her faith.
Eventually, in 1962, Moreno was forced out of the fight due to jealousy and disagreements within the union. Documents show an AFL-CIO official accused her of misspending and she was forced to step down from leadership.
“She wasn’t afraid to say whatever she had to say,” Gilbert Padilla, co-founder for the United Farm Workers, told Shoot Online. “I assume that’s why they got rid of her.”
Coyle’s research found that when Cesar Chavez began to form his own farmworkers union, he purposely kept Moreno out of it, seeing her as a “big mouth”, and a possible rival.
Moreno’s children say she left California for a remote part of the Arizona desert, 100 miles west of Phoenix, where she asked God for guidance. Later in her life, Moreno became a Pentecostal minister along the US-Mexico border in San Luis, Arizona. She sought to transform society one soul at a time, instead of focusing on systemic change. Maria Moreno died in 1989, largely forgotten.
Watch the trailer below.
The film is set to premiere Friday, September 27 on most PBS stations.