Filmmaker Isabel Castro’s documentary feature debut Mija garnered critical acclaim at Sundance earlier this year for its portrayal of two Mexican American daughters trying to succeed. Disney Original Documentary has now acquired worldwide rights to the film and FX, which is also owned by the Walt Disney Company, will retain the rights to develop scripted content based on the film, Variety reported. The film follows Southern California native and music manager Doris Muñoz, the only daughter of undocumented immigrants from Mexico over the span of two years including during the pandemic. She helped launch the careers of Latinx artists including Cuco and Chicana singer-songwriter Jacks Haupt, who also plays a crucial role in the film. Muñoz narrates the film giving it a more personal and poetic touch, with words she wrote along with Castro, Salvadoran poet Yesika Salgado, and author Walter Thompson-Hernández.
The film is described as a “love letter to immigrants and their children” and one that offers an “immersive look at the importance of representation in music, highlighting the social and cultural impact across all generations.” The film also centers, in the second half, the bond between Muñoz and Haupt who share a sense of guilt over being the first U.S.-born members of their undocumented families and the financial struggles of pursuing their dreams.
“Mija is my first feature film,” Castro told Deadline. “I have been covering immigration and civil rights for over a decade, but was grappling with how to tell a different kind of immigration story, one that doesn’t reduce the experience to one only of trauma and loss. I wanted to show the full range of emotions that come along with immigrating to the United States – everything from guilt to joy.”
From her success managing Cuco to a sudden shift in her career that forces her to return home, Muñoz shares the highs and lows of not only pursuing a career in music but being a daughter of immigrants. She’s the only one who can travel to visit her brother who was deported to Tijuana and she’s the main breadwinner — a reality for many children of immigrants but one we rarely see on screen. On the surface it’s a film about the day-to-day life of a Mexican American daughter of immigrants navigating a career in music. But beyond that it’s about a 26-year-old first gen living a life thanks to the sacrifices of her parents which culminates in a moving scene at the end of the documentary. Castro intentionally showcased an array of emotions to show a narrative not often seen when it comes to immigrant stories.
“What has frustrated me, even throughout my own work, is that immigration stories exclusively center trauma and pain,” Castro said during the Sundance screening. “I wanted to tell the story that covered the whole spectrum of emotions that come with immigration.”
Following the announcement, Muñoz shared an emotional Instagram post with the news writing: “For once, I’m at a loss for words.My life is forever changed. Disney taught me how to dream big since I was a young girl. To think that this film is now a part of their universe, where our story will help kids who grew up like me and families like mine to dream…all over the world? This is beyond surreal.”
No additional info on the release date for the film or what the FX project will be was released yet.
“We are so excited to join the Disney family,” Castro said in a statement. “We share a common belief that music can be a conduit for change, and I hope that through this music documentary, we can show unexpected, emotionally universal facets of the immigration experience.”